By: Erika Ashley
Kameyo, a mother, runs away from her evil, powerful, and magical family to save the life of her young son, Kubo, after Kameyo’s father, Moon King, took the child’s eye and killed her husband. In the process of fleeing Kubo’s mother sustains a head injury that causes her to lose her memory and slip into states of unconsciousness. To which Kubo spends his days tending to her needs and going into the small town down the hill to play the samisen while storytelling and using his magical gifts to do origami. During one of her rare conscious moments his mother warns him how dangerous it is for him to be out of their cave home after sundown because his grandfather will find him and take his other eye.
Kubo promises to stay indoors during night like usual but the following sunset he loses track of time while trying to pray to his father. Soon after the sun sets, his magical witch aunts find him in the forest and try to take him. His mother sensing danger uses the last bit of her magic to save Kubo yet again. Kubo must use a magical lucky charm turned living guide, a samurai turned beetle, and his own magical gifts to defeat his evil family and stay alive.
First, I genuinely love stop-motion/claymation films simply based off the details and intricacies put into creating the flawless animation. Laika has done a phenomenal job in creating highly immersive and realistic worlds and fully developed characters in past films. Kubo is another stunning piece of artwork with a surprisingly different style. Laika previously created more traditional cartoonish characters and worlds while Kubo is a completely different and new look that fits with the Japanese theme. A lot of the animation and “magic” revolves around origami which is interesting, refreshing, and fun to watch.
The story hooks you from the very beginning of Kubo’s mother’s dramatic escape that leads into his daily life struggle. The element of magic and folklore fits well into the film’s style but also adds to the story’s progression. However, I wish the Director – Travis Knight and writers would have given more backstory towards the beginning film because for this film being meant for a younger audience it would have been easier for them to follow. Instead the entire film gets summarized just after the beginning of the third act when the ending seemed a little rushed. