American Born Chinese (2023) TV Series Review



American Born Chinese is at times hilarious and surprisingly moving giving us characters with real life struggles intertwined with outlandish fantasy. Each episode usually has at least one fight scene to keep things moving and the cast including Michelle Yeoh and Daniel Wu are all first rate.

Plot: Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang, “American Born Chinese” chronicles the trials and tribulations of a regular American teenager whose life is forever changed when he befriends the son of a mythological god. This is the story of a young man’s battle for his own identity, told through family, comedy, and action-packed Kung-Fu.

Review: American Born Chinese is a new series on Disney+ that manages to successfully splice genres where we have a coming of age story, comedy, drama and some rather awesome fight scenes. Although the High School setting is familiar the show feels unique especially when dealing with Chinese culture and mythology like The Monkey King who is a major player in this series.

I am normally not a huge fan of Monkey King stories or wirework-infused fight scenes but when a show looks as amazing as American Born Chinese it’s hard not to get lost in it. This series also has memorable characters including Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin who supports Wei-Chen (Jim Liu ) when he steals his father’s staff so he can go on a quest on Earth to find his guardian who he believes is Jin Wang (Ben Wang). The only problem is all Jin wants is to be a normal kid in High School so he does whatever he can to fit in. This gives us several awkward scenes which I find hard to watch as it’s just too real, but it also doesn’t go into the kind of High School stereotypes you may expect.

The one thing I’ll say about this series is that it is never predictable, and every character has their own story to tell. Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) plays Wu Kong and gets multiple fight scenes too so if you’re a fan of his then you won’t be disappointed.

Being that I am now middle aged I empathized more with Jin’s parents and their struggles, especially his father played to perfection by Chin Han (Mortal Kombat). He struggles at work as he wants a promotion but his boss retires in a month so he decides that maybe he could do the job himself. He lacks confidence but his wife is always telling him to believe in himself again as age has made him more cautious. I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers but it’s something anyone who works for a living can understand, so despite the outlandish fantasy elements of the story the main characters all face very human problems.

There are fight scenes every episode usually towards the end all leading up to an explosive finale; I’m not sure it will click with a lot of the audience due to the fantasy elements but that was arguably my favourite element as the visuals were so imaginative.

Overall, American Born Chinese will likely be a bit too strange for a mass audience but I think it will have its fans as there are plenty of fight scenes and a winning cast make it worth a watch.