Disney’s American Born Chinese is a fun and bold tale that also reimagines the Chinese mythological stories we know.
Disney Plus’s American Born Chinese is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang. It chronicles the story of a high schooler, Jin Wang, who made a new friend at school, Wei-Chen, and got entangled in a war between Chinese heavenly gods.
The series stars new and familiar names such as Ben Wang as Jin Wang, Jimmy Liu as Wei-Chen, Michelle Yeoh as Goddess Guan Yin, Daniel Wu as Sun Wukong aka the Monkey King, Chin Han as Jin’s father Simon Wang, Leonard Wu as Niu Mowang aka the Bull Demon, Ronny Chieng as Ji Gong aka the Mad Monk, Stephanie Hsu as Shiji Niangniang aka the Goddess of Stones, and James Hong as the Jade Emperor.
What to expect?
American Born Chinese is like a Disney teen show but with Marvel’s action. It might remind some audience members of old shows like American Dragon: Jake Long and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.
Since the show is mainly set in high school around teenagers, the story comes with the usual friendship troubles, school problems, and family issues.
For what it’s worth, it’s refreshing to see the story’s protagonist, Jin Wang, not being the loser character. Don’t get me wrong. Jin Wang still has his awkward tendencies, but he’s trying new hobbies and activities in school.
He had to work hard to get a spot in the school’s football team and faced some hurdles along the way.
The show’s kung fu action scenes aren’t too shabby either because the same stunt coordinator in Shang-Chi choreographed the fight scenes in American Born Chinese.
It’s also another breath of fresh air to see Asian parents portrayed positively. Often, Asian parents have been depicted in negative stereotypes such as the Tiger Mum shtick or a nearly abusive household, but we see none of it here.
I loved seeing the relationship between Jin’s parents Christine and Simon, played by Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han respectively. Christine thinks forward and tries to encourage her husband who has lost his ambition and courage. That’s not to say they didn’t have their heightened emotional spats too.
The humour in the show comes at the right time. Without giving much away, it was funny to see a goddess struggling to put together Ikea furniture and the impression it left on her until the end.
Parts of the dialogue are spoken in Mandarin which gives the emotional scenes some authentic depth.
Personally, I found the pacing of the story a little slow, but it’s a show that will grow on you. I think I found it slow because Jin was supposed to be Wei-Chen’s guide, but he barely did any guiding.
His character seemed pretty much useless and only tagged along Wei-Chen in all of the episodes. Perhaps it’s to show how selfish the character was as he focused more on school activities and dating than helping his friend. I have not read the graphic novel so I couldn’t say if it was written the same way.
Should you skip or watch it?
I think American Born Chinese is a show that’ll appeal to and remain relatable to the younger audience. It’s a fun and bold coming-of-age story that also reimagines the Chinese mythology we have heard about since childhood.
All episodes of American Born Chinese are on Disney Plus Hotstar now.