Orange Marmalade taking over Now that my two fave shows have only a week to go (Falling for Innocence & Sensory Couple) I’m definitely on the lookout for something fresh. Cue Orange Marmalade. Episode One shows promise yet is it enough of a solid base to carry the show?
From the original webtoon by Seok Woo
I like the premise: a young female vampire Baek Ma Ri tries to fit into her new school. She doesn’t want to cause any ripples and certainly doesn’t want her secret to get discovered. Because then she’d have to move – again. Well then she shouldn’t have gone and caught the eye of the most popular guy in school… Former child actor Yeo Jin Goo plays Jung Jae Min, class president and the high school hunk by all appearances. He seems intelligent and easygoing but he’s also introspective and stays above the usual high school ‘drama’ which unfolds day by day. He too, seems to just want to live a normal life. As much as being the cool kid who’s also smart and good looking can be considered ‘normal’. What happens when these two kindred types cross paths? It all started on a train… An attractive looking school girl (Ma Ri) is asleep on a train on her way to school. Her memories flash to when she was a young girl being bullied and called a monster. She abruptly wakes up shouting, “Stop it!” and startles the molester seated in between her another woman. The man just spent the last few minutes feeling up the other woman’s skirt. The whole train turns in surprise at the school girl’s outburst. The molester tries to bluff things off, asking Ma Ri if he did anything wrong to her and why is she making him become the strange one everybody’s staring at? He then tries to leave but the woman he’d molested picks up the courage to yell out that he did something to her! It pandemonium. Everyone starts to shout and crowd around the culprit. Suddenly he snaps and turns on them with his purple vampire eyes. A school boy (Jae Min) wearing the same kind of uniform as Ma Ri comes up to her and asks if she’s in his school. All she can think of is that she can suddenly smell sweet blood. This blood…I want to eat it she thinks… as she leans in closer to Jae Min. The speaker voice suddenly announces a stop and Ma Ri snaps out of her blood haze. She leaves Jae Min on the train and dashes out. She washes off in a public restroom. Suddenly, she wonders what happened to her on the train that got her so drawn to a human’s blood. She tells herself to come to her senses. You’re not a monster, she tells herself. It’s a very dramatic first 3 minutes I’ll admit. As she reaches school, Ma Ri decides that this time she will definitely graduate without being chased or discovered. Minutes later she’s introduced to her class as the new transfer student. Jae Min is busy solving a math problem in front of the class. He can’t seem to take his eyes off Ma Ri as she walks past. This class is soon over and the kids gather to talk about the latest circulating news about a vampire spotted on the train that morning. The whole ruckus had been caught on camera phone and was being shared online. Soon someone recognises Ma Ri in the video. Were you there? Oooh. You sat right next to a vampire whoo. Awesome. Ma Ri is uncomfortable with all the attention. To get them off her scent she shows the cross around her neck and says vampires are scared off by crosses . She tries hard to pass off as a human, all the while telling herself she hates these kinds of lies. No love for vampires Jae Min goes to the library to read up some history. About the days when vampires existed surviving by human blood in past generations untold. They were exposed in the 17th century. Killings of vampires were done secretly for generations until just before their extinction the vampire clans made a peace treaty with Joseon Royalty. Jae Min looks vengeful as he thinks they should have better been extinct. Back to class. A teacher explains about the peace treaty between vampires and humans. That the vampires’ lives would be safe as long as they didn’t drink human blood. Humans and vampires can co-exist this way. We’re cut to another scene. A dark room, where a camera is rolling. Two people are having some kind of interview. A reporter and a vampire. The vampire is all about how vampires had to give up so much to co-exist with humans. But what have humans had to lose for this ‘coexistence’? Looks like vampires had the bad end of the stick. In class, still on the discussion of vampires. Some school girls show their fear and distrust of vampires. What if they suddenly turn on us again and sucked someone’s blood? In the interview, the vampire laments what happens when a vampire is discovered. The neighbors would alert the authorities that a vampire lives next door. Each time, the vampire would have to run away. Is this truly co-existence, or just from a human’s point of view? Ma ri looks uncomfortable again, as other kids discuss about getting rid of the vampires since they are so few compared to humans. Vampires are merely humans with different eating habits, says Teacher. By the way, he’s hot. Meanwhile the vampire is telling the reporter how vampires can be likened to endangered polar bears. Both polar bears and humans co-exist but try telling that to a polar bear who’s now an endangered species. The character played by Gun Tae notes that since vampires look just like humans, they could even have one right in the classroom with them. Then he plays a joke on Jae Min pretending to be a vampire biting on Jae Min’s neck. Jae Min is not impressed. He tells Gun tae to stop it. Looks like he’s really touchy about vampires. “This is the kind of creature we are,” says the vampire who cuts open his palm. Then shows it starting to heal. The reporter and camera man gasp in shock. “We killed our instinct and gave up our powers. What is this thing about co-existence?” Mission: Survive Teacher explains how vampires needed to survive by being secretive. They have to protect their small population and human rights. Ma ri looks even more unsettled than ever hearing someone say vampires aren’t even human. It’s lunch time. The school girls are picking out their menu. There’s a vat of garlic which the girls avoid saying its smelly. But since vampires don’t like garlic, if one shows up she wouldn’t mind eating all of that, says one girl. Ma Ri is seen getting a whole scoop of the stuff. What’s she trying to prove? Then we see her chomping the lot down painstakingly. Jae Min walks into the cafeteria, his eys seem to seek out Ma Ri. He sees her eating alone. His friend shows up. Then notices the girls at a table. Jo Ah Ra, who seems to be the most popular girl in the school is approached by Gun tae who leaves her a present. Aah, so cute. Later on Ma Ri is bringing up the whole of her lunch in the school toilet. She tries to tell herself everything is okay. She’s one troubled teen indeed. Somewhere in a home a guy is making little sealed packets of blood while watching soccer on TV. Ahh, a bit of humor relief. He yells at the players on TV and then suddenly starts to help himself to some chicken and beer. Or at least pretends to be eating it. He takes an imaginary chug of beer and brings the chicken thigh to his mouth pretending to eat it. All with a look of utter satisfaction on his face like he can really taste and eat the stuff. His wife suddenly comes back home and he quickly hides the evidence of chicken and beer. But she smells the chicken and searches it out. Asks him why he wastes money buying human food he can’t even eat. She tells him to stop dreaming about trying to act human. They’d been exposed in their former location thanks to him showing his powers by mistake. We see him playing team soccer and shooting the ball so hard it dents the right goal post. The parents have lunch with their toddler son – lunch being some blood soup for him and flutes of blood wine for them – ha ha – and they think by now Ma Ri their daughter will be having her lunch. Sure enough she’s busy enjoying a drink from a familiar-looking packet disguised as tomato juice. She opens a notebook and starts writing musical chords and smiling. Thinking internally that she has to push through the next 2 years not drawing attention to herself. All that matters is surviving through each day and staying off the radar. Meanwhile, once again Jae Min seeks Ma Ri out and sees her by herself on the roof. He seems intrigued by her. At home Ma Ri’s parents discuss about the vampire caught for sexually molesting a human. And how he’s going to be severely punished. Out in the city the news has spread about a vampire acting outside of the treaty and using his powers in public. We see an interesting looking guy in a hood and cap. We as yet don’t know who he is but it’s a bet he’s somehow connected to vampires. The most popular girl is telling the most popular guy about a sold-out performance her father’s employee got her tickets for. As she’s trying to convince Jae Min to go for the show he notices Ma Ri walking past, with her earphones on as usual. Jae Min seems eager to be on his way so he politely brushes off the popular girl, telling her he’s sure there’ll be plenty of competition for those tickets since she was super popular. “Everyone must be standing in line because they want to go with you.” Definitely a polite brush off, as he finishes off telling her he’s curious to see who she’ll pick. Jo Ah Ra stares after him stunned. A tasty encounter Jae Min rushes for the train and Ma Ri, possibly hoping they might share the same route again. We hear the voice on the speaker announcing the destination. Jae Min goes to stand behind Ma Ri, about to speak but she goes on the train before he can get her attention. She’s seated while he stands across watching her. Once the space beside her is vacated he takes it. Then follows a very strange scene between Jae Min and Ma Ri. She’s fallen asleep on the train. Again. Somehow, even through her subconscious she senses a scent close to her, and finds it sweet. She sees herself in a beautiful scenery, with peach blossoms falling like snow. The surrounding passengers watch things unfold with surprise. Jae Min looks happy to get to sit next to Ma Ri. Meanwhile she’s having that dream. She just can’t seem to place that tasty scent. It’s not flowers… It’s almost the same thing that happened that morning when she leaned into Jae Min drawn to his ‘tasty’ human scent. Obviously this doesn’t happen with just anyone. But this human is different. Jae Min looks shocked that she’s acting this strangely, nipping on his neck. An elder seated across looks amazed and put off and has to leave his seat. Ma Ri comes awake the next moment and dashes