American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese is an American action comedy television series created by Kelvin Yu for Disney+. It follows tenth-grader Jin Wang (Ben Wang), who is struggling to fit in with his peers. When he is tasked with showing new exchange student Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu) around, he is unexpectedly thrust into a battle between mythical Chinese gods, including Sun Wukong (Daniel Wu) and Guanyin (Michelle Yeoh). The series is based on the 2006 graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, who drew inspiration from his own adolescent years in the 1990s, incorporating elements from Chinese folk tales and mysticism found in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. (Wikipedia)

American Born Chinese has a slow start, so be warned! The first episode especially is a confused mess. It’s not quite clear who the main character is – Jin or Wei-Chen? Initially, Wei-Chen appears to be protagonist. He is shown battling with his father Sun WuKong (the Monkey King) in the opening sequence over the Iron Staff and then later falls to Earth. In his interactions with Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy), Wei-Chen confides in Guanyin that his quest is to find the Fourth Scroll, in order to defeat Niu Mowang (Bull Demon) and stop the latter from rebelling against Heaven.

But Wei-Chen is an annoying, unlikable character at this stage and his father is depicted as weak and lame, with Guanyin protecting the former against the latter. This seems to subvert expectations in the typical virtue signalling way and a huge turn off. Thankfully, even as the first episode gives this false impression, the rest of the series turns the focus on the true Main Character i.e. Jin. The series then becomes a heartfelt coming-of-age cum family drama against the backdrop of celestial machinations.

By the end, American Born Chinese will have you engaged with the characters and their struggles with the familiar faces (to Singaporean and Malaysian audiences) of Yeo Yan Yan and Chin Han playing pivotal roles as Jin’s parents. In fact, one becomes so emotionally connected to the story and characters that when the cliffhanger ending suggests a second season, one can only be excited by the prospect. Highly recommended!!!

Watch now on Disney+

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