Ma-ri (played by Seolhyun) is a teenage girl who also happens to be a vampire. People in "Orange Marmalade" tend to not like vampires, what with the whole blood sucking thing and war against humanity and all that. Trying to grow up in that environment, poor Ma-ri can't even be bothered to worry about normal hassles like perverts on the...tram? Subway? What exactly is that thing they keep riding on? In an alternate vampire universe, Seoul's public transportation developed in a slightly different way?
One of the odder yet interesting points of "Orange Marmalade" is the set design. Even though the action takes place at a perfectly normal school it doesn't quite look like a normal school. There's little differences that are hard to place- the colors, the spacing of the desks, even the camerawork all manage to give the subtle impression of a world that's somewhat different from our own, even if the basics are all the same.
I haven't read the original webtoon on which "Orange Marmalade" is based, but the production definitely looks like a webtoon. Note the way the visuals tend to attract attention more strongly than the actual dialogue. Much is made of the way that Ma-ri subconsciously thinks like a vampire, even if she has enough sense to not actually try and bite anyone. Jae-min (played by Yeo Jin-goo) appears to be drawn to Ma-ri's sheer shy weirdness- which makes for a simple yet beguiling romantic premise of the popular guy who could have any girl wanting the one who eschews popularity less out of egotism and more because she's genuinely scared.
An interesting parallel that comes up along these lines is Ma-ri's love of music. From Jae-min's perspective, it's clear that this is the reason why she's shy, because like the rest of the drama, Ma-ri's musical talents feel vaguely strange and otherworldly. The result is a rather intriguing blend of atmosphere that actually ends up feeling way more important than any of the actual vampire stuff. That backstory is important and well-established, but clearly takes second priority here compared to the depth of Ma-ri's personality.
Even Ma-ri's family falls into this. Goofy dad Seung-hoon (played by Ahn Kil-kang) and elegant mom Seon-hwa (played by Yoon Ye-hee) are less vampires as they are people who appreciate humanity even as they know they must hide from it. But then, are vampires people..? That's the main dramatic thrust of "Orange Marmalade" and so far the drama's off to an intriguing start in that regard. My only complaint is that the second episode drags a bit, getting a tad too enmeshed in its own atmosphere and forgetting to actually move the plot forward all that much. Even so, the good definitely outweighs the bad so far.
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" Episodes 1-2"
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