Early Access: Pachinko Episode 1

Hi everyone!

Thanks for enjoying my episode 1 notes on A Business Proposal! Today, I thought I’d share my episode 1 notes on Pachinko, because I’m liking it very well right away, and I was wondering if you’d like to join me? 🤗

These are my episode 1 notes, exactly as they appear on Patreon, ie, without screenshots (I’m saving those for the actual review).

I hope you all enjoy, and I hope you’ll consider joining us over on Patreon, for the rest of the discussions! ❤️

Episode notes:

E1. Well, this one sure has “epic” written all over it, right away.

Full disclosure: originally, I hadn’t felt especially interested to check out this show, because 1, I haven’t read the book and therefore have no pre-existing fondness for this story, and 2, Lee Min Ho’s in it, and I’m mostly neutral about him.

What I mean by that is, I don’t hate him, but neither does his appearance in a drama make me super excited to check it out, either.

However, the moment I watched Show’s trailer, I’d felt completely intrigued to know more about this world and its characters.

First things first; I really do like it.

I’d heard that the first few episodes are kind of slow, but I don’t feel a sense of drag, if that’s what other viewers mean. I actually enjoy the measured pace of our story.

I also find it interesting, that Show doesn’t tell its story chronologically, but regularly toggles between Sun Ja’s growing up years, and Sun Ja’s twilight years.

That gives us an overall rather interesting effect, I do think.

For one thing, it gives me the assurance that no matter what happens in our past timeline, Sun Ja’s going to survive and be ok – because, at the same time, we see her as a grandmother, in her later years.

Another thing is, because we learn quite early on, that she ends up living in Japan in her twilight years, with her son remarried to a Japanese woman, and her son and grandson speaking Japanese so fluently as a matter of routine, it creates a distinct layer of irony to the past timeline events, where we see how the Korean people had suffered during the Japanese Occupation.

In particular, that scene, where Sun Ja’s dad’s tenant drunkenly complains that they’re required to speak Japanese, but will never actually be accepted by the Japanese as one of them, feels poignantly ironic, when contrasted with the scenes of Sun Ja’s son and grandson speaking Japanese so cheerfully, with their friends and colleagues, in 1989.

I have to confess that this particular point hits me a little extra, because Singapore had experienced a Japanese Occupation too, in her history.

My grandparents lived through this, and it really feels quite confronting, to imagine my own family members having to contend with similar treatment during the Japanese Occupation.

By extension, that makes me really put myself in their shoes, to imagine what it might have been like, to have been required to speak Japanese, instead of my own mother tongue, and yet, have been treated as less-than, regardless of my efforts.

It’s painful and ugly, and Show doesn’t shy away from portraying this dynamic.

At the same time, I do appreciate that Show doesn’t use a blanket approach, and make all the Japanese soldiers into jerks.

Like in that scene where the pair of Japanese soldiers go to Sun Ja’s house to question her father about not reporting his tenant for making traitorous remarks, I’m grateful that one of the soldiers comes across as reasonable, even though the other one appears rather bloodthirsty.

More to the point of our story, I find myself gravitating towards Sun Ja right away.

From the time when she’s a little girl, I found myself loving her. They really cast Little Sun Ja really well. There’s such a matter-of-fact curiosity in her eyes, and such a curious, blithe zest for life in general. Plus, she’s so precocious and bright, without coming across as try-hard.

The way she effortlessly negotiates a better price for her father’s fisherman tenant, than he can negotiate for himself, is pretty darn amazing.

I basically loved her right away, and wanted her to live a happy and good life, just as the shaman had said she would.

I do like Sun Ja’s mom too, but I have to confess that it’s Dad who got me in the heart. I love that he’s so loving and protective towards Sun Ja, and I love that despite his modest means, he wants to give Sun Ja the happiest life possible.

Right away, he strikes me as a very kind man, and it really warmed my heart, to see him watch  over Sun Ja with such pride and such joy.

Of course, watching Dad being so pure and wonderful like this, in a show like this, my drama instincts pinged early, that Dad was unlikely to live very long.

Sigh. True enough, Dad doesn’t make it through the first episode, which, sob. 😭

However, my silver lining is that Dad doesn’t die because of the fact that he hadn’t reported his allegedly traitorous tenant. Dad dies of an illness, some time after this incident. And somehow, that comforts me, a little.

I would have hated for Dad to have been tortured and killed, because he hadn’t reported his tenant – out of the kindness of his heart. At least this way, I feel like Dad lived to see at least a few more days, before reaching the end of his days.

And the fact that the reason Dad manages to survive it, is because little Sun Ja had taken it upon herself to talk to the tenant, to tell him that he’s put everyone in danger, and to please leave, makes everything so much more poignant.

Over in 1989, I find myself most fascinated by Solomon, Sun Ja’s grandson.

I mean, he’s clearly smart and accomplished. Right away, we see that he speaks at least 3 languages fluently: English, Japanese and Korean. And, he speaks well enough to plausibly pass for a native speaker, in all 3.

Very impressive, not just for the character, but for the actor playing him as well. I think it was Leslie who mentioned that this character must have been hard to cast, just on the language demands alone. I completely agree.

