TV Review: Cobra Kai

This show really brought back some good childhood memories, as it is the sequel of the famous Karate Kid trilogy, famously known for the bond between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and their rivalry between John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) of the Cobra Kai Karate Dojo. Although Zabka was only casted in the first movie and appeared briefly in the second, the show follows the full trilogy. Zabka and Macchio reprised their roles as we get to see how their lives unfold after the trilogy events.

The show starts off with Daniel enjoying the life he has always dreamed of, owning a fancy dealership, happy family, and seemingly free of problems. On the other hand, Johnny is in a world of anguish, as he has nobody in his life, losing his mother at a young age, his sensei forcefully abandoning him after the tournament, and failing his relationship with his divorced wife and his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan). However, Johnny’s life changes when he meets his neighbor, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), who is struggling to fit into this new city. Johnny later saves Miguel after a group of bullies led by Kyler (Joe Seo) pick on Miguel, leading to Johnny interfering and using karate to defend Miguel. After some convincing by Miguel and a run-in with Daniel at the LaRusso dealership, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo under his name. Although Johnny is cold at first, he decides to take his relationship with Miguel more seriously and treats Miguel like his son, leading Miguel to be his star pupil and helping Johnny become a better person. However, Daniel later sees Johnny’s dojo open and, out of fear due to past trauma experienced in the trilogy, opens his own dojo, Miyagi Do Karate, and even taking in Robby, Johnny’s son, as his first student. The show follows with classic high school drama and similar patterns in the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel, with characters such as John Kreese coming back later on in the show.

Personally, I believe that the most interesting aspect of the show is how each side believes that they are fighting for a good cause, however each side has their flaws. For example, Johnny wants to teach the kids to defend themselves against their bullies and conquer their fears, however his disconnection with the modern world blinds him to how corrupting Kreese’s style of Cobra Kai is until Miguel wins the All-Valley tournament against Robby dishonorably. After witnessing Miguel’s actions, however, Johnny tries to implement principles of honor into his class, but fails due to Kreese later influencing the kids. On the other hand, Daniel tries to teach his class how to find balance in their lives, fight honorably, and defending others with good intentions, however he often becomes too obsessed with his rivalry with Johnny and goes against his own advice. Finally, Kreese also wants to help the kids in defending themselves, but he has been traumatized by his time in the army and life events to implement restraints in real life situations, causing the kids to become more violent.

Also, another interesting aspect of the show is the personal growth relationships of the show. In the beginning of the series, Johnny only takes Miguel in because he needs a line of work after being fired from his previous job and a stable source of money. However, after failing to repair his relationship with Robby, Johnny later realizes that Miguel still has faith in him and he cannot give up on Miguel like he did with Robby, and begins teaching Miguel seriously while treating Miguel like a son. Alternatively, Daniel only teaches Robby to create a star pupil to combat Cobra Kai, but after realizing Robby is Johnny’s son and making a rash decision to separate himself from Robby, Daniel later comes back to Robby and tries to mentor Robby to a similar path given by his former sensei, Mr. Miyagi. However, Robby seems to get the worst of the relationships, as he feels betrayed by both sides and is sent down the wrong path, finding a new sensei in the corrupting influence, John Kreese.

Overall, this series is worth watching, whether you’re a fan of the Karate Kid trilogy or someone looking for a good show to watch. The numerous references to past movies, growth in relationships, and exploration of each side and going deeper into their motivations and past makes the show an interesting watch. Even the high school rivalries between the students of each dojo allows teenagers currently in high school to relate to the show in a personal way. At the time of writing this review, there are currently only 3 seasons to watch, however there are only 4 days until the premiere of Season 4, which only looks to improve on its previous seasons.

-Lawrence B.

Comparing Series: Shatter Me Series vs. The Cruel Prince Series

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi and The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black are both amazing fiction book series. The Shatter Me series consists of 6 books and 5 novellas while The Cruel Prince series consists of 3 books.

