by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Citrus is a series that demands constant plot developments to keep the drama flowing. Just as Mei and Yuzu come to some sort of understanding, Mei's previously absent father drops right back on their doorstep. This type of situation isn't unusual for an emotionally-charged melodrama, but Citrus makes good use of its style and characters to mostly make this plotline stand out.
The biggest hitch of this episode is the character of Mei's father himself. From the start, it becomes difficult to get a read on this guy. The personality he puts forth here contrasts with the impression Mei has given us until now, but that comes into greater focus over the course of the episode. We don't learn much about what prompted his turn from strict authoritarian educator to free-spirited world-traveler, but he describes his mindset just enough for us to understand that a real change did occur, which drives the conflict of this episode.
That does lead into yet another issue with the characters though. Mei's father comes off less like a person in his own right and more like a catalyst for development between the main two girls. We get just enough information about him to define his relationship with Mei, which then affects her relationship with Yuzu. This does more harm than good for our impression of Dad-Sensei, however, since he comes off less as a font of free-thinking wisdom and more as a flaky deadbeat. I honestly don't think I'm supposed to dislike this character as much as I do, but by the time he was taking off again just a few days later after barely telling anyone, I was on board with the idea that Mei really shouldn't worry about what he thinks.
Despite the show's failings in developing Mei's father, the change he produces between our protagonists is effective. This anime adaptation has been good at highlighting narrative through-lines between subplots that might have been more obtuse in the manga. Mei's issue with codependency has slowly become more apparent, and it gets the full spotlight this week. What happens when you make yourself into something purely for someone else, only for them to no longer need that? For as empty as his platitudes feel, her father's central tenet of ‘living for yourself’ ties in strongly to Mei's struggle throughout the series, particularly in this episode.
This is driven home further by some obvious dispositional similarities between father and daughter, particularly an inability to be emotionally honest. That element of Mei's personality comes up yet again in this episode's now-traditional Gratuitous Makeout Scene. There are some overtures of the early episodes' non-consensual elements again, but this time Yuzu firmly tells Mei when she's stepping over the line and Mei relents immediately. The build-up with Yuzu crawling toward Mei on the bed is well-paced and directed, and the whole segment is good for spelling out how Mei's issues translate to her impositions on Yuzu. When Yuzu makes it clear that Mei is crossing a line, it helps to cement her as a strong protagonist with a good heart.
As Yuzu ruminates on Mei's relationship with her father and how she might be able to help, the episode does start feeling more ponderous than Citrus has been over the last few episodes. This is broken up by some funny interludes with Harumin, but overall the characters spend too much time on internal monologue and not enough time actually talking their issues out until the end. Yuzu's explosive hijacking of the PA system to find Mei is a classic climax for the character, leading to a finale that works out well for them.
Mei's goodbye to her father ticks all the boxes for stock emotional resolution just fine, but the real standout part of the sequence is Yuzu momentarily holding Mei's hand to encourage her. That little moment of genuine care and affection is a million times more romantically satisfying than any of the non-consensual make-out wrestling that came before, and it should make the audience wish the show would embrace that element further as the girls navigate more emotional drama. This story is always on the cusp of its characters realizing how to move forward with a healthy relationship, but it always risks backsliding for the sake of melodrama and voyeurism.
At least things seem to be headed in the right direction, as Mei and Yuzu reconcile with a genuinely affectionate reciprocal kiss that seems to have a great impact on both of them. It's a satisfying moment of clear growth, and that payoff makes it seem like the uphill struggle of ugly teenage emotions might finally be going somewhere other than cheap thrills. Of course, that's just in time for the last moments of the episode to foreshadow the introduction of another new character to throw a wrench into their relationship. It remains to be seen if Citrus can do something with the development between its main characters or just keep taking the easy way out.
Citrus is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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