Warning: This article may contain spoilers about Pachinko.
Due to an unusual combination of variables, the Korean drama has not yet been sufficiently talked about in Italy made in US that most stood out in the serial panorama of 2022. Pachinko is a tv series by Apple TV+ whose first installment (of eight) debuted on March 25 of last year. Although several months later, the period drama continues little by little to conquer the niches of viewers who let themselves be carried away by its monumental history. The serial tale created by Come on Hugh and based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Min Jin Lee has garnered a generally positive consensus, both from the public and from critics, so much so that it was renewed in a short time for a second season.
Pachinko opens with an acronym in full Apple TV + style, a now distinctive character of the streaming platform, which gives the vast majority of its original TV series carefully constructed opening titles.
Relaxed, cared for, and always with an epochal and inevitably unforgettable musical choice, i opening titles of the Apple TV+ shows are one more beautiful than the other, making it clear from the outset the identity nature of the story (think of the initials of Severanceor to that of The Morning Show). Also in Pachinko l’opening theme it is no less, playing on an alienating effect capable of underlining the semantic nature of the story with an atmosphere sad and euphoric. The story is that of Sunja and his family. At the heart of the TV series is the epic of the most generations of a single, intertwined, family nucleus over the course of the twentieth century, to be precise over more than seventy years: starting from the moments preceding the lucky birth of the protagonist Sunja, from a couple of innkeepers who had already lost several babies, and culminating in the 1989. Starting with the coming into the world of little Sunja, a new lineage has started which is told through constants flashback e flashforward which show the articulation in time and space of the family in constant evolution.
The story opens in Colonial Korea succubus ofimperialism of Japan, a reality in which little Sunja grows up innocently between the countryside and the fish market. In the face of a stormy love affair with true period drama tones, the teenage protagonist is soon forced to move, in the early thirties, to Japan. Sunja leaves Korea to raise her child outside of wedlock and avoid disgrace and harsh repercussions from unfolding on her mother and her inn. At the time, Korean immigrants such as Sunja, said on Japanese territory Zainichihave been subject to heavy and constant discrimination. With the pure confidentiality that distinguishes her, together with the love for her son, the protagonist still tries a new life alongside the shepherd Baek Isak, who will become her husband, and brothers-in-law. Destined to face everything, the young woman experiences very hard vicissitudes that mark her soul with immense pain.
Life for Sunja and her descendants is anything but simple in a Japan where they risk everything for redemption and survival.
Yet, the hope it never leaves the soul of the characters in constant search for a better life in a place where they are not wanted. With space-time leaps we even know Solomonthe upstart nephew of Sunja, a financial broker in 1989 New York. The ambitious young man represents contrast and redemption of the family tree behind him. Although very far from the emotional pain that his family members went through, Solomon embarks on a new journey together with his grandmother in an attempt to reach yet another professional goal: concluding a huge deal with an elderly Korean woman. The different pasts intertwine and are proposed in a continuous flow without a real chronological order, but proposing a constant game of contrasts between the abuses suffered by Korean migrants and Solomon’s controversial and conflictual life in a suit and tie.
Each protagonist faces the difficulties and obstacles of life, enjoying the small goals and suffering the most bitter defeats. Nonetheless, no one can interrupt their own goliardic intergenerational dance taken up in the acronym: a surface dance, falsely euphoric and colourful. The bright hope and driving joy are embodied in an atmosphere that seems to have none of that bitter and poetic rawness represented in the monumental drama. Yet, net of the experiences lived by the characters, it is precisely through the false cheerfulness exhibited on the notes of Let’s Live for Today that we know better the characters and their torments hidden by saturated colors, smiles and movements. everyone has adeluded joy of lifea hope which sends it forward in the gambling of lifein this case conveyed by the metaphor of pachinko itself, popular gambling in Japan.
Pachinko has the structure of a pinball machine whose objective is to capture as many steel balls as possible, moving the levers to try to steer their trajectory in vain. Indeed, the shovels moved by the player have little possibility of actually affecting the winning of the gamewhich is often a mere question of fortuna. Nonetheless, players keep moving the levers in an attempt to alter the outcome and exercise the check, moved precisely by the hope that animates in the same way as the protagonists of the TV series, victims of a situation over which unfortunately they will never have full power. In the same way, Sunja, her parents, her children and her grandchildren try in every way to survive, to move forward in a context in which they are the least and unwanted. Pachinko itself is a recurring element in the TV series as the son of Sunja and Isak (and therefore father of Solomon), Mozasuis the manager of a gambling hall in question, the very symbol of the controversial intermediate status of the son of migrants.
Moved each by somewhat different purposes, and by corresponding values, the protagonists of Pachinko are victims of a life that pushes them to experience the extremes of every situation, in a reality in which there are no gray areas.
Il candies may also change shape, but the discrimination and pain constantly experienced on the skin of those who have never lost hope lead to the constant and renewed pursuit of a momentary bliss. Because, as in pachinko, no one is truly the architect of his own destiny and your luck. And then we just have to keep hoping and living to the day. Dancing together, free from any conditioning, on the iconic notes of Let’s Live for Today.
Pachinko it is an ambitious work, one colossal historical reconstruction which aims at an epochal and sumptuous dimension. The TV series has the noble vocation of telling a story on the screen that conventionally, in the past, would never have achieved any redemption. Well, Pachinko offers a tribute to entire generations who have stood out for their hope and persistence. For the enviable ability to carry on, despite everything, in the name of love, of ambition, of survival. As time progresses and generations progress, in fact, everything seems repeat cyclically under different forms but with the same schemes. A game out of control in which all that remains is to have faith in the moves that the future riskily plans for each one.