Pachinko is an eight-episode Korean series that you can stream on Apple TV+ is making waves amongst its most ardent fans. This series scored 97% on the Tomatometer by the critics, who seem to agree with the fans on this one.
Pachinko: The Novel
This Korean series is a beautiful, artful adaptation of a novel by the same name, written by Min Jin Lee. The novel takes a tragic and painful trajectory and brings to life the cruel suffering and loss; while simultaneously acknowledging how people find ways to endure this kind of pain and loss. It shows the story of an uprooted family, over four generations, scattered through the globe, from Korea to Japan to the United States, get through their suffering, for themselves and each other.
The Creation And Its Creators
This series adaptation of the novel Pachinko, created by Soo Hung for Apple TV+. According to the fans and critics, it is a work of art that brings to life on screen. The storyline by the original author combined with the skills of Soo Hung and directors Konganada and Justin Chon, who have each helmed four episodes, has resulted in powerful storytelling that leaves you empty when it is finally over.
The storyline of this adaptation spans all the way from 1910 to 1989, revolving around the central character Sunja (played by various people through the series) and her family, which undergoes intense, massive changes through the series with the tragedies they endure. The young Sunja is played by Jeon Yu-na who captures the essence of her character’s innocence exquisitely. Young Sunja, as innocent as she is, is an observant bystander; who sees and understands the dangers of the fragile world that she lives in.
As she grows into her teenage, too fast, because of everything that is forcing her to be more emotionally sound than she needs to, we are forced to grow up with her. The Japanese occupation of Korea and growing up in the midst of the devastation caused, she becomes strong. Yet her vulnerability, owing to her adolescence, is also fully present. Kim Min-ha, who plays teenage Sunja, encapsulates this dubiety with ease and allure.
The oldest Sunja, portrayed by a very talented Youn Yuh-Jang is a woman who has managed to make it through a life of devastation; that most others around her may not have. However, the monumental weight of the past still keeps up with her. And we see a truly brilliant portrayal of this through the subtle sound in her voice and the loving gestures she does for those around her. While we see how many in her family have, and continue to, follow in her footsteps; Sunja continues to be the emotional center of these situations.
The Novel vs. The Series
While this brilliant portrayal of the characters is mentioned, it is important to note that the series adaptation has made considerable changes to the original novel. As is with most book adaptations to movies or series. It shows us a more honest and humor-filled life for the characters involved before the devastation hits. And while this may be vastly different from the tone of the book, it has its own place in the series.
This is a baseline that helps us understand the intensity of the loss that the characters eventually face. It helps bring out the intensity of their pain and suffering and the monumentality of the cruelty that is levied upon them.
Another distinction to be made is the narrative, which ebbs and flows, forward and backward in time; putting in parallel the characters and their loss in a comparative stance; showing us how things are different, yet so similar. The transitions between both, the different time periods, and their painful losses and facile recoveries, are brilliantly timed and delightfully executed. While this narrative takes some getting used to in the beginning. The adjacent standpoints prove to bring together the crux of the show in an intelligently cohesive manner.
The show makes sure not to leave away the devastation. Rather delves deep into the pain, loss, and suffering making for an ingeniously honest and organic representation of the characters and their lives. The painfully accurate historic aspects are weaved into the storyline. It makes this a truly heart-wrenching and devastatingly sincere piece of work.
The combination of the actors’ candid portrayal of their roles, the thoughtful storyline, and the changes made to the original storyline by the incredibly talented directors makes for a show that is traumatically binge-worthy. It truly urges you to critically think about the world in its most cruel sense.
It also makes for a story that brings to light strong women like Sunja who, through the testing times of war and pain, still find it in them to show love and tenderness to those around them.
This is a story that inspires and provokes thought and brings to the mainstream the small intricates of the gargantuan historic events that shake humanity to its very core.