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Cobra Kai Never Dies!

Back in 1984, the first Apple Mac computer had just gone on sale, The Boss was singing about being ‘Born in the USA’, and Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympic Games. In cinemas all around the world, audiences were gripped by movies like Ghostbusters, This is Spinal Tap and new on-screen martial arts phenomenon, The Karate Kid. The tale of Mr.

Miyagi’s young apprentice, Daniel, learning how to stand up to his bullies resonated with people everywhere and it ended up being one of the most commercially successful films of the year. It also sparked a massively increased interest in learning karate. Such was the film’s popularity that a sequel appeared two years later, followed by another in 1989, and an attempted reboot with female student, Julie, came out in 1994. Although none of the subsequent releases quite lived up to the hype of the original title, the series became a classic example of the genre and a firm fan favourite.

Fast forward to 2010 and audiences watched Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith take up the mantle left by the original Karate Kid characters. The reimagining of the story took place in China, rather than America, and featured much of Chan’s signature kung fu fighting style. The movie was something of a success, though it was unable to recapture the frenzied enthusiasm shown by devotees of the earlier franchise. It seemed like The Karate Kid had had his day, and a 21st century world just wasn’t quite so captivated by the subject.

That is, until YouTube got involved.

Strike First, Strike Hard…

Throughout the 00s, the idea of antagonist Johnny Lawrence being the ‘real’ hero of the original Karate Kid film reared its head through a few pop culture references, including a music video and an episode of How I Met Your Mother. However, nobody thought to build anything significant out of it until 2017 when the YouTube Premium show, Cobra Kai, was born. The ten half-hour long episodes of season one centre around washed up karate competitor Johnny and his unexpected new martial arts pupil, Miguel. As the series runs on, Johnny reopens Cobra Kai, the karate dojo that ran in direct competition with Mr. Miyagi and Daniel way back in 1984. Relocating the antagonist to the centre of the programme’s story was a bold move but one that paid off; the show gained a loyal fanbase through its release on YouTube, made up of fans of the original movies and complete newcomers to the franchise.

The ability to take such risks with television programmes is made possible in today’s world through the money and power behind online services, like Hbo. As the realm of TV and movies has changed in response to the internet, bold choices have been made concerning which content gets ok’d and which doesn’t. Developers are more willing to take a chance on something new or unproven these days, whereas TV studios have historically been brutal and censorious in their decisions. The ultra-modern arena of the world wide web has shone a light on new iterations of old favourites, like the influential albums ready and waiting to be discovered on Musicroamer, or the classic table games available to play at Pokerstarscasino. YouTube’s take on an old favourite breathed new life into the story and introduced a whole set of uninitiated viewers to the legend of The Karate Kid.

…No Mercy

Unfortunately, despite its quietly impressive success, YouTube decided not to proceed with season three of Cobra Kai and the show was left with nowhere to go. This is when it was picked up by Netflix and introduced to an even larger worldwide audience. The first two seasons, originally broadcast for YouTube Premium subscribers only, became available to Netflix patrons ahead of the season three release date and quickly became the most watched content on the platform. The new episodes dropped on the first day of this year, and experienced similar success, netting over 2.6 billion viewing minutes internationally. Once again, a story set in the ‘Miyagi-verse’ as it is affectionately known, had become a global sensation. Casting the original actors, such as Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and Martin Kove, in their old roles was a stroke of genius as it bridged the 30+ years between the original film’s release and the new series. Die-hard fans had fun recognising familiar faces which had aged over the intervening years, whereas new watchers were introduced to the over-arching storyline as the new narrative unfolded. Now all that’s left to be done is eagerly await the next instalment of the franchise, a fourth season which should appear on the Netflix platform later. Having firmly won over everybody so far, it’s safe to say that Cobra Kai, truly, never dies.