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Review: Disney+ Original Series ‘American Born Chinese’

All eight episodes of the Disney+ Original series “American Born Chinese” premiere on Disney+ on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

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.

The coming-of-age adventure features an all-star international cast, including Academy® Award winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Ben Wang (“Chang Can Dunk”), International Emmy(R) Award Nominee Yeo Yann Yann (“Wet Season”), Chin Han (“Mortal Kombat”), Daniel Wu (“Reminiscence”), former Taekwondo champion Jimmy Liu and Sydney Taylor (“Just Add Magic”).

Introducing audiences to a pantheon of iconic Chinese mythical characters, are guest stars Academy® Award nominee Stephanie Hsu as Shiji Niangniang, the Goddess of Stones; Ronny Chieng as unconventional monk, Ji Gong; Jimmy O. Yang as Dragon King, Ao Guang; James Hong as Jade Emperor; Leonard Wu as Niu Mowang/Bull Demon; and Poppy Liu as Princess Iron Fan. The series also welcomes Lisa Lu as soon-to-be retired acupuncturist Ni Yang and Rosalie Chiang as student activist Suzy Nakamura.

“American Born Chinese” is a Disney+ Original series produced by 20th Television. Emmy® Award-winning writer/producer Kelvin Yu (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Central Park”) serves as executive producer and showrunner. Destin Daniel Cretton (Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Short Term 12”) is set to direct and serves as executive producer, alongside Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan (both of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” for Disney+, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jumanji: The Next Level” feature films), Erin O’Malley (“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”), Asher Goldstein (“Short Term 12,” “Just Mercy”) and Gene Luen Yang.

This review is based on all 8 episodes.

As the story begins we meet Jin (Ben Wang) an everyday, shy teenager navigating his way through high school with aspirations of making the soccer team and of course, making the connection with the girl he’s crushing on.  While balancing school and home life, he befriends a new foreign student who entangles him in a battle with Chinese mythological gods.

Wang, who we last saw in the Disney+ Original movie Chang Can Dunk, delivers an outstanding beloved performance of a complex character.  Michelle Yeoh who won an Oscar for Everything Everywhere All at Once gracefully plays Guanyin, the goddess of mercy.  And Ke Huy Quan, who recently nabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Everything Everywhere All at Once, plays a character in a fictional TV show in which his catchphrase is “What could go Wong?” which may be akin to Urkel in Family Matters however in a painful sense.

The show has some visually stunning moments where you feel like you are almost immersed in a video game and is set to a plucking score while also adding upbeat modern-day tracks.  The series finds its connection and depth with the audience during medial struggling events of everyday life rather than the mythical action sequences.

“American Born Chinese” takes a realistic approach to identity, culture, and family while breaking stereotypes and ultimately delivers a heartfelt take on differences and provides thoughtful insight.  As the series so adequately states, “A hero doesn’t always have to have superpowers.  A hero is someone who goes on a journey, shows courage, helps others, and fights for something that matters.”

Although a second season of the series has not been announced, the final scene leaves the door open for the story to continue.

You can watch the trailer for “American Born Chinese” below:

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