Bizarrely, the Joseon portion of "Orange Marmalade" actually feels more like a standard high school romance than the actual high school portion of the drama did. Back in the first four episodes the conflict was centered almost entirely around the fact that Ma-ri is a vampire, and vampires can't coexist with humans. Whereas in the Joseon portion, the vampire worldbuilding only really comes up when Ma-ri has to deal with inconveniences like her not having any idea how normal food works.
Don't worry about the impending crisis. The occasional scene featuring the adult vampires makes it all too clear that there is a very big, very serious conflict brewing about in the background. Even if a more cheesy plot device is what's keeping Jae-min and Ma-ri apart in the immediate sense, the fact remains that there is no possible way to imagine that these two can be together. There's just too many obstacles. Everything except their cute, innocent chemistry is stating loud and clear than this romance is impossible.
...Ah, but then that is the appeal isn't it? Forbidden love- nothing can make a couple of kids quite so determined to see their infatuation through as the presence of other people trying to keep them apart. Amusingly, it's not the adults but rather another kid (Ah-ra) that's provoking all this. The adults would probably know better than to try to stand in the day of young love. Ah-ra, by contrast, just behaves like, well, like the popular girl at school who's used to getting what she wants.
I find the genre fusion in "Orange Marmalade" to honestly be kind of fascinating, because the worldbuilding is very well integrated with the tone. Everything seems not quite right, yet in context the story makes perfect sense. I can't decide whether "Orange Marmalade" is really so unusual or if I've just seen so many straight dramas and fusion dramas that the differences here seem much more exaggerated.
Take the forest. I can't ever recall seeing a Joseon-era drama where people liked to hang out in the forest just for fun. But when you think about it, where else would people, and young lovers in particular, be able to relax on their own? Additionally, the high school bullying tropes actually make more sense here, for the simple reason that class differences are such that Ma-ri can't avoid Ah-ra even if she knew the noble woman was up to no good. And yet there's this constant pretense of nicity that's just...well, it's interesting mostly. "Orange Marmalade" may not always be exciting, but it's consistently very interesting.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Orange Marmalade" Episode 6"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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