by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The accelerated dramatic pace of Citrus has resulted in the need for several melodrama backups. The air around Mei and Yuzu's problems with consent was cleared somewhat last episode with their reciprocal kiss. This leads into a strong conversation that Yuzu tries to initiate at the beginning of this episode, questioning Mei about her feelings and getting their emotions out in the open. Granted, Mei's inscrutability is an issue for both Yuzu and the audience, but this is a major step for sisters who could previously only communicate through angry tongue-wrestling. So with their romance settling into a more conventional will-they-or-won't they situation, Citrus falls back on that troublesome ‘sisters’ relationship as its new conflict du jour.
It needed to happen, of course. While Mei and Yuzu have technically been physically intimate for longer than they've been "related" through marriage, that won't be easy to explain to the world around them. Mei actually shooting down Yuzu's advances with this excuse as the explanation is frankly easy to support. They seem to have finally worked out most of their major issues with each other, so maybe they should stop fooling around while they can.
Of course, love is always more complicated than that, and in a world of melodrama like Citrus's, that complication arrives in the form of another new character. Her name is Matsuri, Yuzu's heretofore-unmentioned childhood friend, and anyone can tell immediately that this girl is trouble. Thankfully, Harumin is given renewed purpose by pointing out the obvious problems Matsuri presents. She quickly establishes herself as a character who is meant to be disliked, so having Harumin be the one to express that dislike does a service to her characterization. Between Matsuri's entertaining meddling and Harumin's welcome concerns, this episode helps moves past Citrus's recurring problem of characters who feel more like devices than people. At least these characters feel more realized than previous guests like Mei's dad or grandfather.
Harumin being the voice of reason also lets the show visit Yuzu's compassionate side with someone who isn't Mei. Even if Matsuri doesn't deserve Yuzu's affection, it's nice to see Yuzu be caring toward people she isn't crushing on. This episode also makes clear that Yuzu's major flaw is her obliviousness. We've seen this before in how her uncertainty impacts her relationship with Mei, but it works against her even harder with the wily Matsuri. Mei gets a bit of character expansion as well as we see her alone, not through Yuzu's eyes, where cracks in her emotional armor are starting to show. It's appreciated given how Yuzu-focused the show's introspection has been until now.
However, Matsuri does present one of the more potentially polarizing additions to Citrus's cast. Her advances on Yuzu this episode lean more toward ‘manipulative’ than ‘predatory’, but it still swings her relationship with our heroine in a distastefully exploitative and abusive direction. It makes me even more grateful for Harumin, who seems to echo the audience's desire for Yuzu to get away from this dangerous girl she thinks is her friend. The Matsuri situation unfortunately lends itself to drama of convenience, so of course Harumin has to leave at the worst possible time so Matsuri can pounce on Yuzu and then kiss her in front of Mei.
The pacing of Citrus almost makes me wish Yuzu's love life would catch a break once in a while, but it was clear from the start that this isn't that kind of show. Matsuri's interrogation of Yuzu is as sexually charged as we should expect from this show by now, and at least she points out that step-sisters dating each other probably isn't going to go over well with society. But the real payoff is the call from Mei that interrupts them, with the downright domestic discussion between her and Yuzu about what groceries to buy standing in stark relief to the overdose of sexual tension between her and Matsuri moments earlier.
That contrast is complemented by a scene between the sisters at home, as they dance around the issue of what Yuzu was doing out so late. This scene also features some great tricks, like the cute animation of Mei playing with her bear that sells us on what Yuzu loves about her. There's also some great blocking and camera work in the bit where Mei gets behind Yuzu, playing up the uncertainty of their taboo relationship. Citrus goes out of its way in this episode to try and prove that even though the main couple are step-sisters, they want to arrive at a healthy romantic relationship. Of course, whether you buy that or not is up to you. This story is far from over, with Matsuri's machinations ramping up next episode.
Citrus is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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