SXSW TV Review: American Born Chinese

Disney+ graphic novel adaptation is not just another superhero show

credit: Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja

When Disney+ picked up a live action adaptation of Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese,, a lot of questions were raised. How would Disney produce a television series based off a comic that boldly explores racism through stereotypes for a platform that designed to create uncontroversial family friendly content?

American Born Chinese is more in line with their Marvel tv series and less High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Fantastical action set pieces are wrapped around a sincere high school story about a kid who is just trying to find his way without having his race define him. The first two episodes of the series (shown yesterday at SXSW) indicate that they expect it to be a roaring success, adding characters and expanding the potential of storylines so evidentially there can be a season 2 and beyond.

The series still uses the defining elements of the graphic novel: Jin Wang (Ben Wang) is a Chinese American teenager trying to find where he fits in a sea of white classmates. On his first day back to school, he’s saddled with Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu), a new Taiwanese student who is everything Jin is trying to distance himself from. Wei-Chen also so happens to be the Monkey King’s son, a long-adapted mythical character from the Chinese novel Journey to the West.

The show gets to play in both worlds: sleek, choreographed fighting sequences that amp up the excitement and tender coming of age moments that ground its characters.

Packed with Asian and Asian American stars alike – recent Academy Award winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, with their Everything Everywhere All At Once Stephanie Hsu and James Hong, as well Ronny Chieng and Jimmy O. Yang promised for later episodes– the show is a rapturous display of incredible talent. American Born Chinese is sincere and sweet, and bound to soar into the hearts of many.

American Born Chinese

TV Premieres, World Premiere

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