The Joseon portion of "Orange Marmalade" finally comes to an end- and leaves me about as perplexed as ever. The main problem is just one of scale. The high school portion was just a romance- not even a particularly well-developed romance, since so much of the screentime was dedicated to worldbuilding. Whereas the Joseon portion apparently concerns some extremely important political events that directed the entire future of vampire / human relations. With the exact same high school archetypes in leadership positions.
A lot of the plot is weird just to the point of being awkward. I found myself wondering where these kids' parents were. Yes, during Joseon times adulthood happened sooner but granting that much, Ah-ra really should have had the sense not to get involved with vampires in the first place. As if to prevent the viewer from hoping Ah-ra just dies from her own stupidity, we also get the pregnancy plotline. Which really brings up more worries than anything.
I'm placing the blame for the elaborate plot squarely on the shoulders of writer Moon So-san. From what I've been told the Joseon portion wasn't even an important part of the webtoon at all, so this change in the story direction was presumably part of his editorial discretion. Moon So-san falls into the same trap as many fantasy writers by mistakenly thinking that supernatural elements, romance, and high stakes alone can make a good story. In reality these points are nearly worthless without effective characterization.
The writing never gets to "Blood" levels of bad at least. The various rules regarding vampires kind of come out of nowhere but they do at least make contextual sense and serve to bring this fantasy epic to an appropriate fantasy epic conclusion. The problem is that "Orange Marmalade" was never really a fantasy epic to begin with. The romantic tragedy that marks the ending comes off worse than it should mostly because the drama had only just finished dealing with the much more serious issue of the huge war.
The strengths of "Orange Marmalade" are still here. The direction is still excellent, and I absolutely love that flute. It's just a pity that the story was more about vampires blood wars than it was about beautiful music and pristine landscapes. I have no idea what the final stretch of the drama will be like- to be honest I'm not even sure how the Joseon portion will relate to the modern day characters. Did Jae-min somehow recover past life memories at the end or something?
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 9"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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