In “Pachinko”, Lee Min Ho plays a rich, ambitious, controlling man. This is the first time the actor has abandoned the image of a flower boy to experiment with a villain role.
Pachinko, the best-selling novel of 2017 by writer Min Jin Lee, is adapted into a drama. The story of a Korean immigrant family’s struggles in Japan will premiere this month.
With an A-list cast including veteran star Youn Yuh Jung (Oscar-winning actress with “Minari”), actor Lee Min Ho (Boys Over Flowers, The Heirs…) and new faces like Kim Min Ha, the drama promises to impress the audience.
The drama is directed by Korean-American indie filmmakers Justin Chon (Blue Bayou) and Kogonada (After Yang), while Soo Hugh (The Terror) serves as executive producer.
The return of Lee Min Ho and veteran star Youn Yuh Jung
Pachinko is told with parallel narratives in different timelines, one of the “present” in 1989 and the other takes place in the 1910s. The drama begins with the birth of Sunja, a farmer girl in Korea who immigrated to Japan.
The character Sunja in her twenties meets and falls in love with Hansu (Lee Min Ho), who is much older than her. Hansu lives in a matriarchal family and is well-known for running the pachinko gambling parlor.
He hid the fact that he was already married and had children. After Sunja got pregnant, Hansu wanted to support her financially as a secret lover. However, Sunja did not agree to live in such humiliation. She accepts another kind man’s marriage proposal.
According to Cnet, sadness is the main theme throughout the entire work. Actress Youn Yuh Jung shines in the senior version of Sunja. She endured so much pain and sacrifice that happiness could rarely be seen in the character’ face.
As usual, Lee Min Ho continues to make many fans look forward to his handsome appearance. The actor’s image of a rich Koh Hansu in a white suit continues to steal fans’ hearts.
This work marks the return of Lee Min Ho after a year of absence from the small screen. In 2020, the actor’s performance in the drama “The King: Eternal Monarch” has received not very positive criticism.
Although Lee Min Ho‘s acting in the new work is not yet known, the actor’s participation has helped the drama to be noticed and awaited. In addition, this is also his first villain role. In the past, he was framed in the role of a handsome boy pursued by many girls.
In an interview with Esquire magazine, Lee Min Ho said that Koh Hansu is a villain in every way. He was excited when he received an offer for a role in “Pachinko”.
In addition, the star of “Legend of the Blue Sea” said that his age was no longer suitable to act in high-teen dramas and the role of a hero saving a damsel in distress was out of trend already.
“Women today also save men. Playing characters closer to reality is more appropriate in the current context,” Lee Min Ho told Esquire.
The script does not match the original
Pachinko is a popular form of low-stakes gambling in Japan. Although gambling is illegal, this pastime is allowed to exist through a legal loophole.
Most pachinko parlors are run by people called Zainichis, residents of Korean origin who immigrated to Japan. The number of these people increased during the period 1910-1945.
If pachinko is tolerated, the same goes for the Korean Zainichi. Their precarious position in the country is emphasized by association with the term Zainichi. This is the Japanese word for foreign residents, implying temporary residence in their home country.
According to SCMP, Pachinko was successful and became a best-selling novel partly thanks to the author’s overall view of the Korean’s experience living in Japan.
Spanning nearly 80 years of history and starring countless characters, Lee‘s book is a separate narrative of the characters’ lives, delving into key moments.
This structure keeps the book epochal and gives the work an objective point of view, adding strength to “Pachinko”’s overall theme.
Like many recent adaptations, the uniqueness of Pachinko‘s plot gives way to characters that viewers can easily imagine and follow through the series.
Pachinko is a collaboration between Justin Chon and Kogonada, two filmmakers with different styles. According to SCMP, Kogonada‘s solemn and contemplative framing contrasts with Justin Chon‘s dynamic, sometimes abrasive aesthetic.
The two filmmakers use dance as material throughout the series. The drama also featured evocative music from contemporary composer Nico Muhly. However, Pachinko is said to rely too much on the music, which lessens its impact over time.
While this adaptation mostly adds rather than subtracts, one aspect of the book that is underrated is its eroticism. The sexual aspect of Lee‘s works occasionally comes across as lecherous, but it is a powerful expression of the characters’ desires and frustrations, as well as a cultural bridge and metaphor for social control.
According to SCMP, the drama keeps a languid rhythm with parallel stories, in contrast with the novel’s chronology. Therefore, the filmmakers have to create new characters to push parallel sequences to the climax.
“Pachinko” is said to exaggerate the melodrama genre, which contrasts the work with the actual period and the story’s serious themes.
In the end, Pachinko is still considered an adaptation that is not as good as expected despite possessing a potential cast.
“Vivid and lush, Pachinko is another important step forward for Asian representation on the screen, but it’s also a frustrating adaptation. For all its impressive staging and meaningful dialogue, the show can’t quite capture the objective scope of the original.”, SCMP commented.