“American from China” on Disney +: a fantastic and joyful quest in the halls of high school

A frantic and aerial chase with “Tiger and Dragon” style fights in a celestial world: the inaugural scene of the “American from China” series is destabilizing. With such a title, we were rather expecting a social chronicle on Asian immigrants in the United States. The strength of this new fiction, adapted from a graphic novel and put online this Wednesday, May 24 on Disney +is that she is also that.

The hero, Jin, is an American high school student whose parents emigrated from China and who is entering second grade. Pionate about manga, he is not one of the popular figures in high school but dreams of being accepted by the sports clique by joining the football team. He also falls for the pretty Amelia, who seems to be beyond his reach.

When the principal asks him to help a new student, Wei-Chen, also of Chinese origin, to navigate the halls of the school, he sees this new friend as a brake on his social ambitions. Jin is far from suspecting that this meeting will upset his destiny and plunge him into a struggle involving kings, demons and divinities straight out of Eastern mythology.

Stunning aerial combat scenes

If the whole thing works so well, it is in particular thanks to the young actors who hold the main roles: the newcomers Ben Wang (Jin) and Jim Liu (Wei-Chen) quickly arouse empathy while demonstrating nuances and of a certain comic talent. For more experienced actors, Michelle Yeoh is part of the skin of the Goddess of Mercy.

Also in the credits: Ke Huy Quan, who was his playing partner in the multi-award winning film “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. He lends his features to a former sitcom star whose humor was based on racist clichés, which is becoming fashionable again thanks to clips broadcast on social networks. It should be noted, however, that the duo only share a few seconds on the screen, their characters belonging to two very distant trajectories in history. Also note that actress Lucy Liu is directing episode 6.

It must be admitted that the aesthetics of the fantastic sequences are not always very successful, but the aerial combat scenes are breathtaking and the back and forth between the real world and the celestial universe are particularly pleasing. All is not perfect in “American from China” which suffers from some scriptwriting clumsiness and a desire to sometimes do a little too much. Yet this series proves to be touching as a teenage chronicle, thrilling as a fantasy thriller and relevant as an unrelenting tableau of ordinary racism.

Editor’s note:

Chinese American », American series by Kelvin Yu (2023) with Ben Wang, Jim Liu, Michelle Yeoh… Eight episodes of 31 to 44 minutes each.

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