In 2019 I was on my honeymoon and found myself staring deep into a cavernous building in Tokyo district Akihabara. It was a Pachinko parlour and I was confused, dazzled, and overwhelmed by the noise and the lights. And that says something considering the general stimulation overload that is Tokyo.
In 2022 I was seated on a reclining couch in suburban Brisbane on a recliner couch with a baby bouncing on my knee. The room was quiet save for occasional singing and giggling from the bub (yes, that is adorable), and the most gorgeous, dazzling TV show streaming on my TV. Again, I was transported into the world of Pachinko, but instead of the headache-inducing reality of the gaming parlour, this was instead a breathtaking 8-part TV series.
Pachinko tells a multi-generational story of a family across multiple generations with people at different stages in their lives as they grow and move where the winds of life takes them.
The story begins in a remote, poor fishing village in Korea in 1915 with the birth of Sunya. Throughout the first episode we flash forward to seeing her life as a young girl getting caught up in a fairly adult situation that was undoubtedly a major trauma in her life. And by the end of the episode, we are with her as a young woman. But her story is interrupted by stories of her grandson Solomon in 1989, a smart and scrappy (but very put-together) young Vice President working for a bank in Japan.
As the world of Pachinko grows in subsequent episodes, we see more of the life of their family throughout the generations as they all enter and pass through each others stories at different life stages.
The show fascinates and delights as we watch the contrast between the two most distant points of this family story. Sunya as a young girl is surrounded by concerns of the Japanese presence in Korea, while we also watch her later in life as a much older woman in 1989, engaging with her grandson - a successful businessman who has been educated in the West.
Visually, the show is incredible. I often remark that Apple TV+ shows are among the most beautiful on TV. This trumps them all. It's dazzles as it takes us throughout the decades across Korea, Japan, and the US.
Perhaps the shows greatest triumph is its incredible opening title sequence. The best thing Apple TV+ could do to sell this show is to upload them in high quality to YouTube. A fairly staid, typical opening title sequence that speaks to the multigenerational tale told throughout the show gives way midway through to a heartfelt set of clips with characters from the show dancing in a Pachinko hall. It is so filled with life and joy. Your heart will be swelling by the end of the titles alone. And, so you understand, the show never lets up with that feeling.
Pachinko is one of the most special human dramas brought to the screen and your heart will be pounding with every episode.
Pachinko debuts on Apple TV+ 25 March. Three episodes debut, then it is weekly.