The Shatter Me series involves the main character, Juliette, who has the ability of the touch of death. Meaning that whoever she touches dies. We follow her through her challenges of finding herself and struggling with being wanted. As a child Juliette was neglected for being they way she was. Throughout the series she finds connections with many characters and she truly finds meaningful relationships. The series has a big plot twist that no one expects in the last 3 books. Each book keeps you wanting more. The first 3 books are in Juliette’s POV while the others are in multiple POVs.

The Cruel Prince series follows a human named Jude. She wants to live in the High Court of Faerie instead of the human world. To live at the court she has to trick the cruel prince named Cardan. Cardan is the youngest prince and he and Jude hate each other. Jude throughout the series finds out she is good at defying people and causing bloodshed. Later in the series Jude becomes the brain behind all of Cardan’s decisions and finds she is a powerful political leader. She has to maintain order in Faerie and keep everything under her control.

In both series there is a powerful female character that is in charge. Jude and Juliette have to maintain order and to do so they have to face many challenges. They overcome their troubles and do what’s better for society instead of themselves. Jude and Juliette learn to sacrifice their own happiness for the better of society. Being powerful rulers, they need to be selfless and Jude and Juliette show this trait throughout the series. Both series also have major plot twists towards the end of the series.

The series have their differences as well. The Shatter Me books are more science fiction while The Cruel Prince series is more fantasy with non-human creatures. The Shatter Me series is focused around overthrowing the corrupt government controlling everyone and everything. They have laws restricting the people in the series and the main character’s main goal is to make the world return to normal. The Cruel Prince series has non-human creatures that are cut-off from the human world. They are separated and the main character, Jude, is a human trying to maintain peace in the non-human world. So, though both series are fiction, they are different types of fiction.

Both series still reflect the same messages. The main characters learn to form relationships with the people they love, showing the message of not having to be alone forever. You will find people that respect you and want to be a positive influence on your life.

Both series were a 5/5 star rating and I definitely recommend reading them!

-Kaitlyn D.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a short, yet classic allegorical novella of dystopian and political fiction. The book takes place on Manor Farm, a large farm where animals constantly feel oppressed by humans. Their anger towards the human race motivates them to rebel against rulership by kicking their farmer out of the farm and running the farm on their own. In Animal Farm–where all animals are supposedly equal–the lives of the animals turn upside down when pigs and dogs begin to rise in power through manipulation and propaganda. Throughout the novel, there’s a gradual progression where the pigs of Animal Farm begin to resemble humans both physically and psychologically.

Although this novel can be a fictional book for children, adults and teens are able to look past the plot and truly understand the story’s meaning. I, myself, am grateful to have read this at an older age so the themes are more prominent and prevalent to real life. Considering that George Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, the novel was a direct form of criticism towards communism, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and two infamous dictators–Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Orwell also includes various ways in which the ruling class ridicules and manipulates the working class. The working class is often seen giving up energy and resources for the benefit of the ruling class, yet they’re brain washed into feeling content with their lives, believing that all their hard work is contributing to the farm as a whole.

After reading the novel, I was amazed by Orwell’s writing. I’ve never read a novel which thoroughly portrays the political maneuvering of totalitarianism. The message woven into the book was strong and clear, yet also written in a disturbing manner that will stick to readers for quite a long time. Personally, I enjoy these heavy topics, so it’s interesting to see Orwell’s light twist on the topic so the novel seems more kid-friendly. I also admire the author’s creativity when writing the book. It’s rare to see a writer eloquently convey a revolution. However, it’s more unique to see an author write an ironic revolution that comes back in a full circle and leaves the characters in the same position as they started. The symbolism of personified farm animals surprisingly pushes the plot forward as well, allowing readers to understand and connect with the characters more than humans ever could.

Would I ever recommend this to a child? Definitely not. I believe that it’s important to understand the true message of the novel, regardless of how dark the message may be. Even though many of us don’t live under a totalitarian regime or a communist society, it’s important to understand how we as individuals play a role in our current society and political system. Are we idly standing by, waiting upon others for a better future? Or are we making our own decisions for the future we want to achieve?

