American Born Chinese Review

American Born Chinese Graphic Novel Adaptation Surprises Fans with Bold Action and Comedy

The Disney+ streaming series of Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese may have left fans apprehensive about its adaptation, but the bold, fun, and at times wild take on the original source material delivers a level of quality that stands apart from everything else. The modern-day story revolves around protagonist Jin Wang (Ben Wang), who discovers the existence of Chinese folklore and mythology gods and figures that are very real and takes it all in without much shock. With so many celestial figures showing up, it’s easy to understand his resignation as a viewer – it’s a high schooler’s nightmare.

Bold Storytelling and Action

The show makes no apologies for taking on East Asian storytelling ideas that explore the Chinese-American/universal immigrant experience. The influence of Wuxia (Chinese martial arts historical fantasy) is everywhere, with ample use of Mandarin dialogue, along with Beijing Opera and Eastern epic-inspired presentations. American Born Chinese can be seen as an Everything, Everywhere, All at Once young adult novel version, but with its unique spirit and shame-free approach to pulling from myriad sources, the show elevates its overall quality.

Solid Magical and Martial Arts Elements

As a show built around magical, mystical, and martial arts, the special effects, make-up, and costumes are top-notch, perfectly capturing the otherworldly nature of the gods. The choreography is engaging and makes sense in the context of the story, with every meeting of the blows getting treated with the necessary respect. The performances of Ke Huy Quan and Daniel Wu are real standouts.

Complex Character Development and Performances

While some characters do not develop much in terms of personality, especially the more godly characters, the show uses the American coming-of-age story formula while populating it with unique characters and perspectives. Ke Huy Quan’s Jamie Yao/Jimmy Wong character is a physical manifestation of his Oscars acceptance speech, speaking each word genuinely and with heart. Daniel Wu’s Sun Wukong stands out as an excellent performance, portraying the Monkey King as a desperate father terrified to lose his child. Even his fighting style feels desperate at times, making this Monkey King adaptation stand out among others.

Marketing Expectations versus What It Really Is

While previews tried to emphasize the show’s action, magic, and the beholders of golden statues, the show is so much more, with virtually no scenes from the original graphic novel adaptation in it. Despite this, every adaptation should stand on its own and not be a shot-for-shot remake of the original work, with the core of the story examining personal identity acceptance.

In conclusion, American Born Chinese on Disney+ serves as an excellent adaptation that takes bold storytelling and a shame-free approach to East Asian influences to stand apart from the original source material and the works of its Academy Award-winning cast. If you’re looking for a unique coming-of-age tale with complex character development, magical elements, and intense martial arts action sequences, this show is undoubtedly for you.