Published on August 10th, 2015 | by deejaymich0
Orange Marmalade: More than just a fantasy romance
I’ll be honest, I never intended to catch Orange Marmalade (not really into the whole vampire thing) but because I’m the biggest AOA fangirl, I decided to give it a chance as the drama was nearing the end of its run despite the amount of negative comments it garnered. I wanted to see exactly how bad it was and ditch it after one or two episodes. In contrary, I got hooked instead.
Drama-wise, there were definitely a few parts that felt dreary, but they picked up every time. Also, it had a nice wrap-up, which I was glad for. The drama was split up into three chapters – with the first and third set in modern day, and the second set in the Joseon era.
The cast and characters:
The best performance in this drama, unsurprisingly, goes to Yeo Jin Goo, who played Jung Jae Min. He is Mr. Popular in school, gets good grades, and is musically talented. He comes off as slightly arrogant, but doesn’t mean it. If there’s one thing he hates, it’s vampires. In the beginning it wasn’t known why he loathed vampires that much, but the saeguk part shed some light on that. I really enjoyed his performance in this drama – one moment he is a confused boy in front of the girl he likes, and the next he is all class-chairman mode. Most importantly – he embraced the concept of acceptance, going from ‘I’ll love you no matter what you are” to “I’ll love you because of what you are”.
Kim Seolhyun and Lee Jonghyun pleasantly surprised me. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from them, but I thought they did really decent. It was hard to feel for Seolhyun’s character, Baek Ma Ri at first, but during the third chapter when Ma Ri decided to reveal to the public that she was a vampire, and fought and persevered through taunts and bullying head-on instead of running away, my love for her character grew. Besides Jae Min, Ma Ri definitely had the most character growth.
Jonghyun’s character, Han Shi Hoo, is the typical Korean drama second lead. Just like Ma Ri, he is a vampire. Shi Hoo seems to be the bad boy with the cool demeanor that every guy wants to be, but he is only going against the system because his parents were captured by the Vampire Control System (VCS) for using their vampire powers in public. At the end of chapter one, we see how devastated he was upon knowing that the cause of his parents getting captured was himself. We also saw how he sacrificed himself for Ma Ri, and how he decided to commit suicide, knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to see his parents again. At least my heartbreak and second lead syndrome were cured in the end with his cute scenes with Jo Ah Ra (Gil Eun Hye).
Ah Ra’s the popular girl in school, and develops jealousy when Jae Min, the guy she likes, crushes on Ma Ri instead. Hiding behind her sweet image, she sabotages and low-key bullies Ma Ri. Towards the end though, after Ma Ri saves her and one of her friends from getting hurt, she stops all her nonsense and even helps Ma Ri, to the annoyance of her clique.
The story and execution:
As I mentioned, vampire stories ain’t really my kind of thing, and it was kind of cringe-worthy during the first episode when Ma Ri kissed Jae Min’s neck – that sure escalated quickly. I guess it kind of foreshadowed the amount of skinship in the first couple of episodes, which is probably more than what most dramas show in their entire run.
Like most Korean dramas, the pacing is relatively slow, but it wasn’t slow enough to bore me. I appreciated how they took their time in the first couple of episodes to set up the characters – it introduced us to the characters well and paved the way for good character development. The relationship and human sentiment towards vampires were clear. How the vampires lived, how the VCS functioned, and how vampires themselves felt repressed despite being superior physically to humans were also well-shown and well-explained.
However with the whole drama being only twelve episodes, and having to go from present time, to the past, and back to the present again, the third chapter felt slightly rushed, and although the ending was satisfactory, I wish I could have seen more of Jae Min’s dilemma in the end. As I stated earlier, Jae Min’s most drastic character development happens at the end of the first chapter, and what I’d have like to see at the end of the third chapter was him working harder than he did in the first, as it almost seemed like he got back together with Ma Ri because he realised that they were a couple before he lost his memory.
Another worthy thing to mention is the show’s underlying message – acceptance. Social segregation is a huge part in this drama, and it is shown in the drama in two ways. In the present it is about minorities, and in the past it was about social status, both of which are still real and relevant in today’s society. Although in the end the social issue was never, and can never be completely solved – true to whatever we are experiencing in real life, it was nice to to see the characters who showed the most prejudice in the beginning being the ones to lead the movement of acceptance.
I’ve read about how so many people dropped the drama after the first or second episode simply because it was different from the original webtoon (like how the two leads aren’t supposed to be in the same class etc.), but I think everyone should keep in mind that as an adaptation, it’s not meant to be a complete duplicate of its original material. As someone who watched the drama without having read the original webtoon, I thought that it wasn’t a bad drama at all, and if you’re looking for something light and digestible (and with a decent amount of eye candy while overflowing with sweet), Orange Marmalade‘s definitely not a bad choice.