I will not lie, I came into Cobra Kai with some preconceived notions based on ideas I had on how a new movie/series should be done, so I was very interested in seeing if any of what my nephew and I came up with would make it in. Couple this curiosity with a lifelong love of the original trilogy (yes, even the third one), and I was invested in this new series from the moment it was announced. After all, it was movies like Karate Kid and Enter the Ninja that inspired me to study Shotokan Karate with Mr. Hull back when he had a school behind what is now Italian Village.
Cobra Kai is a new series on YouTube’s “Red” service and revisits the lives of Johnny Lawrence and Danny LaRusso 30 years after the events in the original movie. As the series starts, we see Johnny stuck in the rut he was in during the ‘80s after losing the All Valley Karate Tournament, whereas Danny has made a decent life for himself. A series of events bring these two back into each other’s lives, and the series explores and evolves their relationship and back stories.
Johnny is one of those guys who peaked in high school. He is stuck in that era as the world has moved on well past him. Everything from the music he listens to, the movies he watches (dude loves him some Iron Eagle), his fashion and most noticeably his vocabulary. Johnny is NOT a “politically correct” character, yet you still root for him as you see his unorthodox ways transform his new students when he reopens a Cobra Kai dojo.
Daniel, on the other hand, has led a good life, is happily married with two kids and runs a successful car dealership. He instilled the lessons he learned from his friendship with Mr. Miyagi into his life and his family. His daughter is growing up right, however, his young tween son is a self-entitled little jerk. Thankfully he is not in the series much. Daniel himself is not without fault either, as there are moments he lets his hang-ups prevent him from doing the right thing.
Both Johnny and Daniel have some severe PTSD when anything comes up that triggers their once rivalry. This could easily be hokey, but it actually works as a nice plot device that gives insight into the events of the original movie for those watching Cobra Kai without having seen those films.
Cobra Kai shows the importance and effects of having a strong role model in your life. Where the original series showed the dichotomy between having the wrong and right mentors, the new series blurs the lines a bit and goes a bit deeper. The tables are flipped at the outset when Johnny ends up in the Miyagi role, thanks to when he steps in as a kid is getting beat up by thugs from his school. There is a great little moment when introducing Johnny and Miguel where Miguel starts telling Johnny about the things wrong in his apartment and he immediately blows the kid off as he is not the super — This of course playing off the scene from the original between Danny and Mr. Miyagi when they first meet. Cobra Kai is filled with great little and big moments like this that play off the expectations of the original series and giving it a new twist.
This series is everything it needs to be and more, exceeding my expectations. I am truly hyped for a second season (which has already been confirmed for next year) and recommend everyone checks it out. There is so much more I want to say about Cobra Kai, but I like to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible. There’s a reason every ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s property under the sun are getting new leases on life in reboots and sequels. Nostalgia is a strong motivator. When done right like Cobra Kai these new takes on old IPs rekindle the fires we had for them growing up and spark all-new interest in the current generation. Hopefully it too will inspire a new generation into studying martial arts here locally like it once did me.
Cobra Kai is the kind of content YouTube will need to continue to make if they want to elevate their “Red” service into something that rivals Netflix and Hulu. This is the type of show I would continue to pay $9.99 a month to see (in addition to the sweet ability to shut off my phone and still have the sound from YouTube play; it’s seriously a great feature for those who like to listen to music they find there). If you do not want to pay, YouTube offers a free month trial of its “Red” service which would give you plenty of time to binge the Cobra Kai series.
Speaking of the power of nostalgia, check out the total geeks as we wax on and wax off about our love of the original Karate Kid movies in our 19XX series, also available on YouTube.
John Kaiser III – Total Geek Live