“Pachinko” First Impressions- Review: Does It Live Up To The Immensely High Expectations?

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Apple TV+ newest drama “Pachinko” is here, and here are my thoughts on it.

“Pachinko” was being hailed as one of the best series in 2022 by international news outlets, specifically American news outlets that are known for their harsh reviews, so whenever I read a title that suggests this drama is epic, my expectations would go up with it.

But how did “Pachinko” turn out to be?

Note: this article is a first-impression review, it doesn’t mean this is the writer’s final thoughts on the drama. This is a spoiler review.

Let me discuss my thoughts on it below!

The script

“Pachinko” is based on a best-selling novel by Lee Min-Jin, the novel itself is known worldwide and it had already garnered attention for that specific reason irrespective of its star-studded lineup. Many people on social media spoke about how happy they were to here it was being adapted into a series, so naturally, I became more curious about it.

I didn’t read the book so I will be judging it as a standalone project but thus far, I am impressed.

The first and second episodes moved at a much slower pace than I anticipated but I knew it was necessary for setting up the mood and for the world-building, so personally speaking, I didn’t mind it at all.

Things pick up in episode 3 and I begin to see glimpses of what could truly be one of the best series of 2022. The story is amazing, the contrast between the past and the present is a sight to see. To see how much things have changed in the span of less than a century was an experience.

It showcases the reality of what the Japanese have done to Koreans back then and how it affected generations to come. Comparing this to whats happening now in Ukraine too, you draw parallels and find out what actually happens to regular people who are powerless against the select few who get to decide the fate and trajectory of generations to come. Its heartbreaking to watch and I am reminded of my personal country’s history and how much I was affected by it.

I loved the amount of attention paid to the details, you can tell such type of novel wouldn’t have been made without taking a risk, without some serious backing by a conglomerate to help bring it to life, properly. And for that, I am grateful.

What I would say is this, we’re 3 episodes in, now, “Pachinko” is only 8 episodes. I do feel it took a little longer to get it going but I believe this has to do with the editing and the format, I expect the second half to be way better.

Since these are my first impressions, I don’t have much to write about the script aside from what I’ve said above. I do have more thoughts but these thoughts are most likely premature and wrong, I can’t disprove much of anything yet because we have 5 more episodes to go.

The casting and performances

Whoever was responsible for the casting must be given a raise for the reasons I am about to discuss below.

Kim Min Ha is effing astonishing here. Her acting is amazing, she’s a rookie actress but it doesn’t feel like it. She commands your attention with her gaze and energy alone. She’s on par with the rest of the cast members despite most of them being her seniors in the industry. The child actress who plays her character is also amazing.

Generally speaking, its difficult to find actual talented kids actors because… well…. they’re kids, so how can we expect them to be able to capture the depth of the emotions of an entirely different generation that was forced to grow up under the worst of times.

Jin Ha is also amazing, he must’ve been difficult to cast based on the sole fact that he can speak three languages. He’s a rare type of actor, he can speak fluent English, he speaks Korean with a dialect, and has no problem carrying out conversations naturally in Japanese. This is my first time watching him and I am impressed with his performance.

Youn Yuh Jung being the veteran she is, is amazing here as well. What more to say about her? She’s perfection.

This happens to also be my favorite performance by Lee Min Ho in recent memory. He talked about auditioning for the role which I personally found admirable, and I can tell he’s put a lot of energy into this project despite the fact that he explained he didn’t have as much time to study the character before filming began in comparison to his other projects. His facial expressions are a lot more controlled here and he has a different aura to him, an aura I haven’t seen him portray and I’ve been a fan for over 10 years. I don’t like his character one bit, but I am living for his performance. I always wanted to see him play the villain character.

Additionally, I wanted to point this out, to the many kdrama international fans, as most of you already know, Koreans struggle with casting foreign actors, specifically American actors who can act. This time, I appreciate that they actually were able to find good actors, its a global production so it makes sense too.

Honestly, I love everyone’s performance, they’re all strong performances in their own right and I can’t wait to see how each character develops.

Closing thoughts and expectations of future episodes

“Pachinko” might have been slightly slow-paced in the beginning but I loved it so far. With such types of stories, rushing is never a good approach, you must take time to properly explore and lament on these sensitive issues.

I have hope it only gets better from here on and I am almost positive that will be the case. I might end up delaying watching it by a couple of weeks because one episode per week moving on is torture to me. I can’t say for sure I’ll be able to do this, but I will try.

So these are my thoughts on “Pachinko,” so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.

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