by Aairah Koujalgi (‘24)
If you ask your parents if they’ve watched the original 1984 The Karate Kid movie, chances are most of them will say yes. The Karate Kid stars Ralph Macchio, an 80s heartthrob, as the character Daniel LaRusso. You may also recognize Macchio from The Outsiders, a book many South Brunswick students read in 7th grade, as Johnny Cade. In The Karate Kid, Daniel moves from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, California with his mother Lucille. While at the beach, Daniel sees a girl named Ali and quickly befriends her, making an enemy with her ex-boyfriend Johnny who still wants her back.
Johnny is a two-time All-Valley karate champion (played by William Zabka) and top student at the Cobra Kai dojo ran by Sensei Kreese. Sensei Kreese is a teacher with hardcore fundamentals, and instills that in his students. Daniel finds a mentor in Mr. Miyagi, a handyman for their apartment. Mr. Miyagi agrees to help Daniel master the Okinawan form of karate after Sensei Kreese declines a peace offer between the students and Daniel. Instead, they strike a deal: Daniel will compete against Johnny and other Cobra Kai students at the All-Valley tournament, and while training, the Cobra Kai students will not bully Daniel.
Mr. Miyagi has a polar opposite teaching style compared to that of Kreese -- he believes that martial arts is a training that first has to be reflected in a person’s spirit and balance. To relay his teachings to Daniel, he makes him start doing menial chores to learn defensive skills through muscle memory. At the end of the movie, Daniel wins the All-Valley championship and Johnny gains a newfound respect for his nemesis, handing him the trophy. We later find out that in the beginning of the next movie, Johnny quits Cobra Kai along with his buddies, sick of Kreese’s bully tactics.
Cobra Kai, starring the original actors themselves, gives viewers a look at the Karate Kid movie from a different viewpoint: through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence himself. We see that Johnny is now an alcoholic living in a small apartment located in Reseda, a drastic difference from the mansion in Encino that he grew up in. Although he doesn’t admit it, he still hasn’t gotten over his ex-girlfriend Ali and has an estranged relationship with his son.
Daniel, however, is now a successful businessman and owns many car dealerships across San Fernando Valley. He lives happily with his wife Amanda, and 2 kids in a luxurious neighborhood in Encino. However, Mr. Miyagi passed a few years ago leaving Daniel struggling to maintain balance in his life.
After defending a teenage neighbor from a group of high school bullies, Johnny rediscovers his passion for karate and restarts the Cobra Kai dojo, using the money his stepfather gave him. This leads Daniel to retaliate, and create his own free dojo called Miyagi-Do. The show revolves around Daniel and Johnny’s frenemy relationship, while also focusing on the new kids that both Johnny and Daniel teach karate to.
Asta Arunkumar, a freshman at South Brunswick High School said, “The show is definitely a more modernized version compared to the movie, but still keeps some originality. As the episodes went on the plot started to become less authentic, but I understood that it was to gauge viewers’ interest. I really liked the side storylines apart from karate because it showed a perspective of high schoolers like us, and added some comedy as well. Overall, it is a pretty good show especially since it adds flashbacks from the original movie, and I’m excited to see what will happen in season 4.”
The show’s current 3 seasons are available to watch on Netflix, and a season 4 has been confirmed. As for the public’s reaction, it has a 93% average tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is still part of the top 10 shows on Netflix currently. I personally loved the show, although there were some corny parts. My parents, who grew up with the original Karate Kid movies, also enjoyed watching the show and seeing the parallels between the movie and show.
The show brings a feeling of nostalgia to many parents and adults, mainly because they themselves were children watching the original movie. A parent of a student at South Brunswick High School, who wished to be anonymous, said that the show was very entertaining and Zabka, Macchio, and Kove’s (who played Kreese) performances were all great as well, and that it’s a great show for our generation to watch just like how The Karate Kid was meant for their generation. She also said that she found herself rooting for Johnny, a contrast to how Johnny as a character was perceived in the public during the 80s/90s.
The show has left the audience on a cliffhanger where fans have made up all sorts of theories as to what will happen next. We as the viewers can only speculate, and see what direction the directors take the plot in season 4.