A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Historical drama explores Korean life under Imperial Japanese occupation and the ramifications of culture clash through generations. Customs, language, family traditions, cultural traditions are explored.
Have integrity even when your spirit is broken. Honor your family and your culture. Hard work pays off. Keep your dream alive. Respect people who have less than you. Rise above greed. Look deeply at circumstances to find meaning. Prove yourself worthy. Grow strong so you can face your shadows.
Positive Role Models
The women in particular in this series have endured much suffering so that they could continue their lineage. They show strength and courage in the face of oppression. Younger generations respect their elders, even if they don't always take time to know their stories.
This drama follows a Korean family through the 20th century as immigration and displacement carry them through Korea, Japan, and New York. Featuring a predominantly Asian cast and conceived by Korean American women Min Jin Lee and showrunner Soo Hugh, the storytelling couldn't be more authentic. Pachinko confidently highlights the strength and resilience of women and humanizes adults over 70 by giving them backstories. Disabled characters have integrity, even if they are ostracized. And religious conflict is woven into the narrative, showcasing the struggles of Christian missionaries in Japan at a time when Japan was just recovering from its violent period of anti-Christian sentiment.
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Violence & Scariness
A young woman is sexually assaulted by men, but she's rescued before they can hurt her. The cruel words of a man to a pregnant woman before he abandons her. Childbirth takes place with the mother yelling and in visible distress (nothing explicit is shown). An earthquake causes a city-wide fire; extreme peril as citizens flee and die by falling buildings. A racist mob lights a building on fire with innocent people inside left to die. Dead bodies visible in earthquake rubble (not gory). A character dies of HIV in the hospital.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Adults kiss. Sexual acts are implied. A young woman is sexually assaulted by men, but she's rescued before they can hurt her. A married character falls in love with someone else and they have a brief affair.
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"F--k" in various forms used moderately. "Ass," "damn," "hell," "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke in context of the times (especially in the 1980s). Adults drink hard liquor and wine. Men get drunk and say things that get them arrested under occupational law.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pachinko is a historical saga that deals with issues of geopolitical occupation, oppression, and survival. Set in early 20th-century Korea and Japan (with some scenes in the United States), it follows a young man's quest to make money in Tokyo real estate as it coincides with his grandmother's recollection of her youth. His father owns a pachinko parlor, where people gamble on rigged machines. People smoke, drink, and a female character is lost in a drug haze. Themes include unintended pregnancy, sexual assault, and revenge. Language includes "f--k," "damn," "hell." The U.S. release is available with Japanese and Korean subtitles with some English.
Is It Any Good?
Riveting, knife-sharp, poetic, this adaptation of an acclaimed novel from Min Jin Lee holds secrets; an epic family saga that integrates meaning within meaning. In Pachinko, an ambitious young businessman from the U.S. returns to Japan, where his family lives. They are ethnic Koreans who emigrated to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea, and many unresolved feelings remain. His visit coincides with his great-aunt's illness; she's being cared for by his grandmother. Memories are triggered as his grandmother recalls her childhood in Korea.
Visually riveting, this is story-telling at its finest. Adults might enjoy it more than teens, but the romantic stories, the mysterious family ties, the sleek production might draw in fans of K-Dramas and family sagas.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.