The Karate Kid rises again.

I wouldn't exactly say I approve of YouTube making its own TV shows. YouTube is where you go for music videos and irritating people laughing at their own jokes while playing Minecraft: producing its own programmes seems like a demarcation violation. But like the biblical lion's corpse from which Samson took the honeycomb, from something foul and putrid has come something amazingly sweet. I speak here of Cobra Kai, the continuation of the Karate Kid saga, for which we've been waiting nearly 30 years.

Cobra Kai follows the trials and tribulations of Johnny Lawrence, the handsome young man from the first film, who had made a commitment to work hard at his studies and turn his life around before a snot-nosed punk named Daniel LaRusso kicked him in the face in a blatantly illegal move to win the All Valley Karate Championship.

Three decades later, Johnny has fallen on hard times, thanks to the machinations of LaRusso and the psychological scars left by his deranged ex-sensei. Even worse, Daniel himself is a successful auto dealer and his face grins smugly down from billboards all over town. Johnny realises he needs to make a change, and so he opens his own Cobra Kai dojo, to bring the messages of striking first and showing no mercy to a new generation. Shiny-suited Daniel-san resents this, and the stage is set for a whole new round of face-kicking.

There is something beautiful about Cobra Kai, and it's not just the flashbacks: nostalgia is a big part of the show's appeal, but it's not the whole package. It's pretty funny, and William Zabka does a good job re-inhabiting Johnny with a sense of resentment and bewilderment at the modern world. But the loveliest bit may be the sight of Zabka and his on-screen antagonist Ralph Macchio, two movie stars who the world seemed to have passed by, deciding that they were not done yet, and that they would take one more shot at glory. They're suiting up again, getting the band back together, they are – may we say – reopening the dojo.

Billy Zabka has reprised his role of Johnny Lawrence in Cobra Kai.

Photo: Brent N. Clarke

The story of the Karate Kid has risen from the massage table as if Pat Morita himself rubbed its leg, and it is here to tell us: there is always a second chance.

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Ben Pobjie

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