Only three months into 2022, the jury’s still out on whether Pachinko will be the TV drama of the year. But, as far as title sequences go, this one has set the bar high with its joyous visuals of a multi-generational family dancing in their pachinko parlour to Let’s Live for Today by the Grass Roots.
But through the joy is a journey of hardship; fewer stories have threaded the thrill and the agony of life as succinctly as this decades-spanning epic. Adapted from Min Jin Lee’s highly successful novel of the same name, this series centres on one family for over 70 years. We begin with a trouble-stricken couple raising their young daughter, Sunja – closest to being the central character – weaving between three timelines through to the late 80s.
Sunja’s family are distinct as Koreans who remained in their nation when it was annexed by Japan in the early 20th century (look up the term “Zainichi”). Consequently, much of her childhood is fraught with traumatic encounters with colonisers, suffering abuse and mistreatment. In 1989, Solomon Baek (Jin Ha) is much more fortunate, thanks to the perseverance of his ancestors, as he works in a Japanese investment bank. But, whilst he benefits in different circumstances, the struggles of identity persist through the various political, cultural and social changes in the East over the years, making for a deeply complex and moving drama that deftly manages to study both individuality and community.
A great creative team of writer Soo Hugh (known for her work on The Terror and The Whispers) and directors Kogonada (Columbus, After Yang) and Justin Chon (Blue Bayou, Gook) reaffirms that beautiful source material can’t be wrongly transferred when in the right hands. As for the remarkable talent in front of the camera, Minari star Youn Yuh-jung turns in another veteran performance as the elder Sunja, whilst Kim Min-ha proves to be a star in the making as her teenage counterpart. Devs favourite Jin Ha showcases his prowess in an internally commanding performance as Solomon, and Lee Min-ho excellently manoeuvres through a difficult character arc as Koh Hansu, an enterprising fish broker whose emotions and ambitions are barely compatible – more so when he meets the young protagonist.
Extremely rich in scale yet intensely intimate in emotion, the series adaptation of Pachinko captures exactly what made the novel a global sensation.
Pachinko is released on Apple TV+ on 25th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for Pachinko here: