Based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese is a new young adult series on Disney+.
The series follows the story of Jin Wang (Ben Wang). Jin is a Chinese-American teenager who struggles to fit in with his peers. He is constantly bullied for his race, and he feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere. Then one day, Jin meets a mysterious stranger. This stranger tells him that he is the descendant of the Monkey King, a powerful Chinese mythological figure. The stranger tells Jin that he must go on a quest to save the world from an evil demon.
AMERICAN BORN CHINESE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A FAIRYTALE
On the surface, American Born Chinese can seem like just another coming-of-age story. However, I found it to be so much more than that. This series explores important topics like identity, race, and belonging in a very palatable way.
I thought the use of interweaving the 1980s fictional sitcom, “Beyond Repair” was incredibly smart. It was a perfect way to show the stereotyping of Asian characters in media. Having Ke Huy Quan (Everything, Everywhere, All At Once) play him was a stroke of genius. While we like to believe we have progressed as a society holding up a mirror in that way shows us how far we’ve actually come and how else we can improve.
I loved getting to learn more about Chinese Lore through all the Gods and Demons we get to meet along the way. Most of them are played by the who’s who of the Asian acting community.
American Born Chinese stars Academy Award Winners Michelle Yeoh, as well as Academy Award Nominee Stephanie Hsu. Also starring as iconic Chinese mythical characters are Jim Chen, Ronny Chieng, Jimmy O. Yang, James Hong, Leonard Wu, and Poppy Liu.
PACING TRIPS UP THE MAGICAL SERIES
While the casting, characters, and storyline of American Born Chinese is fantastic I found the pacing to be a little all over the place. There are 3 different storylines taking place: Jin’s, the Monkey Prince’s adventure, as well as “Beyond Repair”.
All three have very well-done and fleshed-out storylines. However, it takes a long time to bring them together and move the stories forward. By the time we get there, it feels over.
Overall, American Born Chinese is funny, heartwarming, and ultimately an uplifting story that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. It is absolutely worth watching.
The series premieres on Disney+ on May 24.