One thing that's nice about the characters in "Orange Marmalade" is that they consistently act like teenagers. Jae-min is really grumpy about having to completely rethink his hatred of vampires, and this shows in his now muddled relationship with Ma-ri. He still likes her, but he's mad that she lied to him, but she lied to him for good reason because Jae-min can plainly see how everybody treats vampires, including him, and so Ma-ri's behavior was sort of justified from that angle.
The social commentary is actually pretty pointed in this regard. Ma-ri faces a more clearly defined threat than just vague bullying, and while it's resolved just a tad too easily, the icy atmosphere is pretty unavoidable. Ma-ri can't really be physically bullied because as a vampire, she'd destroy any other student in a fight. It's one thing to run a false flag operation in a semi-realistic drama like "Who Are You - School 2015". It's quite another when the prejudice is based on a genuine fear of death by blood sucking.
Unfortunately there's not really too much "Orange Marmalade" can do with this angle because so much time was spent in the Joseon period, where these issues have pretty much nothing to do with anything. The main obvious conflict of what to do with the blended "Orange Marmalade" rock band is the main plot point left over to deal with in the final episode. This, as well as the tension between Si-hoo and Ah-ra, would have had a lot more impact if there had been more development of these angles in the first place.
Still, the rock band does give "Orange Marmalade" a chance to indulge in one of the drama's more consistent strengths- the music. Even if the street scene felt kind of ridiculous I liked the music in "Orange Marmalade" well enough to indulge the drama on this point. The idea of music and love bringing vampires and humans together is really pretty corny, but with breezy tunes like this the argument manages to be more convincing than it should.
The fundamental worldbuilding of "Orange Marmalade" has always been quite good- it's mainly the structure of the story that's been the big problem to date. I like watching Ma-ri struggle with her dreams, awkwardly fidgeting around and hoping that things will work out for the best, because she's a teenager with limited ability to meaningfully affect nearby situations. That's part and parcel for life in high school- the vampirism just adds a supernatural, dreamlike edge to the relatable aspects of the story. That's "Orange Marmalade" at its best.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Orange Marmalade" Episode 11"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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