away. Jae Min is left looking like someone in a trance. He breaks out of it and notices Ma Ri has left her notebook behind. We see her on the balcony at home with her guitar, composing music. She can’t find her notebook and wonders if she didn’t put it in her bag. Jae Min seems to live alone in a high rise apartment. He’s looking through the notebook. He notices it’s musical chords and he imagines the music playing. He seems to know a thing or two about reading music. Ma Ri plays the accompanying sound on her balcony. Her mind goes back to that moment in the train when she wakes up from her dream and realises what shes done. She’s still shocked wondering why a humans blood can seem so tempting. Jae Min draws out a trunk and inside is a guitar still in its wrapper and bow. He looks reluctant to bring it out but its obvious he wants to try out those musical notes. He finally uncases the guitar and starts to play the melody from the music book. Ma Ri also plays as she recalls her notes from memory. The next day in class. Jae Min is once again distracted thinking about Ma Ri and looking back to stare at her. Jo Ah ra notices where his attention keeps going and she’s quizzical. What could be up? Closing time and Jae Min is rushing for that train again. Then he’s accosted by three adoring ‘fans’ who swoon from his every word. The popular girl is being chauffeur driven home from school. She suddenly sees Jae Min running along the sidewalk headed for the station. This time he catches Ma Ri before she can walk out to the platform. Umm…have we met? Jae Min catches up with Mi Ra at the station and demands an apology. She looks at him cluelessly, obviously not recognizing him. “Do you know me?” she asks. “I can’t not know you, as we’re in the same class,” states Jae Min. As their eyes hold he thinks back to those moments on the train. When it had felt like the world stood still for him. There’s some back and forth between Jae Min and Mi Ra as she insists she doesn’t remember what she needs to apologize for.This would get anyone frustrated, and Jae Min threatens he’ll just do things the hard way. Instead of reminding her what she did, he’ll just follow her around till she remembers, and can give a sincere apology. Do you like music, he suddenly asks. Mi Ra instinctively answers no. Jae Min looks skeptical, noting she always has ear phones on. She tells him she uses them to block out noise which she hates. He asks if she likes guitar but she denies that too. He then brings out her music notebook and asks what’s this then? As Mi Ra tries to grab it from his grip, we see Jo Ah Ra coming up the steps unnoticed. She stops short at seeing their exchange from afar. We see a touching exchange between Teacher and who seems to be Jae Min’s mother. She’s waiting for the bus but before she leaves she hands Teacher a gift-wrapped guitar for Jae Min. As Jae Min washes up at home he goes over his conversation with Ma Ri where she couldn’t even remember him, or know he’s the Class President. He’s still wounded by her sass. How can she see this face and ask…ooh, forget it. He finally consoles himself by telling his reflection, you’re good looking. Later he gets a phone call on his cell… Mi Ra is walking on her way somewhere, carrying her guitar case. Her mind flashes back to her interaction with Jae Min after he gave her the music notebook. When he asked her if she dreamed of becoming a musician or a composer. I don’t have such things as dreams, she’d replied. Wow, she’s really morose. As if to remind herself, she says once again out loud, I don’t have dreams. Teacher and Jae Min meet up. Jae Min acts coldly to Teacher with whom we now know he has a connection. Jae Min tells Teacher to stop stalking him with 20 texts a day. To lighten the mood Teacher suggests they start a school band, since he knows Jae Min was like a ‘legend’ in his middle school. Apparently Jae Min was a hot shot guitarist back then. “Just be my mom’s husband,” is Jae Min’s cold reply. “Don’t try to cosplay being my dad.” And don’t act like you know me in school, Jae Min adds to further drive home his point. He also asks Teacher to better transfer the next summer. That’s what he came to say, apart from the fact he definitely refuses to make contact with his mother which is what Teacher wanted to ask. Before Jae Min walks off, Teacher hands him the present from his mother. Jae Min snatches the gift wrapped guitar. “I can accept it. And throw it away right?” As he makes to stalk off, something has him stopping in his tracks. A voice singing. It’s Mi Ra, on the stage singing and playing a beautiful rendition on the piano. Conclusion As first episodes go, this was packing a lot of punch. It definitely has a Twilight vibe: vampire teen who’s naturally withdrawn trying to blend in with everyone else in school. Mi Ra seems gloomy and falls on her music for support and a place to feel acceptance. Jae Min is all angst, not just against vampires but his family. So basically, everyone’s dysfunctional. How can this not be fun? Hoping this vampire drama warms the spot while I wait on Lee Joon Ki’s Night Strolling Scholar, which has started shooting. If 2015 is the “year of the vampire”, with so many vampire-themed dramas then I better get on that train, so to speak. Something tells me it’s going to be one helluva rollercoaster ride.