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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Pachinko" Episode 2

Interest for "Pachinko" continues to be lukewarm. The brand new, high budget Lee Min-ho historical drama fell to seventh place on HanCinema's trends yesterday, below such projects as "Rugal" and "The Great Seer" which aren't exactly recent. This, even as my review for the first episode of "Pachinko" is HanCinema's most widely read article. Honestly I'm more interested in "Hope or Dope" at this point...but Rakuten Viki still doesn't have the first episode up so more "Pachinko" it is.

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Even a slow news day can only do so much to build excitement for "Pachinko" and its dreariness. Anyway, in 1931, young adult Sunja (played by Kim Min-ha-I) goes to the fish market every day to procure food for the boarding house she runs with her mother. There, she catches the eye of Hansu (played by Lee Min-ho), some sort of big shot fish trader who lives in Japan. Knowing, as I do, the work that Hansu does in Japan, it seems a bit odd that he spends so much time at the fish market.

But I digress. The main issue with the relationship between Sunja and Hansu, from a purely romantic standpoint, is that their conversations are invariably horribly depressing. Hansu rescues Sunja from an attempted sexual assault, and rather than seeming like a good guy in the rendezvous afterward, he just comes off as glib and cynical. This is OK from Sunja's point of view, since she's glib and cynical too. The ensuing story isn't terribly interesting to watch. It's just bitterly depressing.

"Pachinko" really got stuck between a rock and a hard place on this. Adapted faithfully from the book, Sunja is a naive enough character that Hansu comes off like a predator, especially given what we find out about his work later on. By making him more sinister from the get-go here, though, there's no real romance to speak of. Hansu is almost completely lacking in charm- a fairly disastrous directing decision since we all know full well that Lee Min-ho is capable of playing charming jerks.

Meanwhile, in 1989...Solomon continues to try to make the real estate deal work. All the people in Japan that he meets are weirdly standoffish, save for the token white guy. As bad as the 1931 storyline is when it comes to genuine passion in an alleged romantic storyline, at least Sunja's life circumstances are somewhat interesting. Solomon's desire for a respectable career in international finance, by contrast, just has no dramatic stakes entirely.

Review by William Schwartz

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"Pachinko" is directed by Justin Chon, Kogonada, written by Soo Hugh, and features Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Min-ho, Kim Min-ha-I, Jin Ha, Park So-hee, Jeong In-ji. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2022/03/25~Now airing, Fr on Apple TV+.

 

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