– Natisha P.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

What it Means to be an Artist

Biutiful, a foreign film written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a movie I’d seen a while back. It moved me, as it discusses misfortune under a poetic guise. Curious, I decided to check its “tomato” score, and compare both the views of critics and regular moviegoers. To my surprise, most were furious over its length, vague structure, and theme. As an artist, I took this to its core. 

Art is subjective, as is most we indulge in. However, there should be a fine line between how we define entertainment and art. For example, movies such as Amour, Biutiful, even La Moustache, display imperfections, and a merciless perception on death, the dying, and the mad. Though they’re tragic lessons, each is notable to accept nonetheless. For how can we be ready to “possess” our own faults, the mistakes yet to come and be made, if we are to close ourselves in? 

If we allow the lines to blur, art will fail to hold depth. Nevertheless, although entertainment can have its share of effective lessons, they’re not enough to satisfy the themes we have yet to appreciate. Once again, an example. While Marvel has a shred of themes to learn from, it misses that desired depth, which in turn makes “character tragedy” short-term, and merely serves to assist action rather than character/theme. 

In other words, superpowers aren’t what solve problems, as they’re plausible to the imagination, not reality. Instead, hard choices in the midst of trepidation, raw courage (with hints of fright) to fight for the tangible, such as compassion, freedom, and happiness, is what makes art a gift, a contrast to entertainment which chooses to side with adventure and the unattainable over human imperfection. 

I realize this is a firm, almost stern standpoint, but take a different approach. Feel, rather than imagine. 

When you see/read/draw character burdens, feel them as if they were your own. If a character walks slowly, heavy with a guilt which threatens to drown them, feel that guilt, let it tug you down. For once your own burdens emerge, when your guilt or sorrows arrive to pull you lower, you’ll be ready. In hindsight, you’ll be able to accomplish what they (the characters) couldn’t, what most still can’t. 

I also recognize that quite a few of these examples are from one aspect of art: movie production, which isn’t fair. However, you can find it elsewhere: with books, it’s quantity over quality (The Darkest Minds vs. Something Wicked this Way Comes), and with music, it’s modernism over centuries of history and knowledge. Of course, though such changes might fit the times, poetic art shouldn’t be forgotten, nor should modern art that “acts” old be ignored. Therefore, next time you see a foreign movie, or a book you’d see in an english language course, give it a chance – it might amaze you. 

-Emilia D.

Books For School vs. For Fun

Having just finished my first book for my senior English class, it got me thinking about why people have such a hard time reading books they are required to for classes. As an avid reader, I always find it a struggle to get my school reading done, even though I like the act of reading. I think the real issue I have with it is that I feel that it takes my time away from my personal reading. It also creates for less room about what impact the book had. 

When I am reading for school, it is usually a book that I don’t get to pick and everyone else in my class is reading as well. It feels like there is less room for discussion because all the students feel like they are supposed to have the same opinions. When reading books for fun, there is more room for people to share their thoughts on the book. Not everyone reads or interprets the same way, however when reading school books, everyone feels like they have to be the same. 

With school books, I also feel like I have less time for my personal reading which causes me to feel less inspired to read. I do believe that reading both for school and for fun can be something that is beneficial. Though it might be hard to read when it is not something we can do for fun, there is still a lot that can be learned from the reading we do in school. It might not be the most enjoyable use of our time, but it is something that we can discuss and learn from.

-Danielle B.

How Can Peace Be Ensured In A Diverse Society?

Around the world, different cultures have struggled with maintaining an equilibrium between their ideas and beliefs. Many have broken apart, but some exceptional countries have managed to maintain a state of tranquility among their people. The United States is known as a country of immigrants, and it is a place where people of all backgrounds and cultures coexist in a way that has never been seen before. So, how can peace be ensured in a diverse society?

