Samurai Girl premieres

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Samurai Girl, which we’ve been anticipating for the better part of a year, finally premieres tonight on ABC Family, and runs through the weekend as a three-night “original event.” The network has been hyping the hell out of this thing, with nonstop commercials, a panel at last month’s Comic-Con, and all sorts of crazy stuff on the show’s website (“samurai-ize your desktop”). If the premiere goes well, it’s likely that Samurai Girl will be picked up as a full series.

Well, I have seen the first two hours of the show… and it’s not very good. Okay, everything we’ve seen and heard about the show so far hasn’t been very promising. But I’ll admit, I was secretly hoping the show would pull out some pleasant surprises, rather than falling back on the usual stereotypes. That’s not happening. Samurai Girl is bad, and then really bad.

Based on a series of popular young adult novels, the show stars Jamie Chung as a 19-year-old Japanese girl named Heaven who discovers that the wealthy businessman who adopted her as an infant is really the head of the Yakuza(!) and responsible for murdering her beloved brother. She breaks from her family and begins training to become a samurai, and with the help of a group of new American friends, sets out to take down her father’s evil empire.

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worthing asking again: why must every other Asian-related Hollywood project involve secret samurais and ninjas and yakuza clans? Not that there’s anything wrong with a good samurai/ninja/yakuza story… but this ain’t it.

And the ridiculous stereotypes! Where do I begin? The plot opens with Heaven being forced into an arranged marriage with the son of her adopted father’s business associate. The guy, of course, is a total douchebag. The occasion, however, is rudely interrupted by a ninja attack, complete with smoke bombs and throwing stars. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

But when your show is called Samurai Girl, you eventually want to see your hero become said Samurai Girl. So Heaven must learn the secret, ancient ways of the samurai, training under the wise tutelage of her sensei… a white dude. Huh? Oh, I see. Like, um, The Last Samurai.

It’s worth noting in the book series, this sensei character is actually a Japanese guy, Hiro Uyemoto, described on the book website as “Heaven’s crush-worthy samurai mentor.” I was told by someone who read an early draft of the pilot script that this character was indeed an Asian guy. Looks like that minor detail got changed somewhere along the way… Funny how that happens.

Heaven also conveniently picks up some nice white, American friends to round out her crew. Yay! So let’s see. Good conveniently Caucasian friends, white samurai sensei… Bad mob boss dad, evil yakuza henchmen, douchebag Japanese fiance left at the altar. Hmmm.

Am I missing anyone? Oh yeah, can’t forget Heaven’s brother Hiko, played by Jack Yang, who’s probably the most interesting thing about the show. Too bad he gets killed within the first ten minutes of the premiere. There’s also good ol’ Sab Shimono, who plays Heaven’s faithful chauffeur. Very wise, very benevolent. Practically Miyagi-esque.

All right. I’ve said enough. While I’m always excited to see new shows with Asian American actors in starring roles, if it has to look like this, I’ll pass. Granted, I only watched the first two hours made available for review. The next four hours could kick some serious ass. But I’m not holding my breath. Hey, Samurai Girl might be your cup of tea. Watch at your own risk, I guess. The show premieres tonight on ABC Family, and continues on Saturday and Sunday night.