Cobra Kai and the Legacy of The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid Part II did better than the original, earning $115 million worldwide. While it didn’t garner any major award nominations, it was well received. Since it was set in Japan, it hasn’t been referenced much in Cobra Kai beyond when Johnny’s son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) discovers Daniel’s den-den daiko (rotating hand drum). As an interesting side note, the sequel subtly revealed Mr. Miyagi’s given name in Japanese. When Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) picks Miyagi up, his name is written in Japanese as Nariyoshi Miyagi, which is only one character different than Morita’s actual Japanese given name, Noriyuki (Nari and Nori are alternate spellings of the same character, which means ‘completed’). 

The Karate Kid Part III also picks up where Part II left off, but it drops the ball. It delivered a disappointing $38 million box office and was the final pairing of Daniel and Miyagi.  Nevertheless, it is referenced by Cobra Kai almost as much as the first film. Daniel and Miyagi return from Okinawa to find the LaRusso’s residence at South Seas complex being dismantled. The implication is that it is to be demolished, and yet it appears in “Different but the Same”, the 9th episode of Cobra Kai (why the new owners kept that painfully 80s South Seas logo is incomprehensible, but it made for a good Easter egg). Daniel’s mom, Lucille (Randee Heller) appears in Part III, who has cameos in both seasons of Cobra Kai, but she is quickly written out, sent away to take care of Daniel’s Uncle Louie (Joseph V. Perry). It’s a short scene to set up Daniel living with Miyagi, but Cobra Kai picks up on it with Louie LaRusso Jr. (Bret Ernst), a pivotal character in Season 1. 

Kreese is supplanted by his fellow Vietnam veteran, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) and Karate’s Bad Boy Mike Barnes (Sean Kanen). Both Silver and Kanan had authentic martial arts backgrounds so this installment had the best fight choreography. Ironically, The Karate Kid has had mediocre choreography throughout the series. After the initial film, Zabka continued to train under Pat Johnson, a genuine master of the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do. Johnson was the choreographer and played the referee for the first three films. Fans complain that in Cobra Kai, Macchio still lacks convincing martial skills (he’s had 36 years to train). However, the Season 2 finale fight in Cobra Kai redeems the franchise with a brilliantly choreographed long take scene in the center of a massive brawl.

Part III flops on several levels. The over-the-top villainy of Silver was too caricatured, complete with the hackneyed ‘bwahahaha’. Furthermore, without Shue or Tomita, there’s no romance. Robin Lively played the new girl, Jessica Andrews, but she was only 16 at the time, and while Macchio’s babyface still allowed him to play a convincing teen, he was 27 so romance with a minor wasn’t an option. Nevertheless, Cobra Kai references Miyagi and Daniel’s Bonsai tree business from Part III with a chiding comment from Daniel’s wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) and the special Miyagi-do Kata that Daniel learns in the threequel is the one recited repeatedly throughout the series. 

The Next Karate Kid abandoned Daniel altogether to follow Miyagi’s new pupil, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank). Despite being a total flop critically and financially, it’s Swank’s breakout role, and her budding talent shines, although not enough to redeem the film. What’s more, Miyagi’s given name is inexplicably changed to Keisuke. The new production crew apparently could not read Japanese.

The Saturday Morning Cartoon

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