The Karate Kid series and have likely acted out the infamous “Crane Kick” a half dozen times. The new Cobra Kai series brings back all the nostalgia of the original adventures of Daniel-san while breathing new life into the Karate Kid universe. While Cobra Kai does an excellent job of explaining the history of the Karate Kid through flashbacks and exposition, it doesn’t hurt to rewatch the old films to get a sense of the characters and where the show is heading.
1984’s The Karate Kid was the first of the series and followed Daniel LaRusso as he moved from New Jersey to a little area in Los Angeles called Reseda. When Daniel first moves there with his mother, he meets “Ali with an ‘i’” and that’s when the epic rivalry that we now know in Cobra Kai starts. After a threatened and jealous Johnny Lawrence bullies Daniel relentlessly, the secret karate master Mr. Miyagi decides to take Daniel under his wing in order to help him defend himself. Mr. Miyagi teaches “Daniel-san” the art of karate under unusual conditions (illustrated by the famous line “Wax on, wax off”) up to the momentous All Valley Karate Tournament.
The Karate Kid II is an entirely new adventure for Daniel-san: we find out at the beginning of the film that high school sweethearts Daniel and Ali are no longer together as they parted ways after prom.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Miyagi receives some bad news regarding the health of his father in Okinawa. Upon learning of the news, along with his master’s unresolved issues he has with a former friend, Sato in Japan, Daniel decides to come with Mr. Miyagi for moral support, using the money for his college tuition for a plane ticket to Japan. While there, Daniel finds familiar obstacles to Reseda in the form of local bully, Chozen,as well as a new love interest, the beautiful aspiring dancer, Kumiko. The film (of course) culminates in an epic karate battle with Chozen, resulting in Daniel’s victory.
All these events have led up to Cobra Kai, a Netflix series (formerly YouTube Red/Premium) that follows the lives of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. We see that Johnny is now a down-on-his-luck handyman and Daniel has grown up to be a successful car salesman in “the Valley.” While the initial trailer for the series depicts Daniel as the newfound bully and Johnny as the underdog, we see them change roles several times throughout all three seasons of the series. We also see how their high school rivalry now impacts their families and loved ones, such as Samantha LaRusso (Daniel’s daughter) and Miguel Diaz (Johnny’s first karate student). In addition to new plot lines, the show also features many callbacks to the films which usually include flashbacks as well. Cobra Kai is sure to please fans of the Karate Kid films while gaining new fans with its own entertaining and well-written storyline.
Season 3 of Cobra Kai is now available on Netflix.