With the acceptance of surrounding differences, there can be harmony between distinct people. Patriotism is the pride in one’s country, and American patriotism is largely perceived as taking pride in being able to coexist with people who have different backgrounds. This means that the United States itself is a nation that is built on embracing the differences and unique qualities of others. It also means that accepting others allows Americans to acquire connections with each other, and in turn maintain tranquility in society. 

Trust and communications are essentials for a unified nation; therefore, common goals are an essential factor for ensuring peace. In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln declares, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Referring to the Union’s fallen soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln calls the Americans to action and implores them to continue their fight for the cause. This cause, equality for all, was the common goal which held Americans together during that difficult time. Their unity allowed them to have peace among themselves. 

A more recent example is depicted in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001: one of the most devastating events in America’s history, but there was an abundance of help and support available for those who needed it. In other words, America was united with its common goals, establishing trust in each other and making it easier to communicate with each other despite any differences. A society with common goals, but not necessarily common beliefs and customs is a society which provides its community with a safe and peaceful environment.

From the Civil War to today, history is filled with conflicts between groups of people who have struggled to reconcile their differences. It is important to understand that peace can only be achieved through collective efforts, not by the pleas of a single person. However, the pleas of a single person can certainly spark a collective movement. In fact, it is up to courageous individuals to speak up and speak out for their dream (dream: sound familiar?) and inspire others to take a stand.

-Ayati M.

Jessie Burton: The Miniaturist

Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.

The Miniaturist, written by Jessie Burton, begins with a conclusion, which sets the scene for some confusion, though is soon explained over time. Furthermore, although the prologue is written aside from the rest of the book, it is, nonetheless, significant. 

Burton writes The Miniaturist in present tense, which is suitable for the storyline. Plus, as most modern literature is written in past tense, this difference plays a major role in the enjoyment of the work. In hindsight, the tense chosen intensifies tension, depth, and pace. It feels as though you read “a movie,” with each scene similar to that of an act, a continuous moment of time. 

Now, onto its plot. Nella (our main character) is an outsider. Johannes, her husband, doesn’t seem to have much interest in her. Marin, his sister, is distinct and stern, a woman in charge rather than complicit. Their servants (Cornelia and Otto), too, are more open and harsh than the average servants/maids. Though only when Johannes gives her a replica of their home does she somewhat feel accepted. However, even then Nella confronts trouble, for as soon as she takes interest in ‘the miniaturist’ (a craftsman who creates miniatures), an unknown woman begins to watch her, as though she weren’t there. 

Later, when Johannes comes to the decision to take Nella to a feast at the Guild of the Silversmiths, Nella must confront her vulnerabilities, together with the tension and competition aroused by other traders. In addition, a notable confrontation occurs in this scene; Nella meets the Meermans, who have tasked Johannes with the storage and sale of their sugar. As the Meermans have a supercilious nature (which is soon shown in their behavior, dialogue, etc), further questions emerge, those which at first have no answers. 

I must take note of the major twists that happen throughout the book, some of which might seem uncomfortable to some readers. Therefore, make sure you’re fine with topics such as marriage, race, servitude, illicit romance, etc. They’re important to the storyline and atmosphere! 

That takes me to a theme I’d like to go into. A portion of the book is dedicated to what it means to be a wife, as Nella finds a hard time fitting into her role (I won’t explain – it’d be a spoiler!). In the process, she questions the necessity of childbirth and the hidden potentials she has as a woman; talents and opportunities she’s missed because of the church’s (and society’s) view of women. Though this is a common theme, it’s a nice refresher to have every now and again, notably because parts of it are quite prevalent to modern times. 

One aspect I admire is its ability to make us examine. For example, the suspense and distrust between newer and older characters is never rushed, off-kilter, or unreasonable. In fact, its stable pace makes room for realism, characters that behave and act as we might, even if the era and context varies from our own. It’s a rare and difficult element to integrate, but one that, at length, drives this work to be a (possible) classic. 

In short, The Miniaturist warns to handle misfortune with caution, as it might lead to continuous trouble … 

-Emilia D.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Film Review: Whisper of the Heart

Now that the school year is starting, I thought this would be the best time to write about a movie that relates to many students, specifically high schoolers such as myself. As a sophomore, I’m already beginning to think about what universities I should attend, what career I should have for the rest of my life, and how I’m able to achieve any of these goals in the first place. The main character in the film, Whisper of the Heart, faces many of these “coming-of-age” challenges as well. In another masterpiece created by the Studio Ghibli franchise, viewers are taken on a journey that—quite frankly—they never thought they needed.

The movie introduces the main character, Shizuku Tsukishima, who has a passion for stories and writing. After discovering that her library books have all been previously checked out by one person, she meets Seiji Amasawa, a boy whom she finds annoying but is also the mystery student from the library. As they grow closer, Seiji explains to Shizuku his dream in becoming a professional violin maker in Italy. This makes Shizuku question her future path in life—or lack thereof. By using her love for writing, she creates a novel about a cat named Baron, inspired by a cat statue owned by Seiji’s grandfather. Seiji and Shizuku fall in love, but Seiji is given the opportunity to pursue his dream and has to leave Shizuku. However, Seiji surprises Shizuku early the next morning and takes her to see the sunrise. The boy promises to wait for her and reunite once they both achieve their dreams.

I’ll always applaud Studio Ghibli for being able to create such breathtaking imagery, albeit there’s a message far beyond the surface of this film that requires deeper analysis and understanding. The director of this movie, Yoshifumi Kondō, creates a balance between dreams and reality. Seiji’s dream forces Shizuku to realize that he’s moving forward with his life, whereas Shizuku is receding into her childhood self. Throughout the film, Shizuku constantly prioritizes her novels first because they help her escape the burdens of our world, but this proves consequential when she begins to fall behind on classes and relationships. While the director reminds us that making sacrifices is a part of growing older, he also shows how important it is to create our own path in life. As a result, Shizuku is able to intertwine her childhood into her future path by becoming a writer, regardless of how difficult it may be.

Typically, I’m not the type of person who enjoys romance or dramas, especially movies as cliché as this one. On the other hand, this movie is possibly one of the greatest romance movies I’ve ever seen because it genuinely relates to me from a high schooler’s perspective. The end of Whisper of the Heart is open-ended, leaving many viewers wondering if the two protagonists ever achieve their dreams. We can only assume, but our assumptions will determine our sense of the world.

– Natisha P.

George and Lennie: Curley’s Context (Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck)

What if George from John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men was charged with the murder of Lennie? What if Curley, the Boss’s stuck-up son was testifying? That too for the prosecution? I wrote my interpretation of Curley’s character and stance below – I hope you enjoy it!


I first met George and that monster-of-a-man Lennie the day they arrived at the bunkhouse. They struck me as strange from the beginnin’–they travelled together, and George wouldn’t let Lennie talk. My old man told me that Lennie barely said five words to him too. I knew they would be trouble, and what happened in the bunkhouse a few days later only made sure of that. 

Some of the guys had started to make fun of me after I asked them if they’d seen my wife, and I saw Lennie smilin’. I got mad! Usually, I can fight a big man and ever’body will hate on the big guy, and I honestly thought that Lennie wouldn’t have the pluck to fight back, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lennie wouldn’t raise a finger until I made a proper job of his face, but when George yelled at him to get me, that big hulk grabbed my hand and crushed it in his. Slim convinced me to say that I got my hand stuck in a machine, but for some’un like Lennie to insult my dominance is unacceptable.

The day we found my wife’s body, I instantly knew who did it. I knew he was trouble, and I was still real mad about my hand, but I never could’ve imagined that the beast would take my wife’s life. I shoulda been the one to shoot that Lennie, and it woulda been completely fair if I had! However, Lennie’s death by George’s hands is a show of George’s cruelty.  

