“Mercy is for the weak”
‘The Karate Kid Part II’ used to be my favourite of the trilogy (I dismiss the existence of the fourth one!) when I was a lot younger. Yes, it essentially told the same story as the first, but there seemed a lot more emotional weight to the film. There were two love stories and a sub-plot involving Miyagi’s dying father. The last fight was Daniel fighting to protect his new girlfriend! Is there anything more heroic than fighting for your love? Sato, Miyagi’s ex-best friend and love rival, seemed to be a greater menace than any ‘villain’ in the original. He not only threatens Miyagi’s life, but threatens the existence of the entire village that Miyagi was born in. Is the film any different viewing it with older eyes? I watched it to celebrate its 30th anniversary…
After the events of the first part, Miyagi receives a letter saying that his father is very ill. So, he travels to his hometown, a small village in Okinawa. Daniel goes with him. Miyagi reveals that he left his hometown because he fell in love with a girl (Yukio) who was betrothed to his best friend (Sato). He announced his love for Yukio. By doing so, he dishonoured Sato. Sato wanted a fight to the death, so Miyagi fled. When Miyagi returns, Sato still wants a fight to the death. Not only that, but his nephew has a problem with Daniel…(for some reason!).
Unfortunately, its weaknesses are laid bare by my more mature eyes. Everything is doubled up. There is a love interest for both Daniel-san and Miyagi. There is also a mortal enemy for both Daniel-san and Miyagi. For Miyagi, it is Sato, an old ex-best friend. For Daniel, it is Sato’s nephew…errr…what was his name again? Wikipedia tells me that it is Chozen Toguchi. Their friendship was torn asunder by love (the love interest for Miyagi in the film, Yukie). For Daniel, it is Kumiko, a native of the village in Okinawa. We don’t get two fights in the end, only one, but that one is précised as a ‘fight to the death.’ Miyagi says to Daniel before the young man’s fight against Chozen “this not tournament. This for real!” Everything is bigger in the sequel, but often feels smaller in its weight.
“Pleasure doing business with you”
We aren’t given much reason to care about the respective love interests. There are some great scenes involving Yukie and Kumiko, but the former barely makes an impression on the screen. Yukie is meant to hold importance as Miyagi’s old love interest, but as a love interest on film, she isn’t that interesting. We spend more time with Kumiko. We know she wants to be a dancer, but what else do we learn about her? Both are one-dimensional. A similar criticism can be aimed at the villains of the piece. Sato’s nephew, Chozen Toguchi, is barely referred to on screen by name. He’s simply a nasty man. We are given little reason to sympathise with him or understand his nature. Sato is the more interesting villain, his honour offended years ago by Miyagi (Miyagi told the whole village he was in love with Yukio, who was arranged to marry Sato). Now he basically owns the whole village and wants to fight Miyagi to the death.
As a villain, he easily fits into the 80s villain mould. Sato is a grand capitalist. He created a fishing business that destroyed fishing in the small village. After that, be bought the land in the village so that farmers would have to pay him rent (farming being the only other industry in the village). After Miyagi refuses to fight him (for the tenth time?), Sato threatens to bulldoze the village and sell it to another company. Although the actor descends into an angry wrestling promo at times, he feels like a tangible threat. He also has a character arc of sorts, probably the only character arc in the film. Unfortunately, his constant cries of ‘Fight me, Miyagi’ do become repetitive (as do Chozen’s taunts to and beat-downs of Daniel).
“You student become my teacher”
However, the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi holds the film together and makes everything worthwhile. It’s hard not to crack a smile at their interactions. They have a father/son relationship and it is wonderful to see. The highlight of the film is, perhaps, after (SPOILERS!) Miyagi’s father dies. Daniel comforts him with tender words. It is a deeply moving scene. It’s one that brought a few tears to my eye. Daniel’s romance with Kumiko feels like a re-tread of that with Alice in the first film. But the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi develops and grows. No matter where they are, or what challenges they face, they will always be there for each other. Their interactions always bring meaning and entertainment to the film. Miyagi’s sometimes profound sentences also give the film an endless quotability (“Never put passion before principle. Even if win, always lose…” for example!)
Yes, I’ve spent more time rambling about its deficiencies than praising the film. It does little more than repeat the story of ‘The Karate Kid,’ just with a bigger budget, more sub-plots thrown into the mix, and moved to Japan. ‘Glory of Love’ may not be as catchy and upbeat as ‘You’re The Best Around.’ However, in spite of the flaws, I still can’t help but love the film. My mature eyes may not like all of what they see, but my inner child still adores what it sees. The last ‘fight to the death’ is a great fight scene. Who doesn’t want to fight for their love? Daniel and Miyagi are the main reason to see the film, depicting a more mature and loving relationship than in the first film. They’ve improved each other and are lesser apart. The film’s attempts to be bigger and better may fail at times. But it’s still a decent sequel.
VERDICT: 6/10. An above-average sequel that relies on the relationship between the two main leads to survive. Not only does the film survive, but it flourishes on their chemistry. Of course, it isn’t superior to the original, but it’s a worthy addition to the franchise.
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