When I was in middle school, I had a friend whose dad owned his own business. This allowed him to buy some pretty nice toys that we got to play with.

There was a slot car set with a track about the size of a ping pong table. I usually chose a car that had a sloping front end, kind of like the car in the logo for a slot car raceway that I found on the Internet. It was perfect for whenever her car wrecked. I squeezed the control trigger down as far as it would go and blasted right through it, flinging it up into the air. She always complained and I always ignored it and did it anyway. I think now she was worried about me damaging the cars.

There had to be other fancy toys they had, but the only other one I remember was the pachinko machine. This was in the late 1970s, so it was all mechanical. I didn’t know anything about pachinko back then. It was just a game where you pushed down on a lever and tried to launch a ball so it would bounce around on the pins and hopefully go in one of the holes. You could launch them fast or slow, one at a time or several in a row. It was unpredictable how they’d fall, but that’s as much meaning as I put into it.

Wikipedia’s got a lot of info on pachinko. The gist of it is it’s one of the most popular types of entertainment in Japan, primarily for gambling. It rakes in more than Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore combined. There’s game parlors that remove the gambling aspect so kids can play. Gambling for money is illegal in Japan, so the way it is done is you rent a starting amount of balls, play and try to get more, exchange what you end up with for prizes, then you go to a nearby store (usually a separate business) and sell them for money. I think the prizes are resold back to the parlors. The companies that make the games have websites that explain how to play them and how the payouts work.

Modern pachinko machines only have the active area of playfield around the sides with a screen in the center. That allows them to play video, include mini-games, a slot machine-like function and vary the gameplay. There’s a lot of flexibility that comes with it, and that leads to these being very popular, with tie-in merchandise like CDs with the soundtracks from the games, figurines of the characters, notebook covers, art books related to the development of the game, comic books/manga and so on.

Pachinko machines have fans just the same as movies and TV shows like Star Wars and Game of Thrones have fans. You’ll see people in cosplay of the game characters, go to release parties for a new game in the series or to meet the voice actors at special events. Developing a pachinko game is every bit as involved as you’d find in a traditional video game.

What does all this have to do with TV shows? Well, my next review is about an anime series based on a pachinko machine. Stay tuned….

(Review continues here.)

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.