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PACHINKO (2022, USA-KOR-JPN) – 8/10

Even before I started watching the series recorded in an American-Korean-Japanese production, I was intrigued by its name and the meaning of the word “Pachinko”. Pachinko turned out to be a Japanese type of gambling machine, and about 80 percent of such casinos in Japan were owned by Koreans. Baek Mozasu is also the owner of several such panchinkars, and his mother Sunja and his son Solomon are the main protagonists of this generational family saga, which dates back to the first season from 1915 and moved to an island near the second largest Korean city of Busan until 1989. and New York and Japan. The creator of the series Soo Hugh made “Pachinka” based on the novel of the same name by an American writer and journalist originally from Korea, and four episodes were directed by two prominent directors of Korean descent who have been working in America for a long time – Kogonada (After Yang and Columbus) and Justin Chon Gook, Blue Bayou).

The plot in “Pachinka” is set non-linearly and we follow the events of the late eighties in parallel as the financial crisis approaches Japan as well as the life story of a girl named Sunja. The plot starts at the beginning of the Japanese occupation of Korea and we follow Sunja growing from a poor girl to a girl who will later settle in Japan, primarily “Pachinko” series about the Korean minority in Japan and how these people actually ended up there. Koreans are still the largest minority in Japan today, and through the story of Sunja and her family we get a perfect insight into what it looked like. We understand that Koreans were indeed second-class citizens in their own country during the occupation, especially in Japan where many moved in search of a better life. The display of time and place here is perfect and it is clear to us how it was for Koreans at the time.

Although the plot spans more than 70 years, it also shows brilliantly how much time has changed in those three generations and how views on life have completely changed. So we meet Solomon (Jin Ha) in the late eighties as a young and ambitious investment banker educated in America who seems to be ashamed of his origins, and he wants to prove himself to both Americans and Japanese. He works in New York, and because of work he will return to Japan where he grew up to provide his bank with the purchase of land owned by his family. His grandmother Sunja (Youn Yuh-jung as an old woman and Kim Min-ha as a girl) still lives in Japan and has a completely different outlook on life. While Solomon is a modern man, who is also a financier, who looks at everything only through profit and earnings, Sunja is a woman who had to fight bloodily for everything in life and had to pay bloodily for everything.

While Solomon may easily take everything he got without even thinking about how much his ancestors had to fight for it, through Sunja’s story we learn what the beginnings of this family looked like in incredible misery. Solomon is even ashamed that his father owns the Pachinka chain and sees the business as something shameful. He may think that Koreans are generally accepted in Japanese society today and are seen as equals, but it will become clear to him that this is not the case and that he will probably always be seen as a “zainichi,” as the Korean minority is called. in Japan. And although I have now written about Solomon and the action that takes place here in the present, the vast majority of the action still falls on the past, mostly in the twenties and thirties, before the beginning of World War II.

Following Sunja’s life, we realize how cruel and difficult it was, what a life it was like in unimaginable misery, poverty and hunger. It may seem unthinkable to us from today’s perspective, but once she left Korea and her hometown as a girl, Sunja did not return home until old age, and it is clear that in those sixty years everything changed completely. It was a “Pachinko” series filmed at an extremely high production level, with well-developed characters, and I have the impression that the first season served mostly to set the story and that this series could last a few more seasons.

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