I’ve never read Gene Luen Yang’s classic graphic novel “American Born Chinese,” so I had only vague predictions that the show would mostly be about the struggles of being Asian American. But “American Born Chinese” the TV show blew out my expectations. It’s available for streaming on Disney+.
The show takes a classic teenage coming-of-age story, adds epic Marvel-level fight scenes and frames it within rich Chinese culture. The show follows teenage Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants living in the California suburbs.
In a majority-white high school, Jin tries to fit in with his soccer friends when the principal assigns bubbly, unapologetic new student Wei-Chen to be his shadow because he’s also Chinese. Jin struggles to juggle his forced friendship with Wei-Chen, his JV soccer career, his crush Amelia, an old friendship fallout, family life and racism.
He quickly became a racist meme after crashing into a trophy case, and had to deal with the aftermath. While I thought Jin’s struggle between protecting himself or being a voice for others was portrayed well, the situation wasn’t really rectified and kind of disappeared. Also addressing racism was Ke Huy Quan, whose life story was a substantial plot element.
But soon enough, high school concerns took a back seat and celestial characters were brought to center stage. Wei-Chen, and therefore Jin became wrapped up in the legends of Chinese mythology, and viewers get a peek into the politics of the heavens. Awesome effects and impressive character design of heaven’s residents added a whole other layer of characters separate from Jin’s high school.
The students of his school are a little archetypal, but their differences fade as the show goes on. In addition to Ke Huy Quan “Everything Everywhere All At Once” leads Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu join the cast. And a soundtrack filled with comfortingly familiar Chinese classics and recognizable food made “American Born Chinese” relatable. While each twist and turn was more exciting than the last, the show was still starkly real and accurately portrayed Chinese American life. I instantly became attached to Jin because of this, and was rooting for him through the nail-biting end.
Edited by Nykeya Woods