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Cobra Kai Season 3 Karate Kid 2 References Explained
The following contains spoilers for Cobra Kai and Karate Kid: Part II.
The most beautiful moment in the entire Karate Kid trilogy—for all its wins, wisecracks, and wisdoms—might just be its saddest one. It comes about midway through The Karate Kid: Part II. Mr. Miyagi’s father has died; seeing him in his final moments was the reason he and Daniel LaRusso made the trip to Okinawa in the first place. Miyagi sits alone on a rock, silent, staring at the ocean. For the first (and maybe even last) time in all of the Karate Kid films, it’s the teacher who needs the comfort of his student. Danny sits down next to Miyagi. Sure, LaRusso had proved that he had grown far beyond being the kid from Newark at that point. But when he puts his arm around Mr. Miyagi—and more importantly, what he says to him—it just might be the point where we see him become a man.
“When my father died, I spent a lot of time thinking I hadn’t been such a great son,” LaRusso says. “It seemed to me like I could have listened a little more, spent a little more time with him together. I felt so guilty, you know, like he did everything for me and I didn’t do anything for him. Then one day I realized, that I did the greatest thing I ever did for him before he died—I was there with him, and I held his hand, and said goodbye.”
I was there with him. The moment between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel embodies everything Karate Kid is about: Love, friendship, grappling with pain, both physical and emotional, the moments when we have to be more than what we are. The scene only amounts to about two minutes, but it’s what you need to remember if you want to know what made The Karate Kid Part II so special. After the zero-to-hero, ’80s-as-hell narrative of The Karate Kid, its sequel dared to make an entire film that embodies the philosophy of Miyagi-do—resulting in a story that is just as peaceful, still, breathtaking, and complicated as the wise mentor at the center of it. Not to mention, The Karate Kid II includes the remarkable Kumiko as Danny’s love interest (and the one he really should’ve dropped everything for, sorry Ali with an “i”), and Chozen, the first Karate Kid villain to truly threaten the hero’s life.
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All of that said, it’s a wonder that the 1984 original is almost unanimously agreed upon as the best in the Karate Kid trilogy. Because Part II crane-kicks its ass in just about every way. (Don’t you raise your fists on any of this just yet, we’ll get to it all in a minute.) We’re on this particular nostalgia trip because over the next two weeks, The Karate Kid: Part II will get another look from faithfuls of the franchise, with the return of its sequel TV series, Cobra Kai, on Netflix. In the middle of the new season, Daniel—looking to save his car dealership from the enterprising hands of a competitor—flies to Japan to make an impassioned plea to save it. When he fails, initially, he gets the idea to return to Miyagi’s village in Okinawa, where we’re reintroduced to Kumiko, Chozen, and a ton of flashbacks to Part II. And if you weren’t convinced that Part II takes down the 1984 original? What we see in Cobra Kai—Kumiko and Chozen bailing Danny out of his latest and greatest dramatics—just might get you there.
Let’s start with what Danny sees when he first goes back to Okinawa: His old flame, Kumiko (with Tamlyn Tomita reprising her role). When we meet her in Part II, she’s ambitious and full of hope, dreaming of joining a dance company someday. Meanwhile, in The Karate Kid, Danny and Ali share their love of… arcade games? Cars? Unclear. In Part II? Kumiko and Danny share their cultures with each other, running around Okinawa in a heart-melting portrait of early love, forming a connection that clearly is still alive when they sit down for drinks 35 years later in Cobra Kai. Guess what? It ends up being Kumiko who saves Danny’s car dealership, reconnecting him with the child he saved in Part II who grew up to be a car-world bigwig. For the record: What does Ali do when she shows up near the end of this season of Cobra Kai? Has a drink, roasts Danny, leaves. Point one for Part II.
Kumiko > Ali.
Kumiko also does another bit of networking during her big return in Cobra Kai: Reintroduces Danny to the guy who literally tried to kill him in Part II. We meet Chozen (played once again by Yuji Okumoto), the nephew of Mr. Myagi’s rival, Sato, as an older man, having reformed whatever part of him that was inclined to kill mildly annoying tourists like Danny LaRusso. Yeah, you’re all Johnny Lawrence stans now, but don’t forget—Chozen was the first villain to put Danny in more physical danger than having a busted leg. At the end of Part II, Danny and Chozen duel in front of the village, the stakes summed up best by Mr. Miyagi, who says to Daniel, “Daniel-san, this not tournament. This for real!” The fight, where Chozen ends up asking Daniel to kill him, is a little more intense than the All-Valley Tournament, yeah? While Johnny Lawrence continues to be a pain in Danny’s ass in Cobra Kai, the now do-gooding Chozen teaches LaRusso the karate move that saves his ass from Kreese in the finale. Another point for The Karate Kid Part II players.
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Last point before we call this match: In Cobra Kai, Kumiko saves Danny’s car dealership, Chozen saves, you know, his life, but while he’s in Okinawa, his spirit is still broken. That’s when Kumiko reads LaRusso a letter from Mr. Miyagi to his love, Yuki, in the last week of his life. (Seeing a theme here? Kumiko is GOAT.) The letter, which has Danny tearing up by its end, goes on about how the LaRussos took in Mr. Miyagi as one of their own family members. It’s a callback to the scene on the rock in Part II: For the sensei, in the last moments of his life, it was enough that the LaRussos were there. It’s also a reminder of the spirit of The Karate Kid: Part II, a movie that hinges more on the Miyagi-isms than the karate battles. (Karate Kid: Part III, meanwhile, was all about the karate battles, which is a whole other piece.)The thing that sends Danny back to California with a full heart isn’t some new baddie he karate-chopped into oblivion. It’s hearing that Mr. Miyagi thought of him as family until the very end of his life.
Still not convinced? Guess I could’ve saved a lot of time by putting this, and only this, earlier.
“Glory of Love,” people.
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