With everything in consideration, the show was fun to watch, after you cross the halfway point of the season.
American Born Chinese: Season 1 – 8.0/10
New to Disney+, American Born Chinese is a show that delves into racial issues, while also having a magical element to the story. The combination of these two elements made for an interesting show, but there were definitely areas that left much to be desired.
To start this review, I’m going to cut right to the chase. I thought this show was alright. It wasn’t my favourite show out there, but it was an enjoyable watch. Now, the first half of the season was a bit of a drag to get through, but the last two episodes were fun to watch. I also have a few gripes about the ending, but I’ll get into the specifics more in a second. Overall, American Born Chinese was an alright show. It wasn’t unwatchable, but there were some moments that were hard to stomach, due to copious amounts of cringe. On the flip side, I really enjoyed watching the fight choreography. Honestly, that’s probably the only reason I got through the first few episodes.
Let’s start with some of the things I didn’t enjoy all that much. To start, the first episode was kinda hard to watch. Jin, the protagonist of the show, wasn’t all too enjoyable to watch. I get that his character is based a lot on Chinese people born in the Western world, who are trying to adapt to their surroundings. Being Chinese myself, I understand the struggles Jin goes through during that episode. That constant want to fit in and to act “normal”.
Now, the reason I might have found this part of his character so annoying might be because this part hits a bit close to home. Either way though, his introduction as the protagonist was a bit underwhelming. Throughout the show, Jin does get some character development, but the first few episodes portray him in a distasteful way. I understand that he acts like a teenager, but some of his actions just feel inexcusable. I did appreciate that Jin grew up by the end of the show.
Beside Jin though, the other characters were quite interesting. Wei-Chen was a fun secondary character to follow. It might be true that he is overly optimistic and naïve, but watching him develop over the course of the show was satisfying. By that same note, I liked Jin’s parents. Their acting was spot on, and the issues they covered were covered in a tasteful way that brought light to deeper topics. The fights that the parents had felt real, and it added another layer of depth to the story and worldbuilding.
On the topic of parts of the show I didn’t enjoy, I have to say the ending was quite lacking. Now, the final episode itself was a fun experience. The final fight and the reveal of Jin being the Fourth Scroll, although obvious, was still a great reveal. The main problem I had with the ending was how abrupt everything went. For some reason, the pacing up ton this point was spot on, then the ending got rushed. After the Jin as the Fourth Scroll reveal, I thought something big would’ve come from it. Instead, the whole conflict was solved by Jin’s self-sacrifice. This, on its own, was totally fine. The part I didn’t find fine was how everything got brushed off so fast. I guess I expected a bit more from Jin’s reveal.
With the ending out of the way, I did enjoy the way the show was structured. It was a combination of Western shows with a sprinkling of Chinese drama and kung fu. As I mentioned earlier, the best part of the show was definitely the fight choreography. Each fight was fun, and the over the top floating was a welcome sight. For those unfamiliar with this style of show, some might think that it resembles Shang-Chi. In this regard, both are obviously inspired by Chinese dramas, as both shows are directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
On that note though, American Born Chinese is not part of the MCU whatsoever. Although there might be some style similarities, mainly due to the director being the same for both projects, and the use of magic in the show, the two universes are not connected. Instead, American Born Chinese is based on a novel.
With everything in consideration, the show was fun to watch, after you cross the halfway point of the season. Jin is a bit of an annoying lead until he grows up a bit. I guess you could take this as the show having good character development. Either way, the first episode in particular did feel pretty cringe. However, the amazing fight choreography and the delving into some difficult topics makes the show worth a shot.