Kubo and the Two Strings chronicles the story of a young Japanese boy who goes on a quest to find his dad’s helmet, magical armor and sword—before his tyrant twin aunts deliver the items to his evil supernatural grandfather, Moon King. Thus, it’s pivotal that he finds these goods for protection and eternal life.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a story of freedom, which has its main subject, Kubo, seeking an armor of protection within the same confines of having (or yearning for) a family. Kubo (Art Parkinson of The Game of Thrones) has only one eye, the other is concealed by an eye patch, which is hidden under his long black bang cut. Despite the minor disability, he manages to scrape up some money by telling his village tales of origami figure fights. To enhance his storytelling abilities, he uses a string instrument. You’ll see his mother slipping in and out of a depressive toxic haze, and his samurai father seemingly eternally absent as he, apparently, lost a battle trying to get back his son’s missing eye.
The film directed by Travis Knight and written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler was made by Oregon based animation studio, Laika Films—which is responsible for “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012). Within the parameters of creating an animated film, Laika excels on the movie’s illustration filled with action packed scenes. There are eyeball filled oceans, and a humungous giant with screws on his head. All this coupled with interludes of a tundra like scenery; forming all a part of Kubo’s journey.
But he doesn’t do it all alone. There is definitely a sense of family here with Kubo’s surrogate parents being personified by a sassy no nonsense monkey (Charlize Theron) and jock like wisecracking meathead Beetle (Matthew McConaughey). Amid their travels, Monkey and Beetle constantly bicker, which makes for an entertaining dialogue between the two. This isn’t just another fantasy filled tale, there are lessons to be learned here about the power of family, hope and story telling all intertwined into one.
It’s filled with emotion heavy scenes that can have you questioning if this is really suited for a PG rated audience. Yet interestingly enough, it’s great to see an American film studio be so precise with its interpretation of Asian culture. It’s magical, fantasy filled and something that is out of this world—but it works. Infused within the storyline is this notion of the power that the dead have. That said, it’s impressive how many different components of the culture are piled up together, yet free flow within the storyline. The pacing of the movie also works well with all its action, you won’t feel lost as your watching it. Kubo will help you find your way, as he is finding his and what matters most to him.