George and Lennie seemed to have the relationship of a dog and his master, with the dog completely dependent on his master but available at his master’s every wish or disposal. Lennie was a big guy, and he could’ve used that strength to his advantage loads of times, but he wouldn’t defend himself, or even talk without George’s permission. Workers never travel together, and Lennie’s actions make me think that the two were only travellin’ together because they were either runnin’ from something, or because they had foul intentions. Why, they could have been plannin’ murder all along.

As for the question of George’s sanity, I definitely think that he was in his right mind while shooting Lennie–he was not at all insane. Like I said before, if the two were runnin’ from something, George must’ve killed Lennie after the incident to spare himself a whole lotta trouble. It’s obvious that George sees Lennie as a burden, and shootin’ him under the excuse of Lennie being a killer was the perfect opportunity to lighten George’s shoulders.

-Ayati M.

Argument: The Careless Consultant (Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

Cover of Romeo and Juliet

There is a reason why people often say they have “escaped into their favorite story” or “jumped into the pages” of a book. This is because the literary world is a place where writers express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and imaginations so readers can discover them. Every piece of literature will exemplify different beliefs or opinions, but there are some things that stay the same–one of these is the respect for a mentor. In one of the most influential American novels, Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is the father to young Scout and Jem Finch, but he is also a teacher, a guide, and role model to his children. A mentor exemplifies leadership, righteousness, and a trustworthy presence, but the character of Friar Laurence is in stark contrast as he let two young children who looked up to him die by their own hands. William Shakespeare, in his tragic play Romeo and Juliet employs the character of Friar Laurence as the person responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s suicides in order to portray the detriments of an irresponsible and wrongly focused mentor.

Friar Laurence’s failed counseling is seen in his infatuation with the bigger picture, the larger impact, the greater significance. In this mindset, he fails to recognize the minute details and comparatively smaller consequences. When the excited Romeo arrives at Friar Laurence’s cell to ask the friar to marry him and Juliet, Friar Laurence disapproves, but later changes his mind. He shows no interest in the happiness of Romeo and Juliet; instead, he expresses his desire to end the feud between the Montague and Capulet families. The friar’s focus on the larger impact causes him to fail to see the impact of this marriage on Romeo and Juliet themselves. 

A sketch entitled "Friar Laurence gathering herbs" from Mary Evans Picture Library
“Friar Laurence gathering herbs” from
Mary Evans Picture Library

The character of Friar Laurence also exemplifies the trait of irresponsibility. As a respected teacher of both Romeo and Juliet, the friar must understand his role as a mentor to both children and be able to teach them to make responsible decisions. However, Friar Laurence exemplifies the contrary when Juliet arrives at his cell, desperate. She is engrossed in her dilemma of avoiding marriage to two men; moreover, she is grieving the banishment of Romeo. Despite Juliet’s hysterical state, Friar Laurence asks Juliet how desperate she really is, and proceeds to give her an outrageous solution, after Juliet’s “approval.” It is absolutely ludicrous to ask Juliet, in her present condition, for such an opinion. The friar demonstrates reckless thinking and proceeds to give Juliet a potion that will send her into a death-like state for hours without even attempting to discuss or reason another solution with her.

Despite the trust Romeo and Juliet placed in him, Friar Laurence is to blame for the suicides of Romeo and Juliet. Through his irresponsible mindset and wrongly placed focus on the larger impact of Romeo and Juliet’s actions, Friar Laurence failed at his role as a mentor. Unlike Prince Escalus, a merciful leader who well carries his responsibilities, Friar Laurence neglected his responsibilities of demonstrating proper decision making and instead offered an outrageous solution to a young girl who was unable to collect herself at the time. Unlike Atticus Finch, who paid proper attention to how his actions would impact his children, Friar Laurence disregarded the consequences of his actions on Romeo and Juliet and was instead consumed by the idea of him being the one to restore peace in Verona. Compiled by the pen of William Shakespeare, Friar Laurence well portrays the horrible consequences of failed mentorship.

-Ayati M.

Romeo and Juliet is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.