The thing that makes Solomon interesting to me, right now, is the fact that I catch a whiff of possible cad, from him. There’s something about his gaze sometimes, that makes me feel that perhaps I should wait a little, before deciding whether I should trust him. 😅

However, at the same time, I do wonder if the whole reason that he has that whiff of possible cad about him, is because he’s been required to survive in environments where he’s not actually native, and therefore has been subjected to discriminatory treatment.

Perhaps he’s had to be a cad, in order to survive.

And, we do see that he’s a survivor. In that scene where he’s told that his promotion isn’t going to come through as expected, he doesn’t just take it, like they want him to.

He negotiates, hard, even when it looks like there is no room for discussion, and he apparently gets what he asks for: a chance to secure an almost impossible deal, in exchange for the promotion that he’s been denied. And backdated to the day of the discussion, no less.

I can’t help but admire his chutzpah, even as I continue to eye him with some caution.

At the end of our episode, we get a 9-year time skip, which places us in 1924.

I do love that Sun Ja still has that matter-of-fact brightness to her; it definitely causes her to stand out in the crowd. Plus, there’s the way she stands still with everyone else when the Japanese soldiers walk past, but she doesn’t bow like everyone else.

There’s something.. undaunted about her, like she cannot and will not be cowed, which I really like, but which I worry will make her a target for others, because she stands out so much.

And that’s where we end, with Lee Min Ho’s rich and well-heeled character being entranced by Sun Ja, the moment he sets eyes on her.

In any other kdrama, I might take this as Show signaling to us, the beginning of an epic romance.

However, in this drama world, I’m not so sure. Plus, I’ve already heard that Lee Min Ho’s character is a jerk, so.. my expectations have been managed.

That said, Sun Ja’s demonstrated in more ways than one, that she’s perfectly capable of dealing with unexpected and unwelcome situations, so here’s hoping that Sun Ja won’t fall prey to any dark designs that he might have.

All in all, this was a very solid, absorbing first episode, and I’m definitely looking forward to following Sun Ja on her journey through what looks like will be a colorful life.

*This show is being covered on the VIP Early Access (US$15) Tier on Patreon*

To view episode 1 notes in Patreon, along with everyone’s comments, you can go here!

You can find my Patreon page here, where episodes 1 and 2 notes are already available. Just look for the tag “Pachinko” or click here.

Episode 3 notes will be out on Saturday, 9 April 2022! I hope you’ll consider joining us!

It’ll be a way to have fun, and support me at the same time? ❤️

PS: For more information on what the Patreon experience is like, you might like to check out my Patreon update post for April, which you can find here!

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1 year ago

The trailer for this drama did look very appealing. I like epic generational sagas which this is. I’ll be curious to see how it goes 🙂

1 year ago

I’m a huge fan of the book and I wasn’t planning on checking out the show because I didn’t like the idea of jumping around between generations. As the book is told in chronological order, it feels a little more high stakes, because you genuinely do not know what will happen to Sunja and the author is not shy about having terrible things happen to the characters. Additionally, I was never particularly connected to Solomon in the book, because his story never felt as high stakes to me. Another reason I didn’t originally want to watch the show was that the promo material felt very glossy and epic-like, while my favorite aspect of the book was its every day, matter-of-fact-ness. But I’ve heard such good things about it that I’m wondering whether I should watch it. For people who have read the book, does the show vibe at all like the book? Or is it so different that it could be a good, stand-alone show that simply borrows a few things from the book?

1 year ago
Reply to  Medea

I also have read the book, and had the same exact reactions to the first two episodes. Show, it should be noted, is beautifully filmed. But, it struck me that the screen writers did not have enough confidence in story’s ability to captivate an audience with a chronological telling, perhaps too slow a burn, but at least initially it strikes me that Sunja’s story, the foreground of the novel, is being presented as the background. And her story, especially given the opportunities of time in a serial presentation, appears to be shorthanded via episodic snipped without the connectivity of time, so the stakes the novel gives to her life are given in show an unnecessarily short shrift. Now it may be as story moves on it rectifies the weakness of characterization in this plotting strategy; certainly no short shrift has been given to the cinematography or casting, but for me, having read the book, I have not been wont to pick it up again since I saw the first two episodes since it arrived opening night on apple +.

1 year ago
Reply to  BE

BE! Seeing and reading your comment just made my day!

1 year ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thx phl. This for you then, the last remaining 20th C Congolese guitar giant, Papa Noel, who as a child first heard music in his Kinshasa family home, cranking a victorola for his parents to dance to Cuban son. In his late 80s, his recent recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO4rn8ZwDws

1 year ago
Reply to  BE

@BE – Muchisimo Gracias compai! I enjoyed that.

1 year ago

Thanks for the review! I am so looking forward to watching this – I just have to wait longer coz I’m the type that can’t do a week-to-week installment! My main reason for being interested in the show is that part of it was filmed here in Vancouver. I’m normally not the fangirling type, but how could you miss out on something happening at your doorstep! I’m not a big Lee Min Ho fan either, but after stalking the film sets, it was hard not to get pulled in to the hype. Anyway, I ended up buying the book – and I gladly devoured it! I am hoping that the show stays true to the amazingly well-written book. From what the trailers show, the characters seem to be so aptly cast. Ah, a few more weeks of waiting and I get to see it!

1 year ago

Fangurl – Sun Ja is like an old soul. This is a very good drama and your Patreon coverage is simply excellent.

1 year ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes Fangurl – I am really enjoying this! Your notes give the drama the gravitas it deserves.