How 'Cobra Kai: Season 2' paid a rich tribute to the late Pat Morita
Creators of the 'Cobra Kai' series tell MEAWW that Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi wasn't bought in to invoke a sense of nostalgia, but because his teachings form an essential part of the narrative.
Contains spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2
One of the best things about 'Cobra Kai: Season 2' is the rich tribute paid to one of the key characters - 'Mr. Miyagi' - played by the late Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita. The character was instrumental in shaping the life of Daniel LaRusso, the protagonist in 'The Karate Kid' series and was also a hit with the audiences. Safe to say, Mr. Miyagi's teachings were the heart and soul of the movies and 'Cobra Kai' shows Mr. Miyagi's name and teachings spread throughout the series frequently reminding us of the martial arts master.
Early on in season 1, Daniel, after his feud with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), struggles to come to terms with the situation. He picks up a framed news article about Mr. Miyagi and says to himself, "Wish you were here to give me some of that Miyagi wisdom right now."
There are many more such references to Miyagi over the course of the series. When Daniel decides to teach Robby Keene, (Tanner Buchanan) karate, it's deja vu for the viewers who have watched the movie series as they are taken back in time when Miyagi teaches a young Daniel, the popular and nostalgic, 'Wax on; Wax Off.'- a unique, yet simpler blocking technique in karate.
The biggest tribute perhaps comes when Daniel and Robby start training at Miyagi's home and that's where they set up the dojo for Miyagi-do karate, and come season 2, there is a little more light shed on Mr.Miyagi's character.
While Morita passed away in 2005, the character is shown to have died in 2011. That didn't stop the creators from immortalizing the karate master as the series offers some never-before-seen footage of Mr. Miyagi from the original 1984 movie and its sequels. Jon Hurwitz, one of the creators of 'Cobra Kai' along with Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg felt that Mr. Miyagi's character wasn't embedded for the sake of nostalgia, but because his teachings form an essential part of the narrative.
"That (the tribute to Mr. Miyagi) was always the biggest part of the series. Throughout season 1, we see Daniel without the tutelage of Mr. Miyagi, and despite a settled lifestyle, he seems to have lost a sense of balance," Hayden tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW)
While Daniel decides to counter Johnny and Cobra Kai by bringing back Miyagi-Do Karate, the move was also the first time that he would mentor Robby and a bunch of students going forward. But how good could Daniel be as a teacher?
"It's not easy," says Hayden. "For Daniel, the way to go about was to try and put himself in Mr. Miyagi's shoes. What Mr. Miyagi would do was what he would do, and that would be through his karate."
And in a surprise move in Season 2, Mr. Miyagi's teachings have rubbed off on Johnny as well. While he's shown to be a sensei who pretty much follows the techniques taught to him by Kreese (Martin Kove) when he was a student, there are also lessons of mercy, one that goes against the grain of what Cobra Kai stands for.
"Mr. Miyagi was a father figure to Daniel, not just did he teach him karate, but also helped him gain confidence," Hurwitz tells MEAWW. He also went to add that Johnny's character was not too different from that of Mr. Miyagi. " In 'Cobra Kai', it takes Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) to bring Johnny out of his shell, the same that Daniel did when he wanted Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate."
On his part, Kreese (Martin Kove), Mr. Miyagi's archnemesis from the movies, too has a line who says, "Sorry about your master," and he says it with contempt.
With season 2 already out on YouTube Premium (April 24), it's very interesting to see how Daniel handles himself and his students by trying to incorporate Mr. Miyagi's teachings in life and in the dojo.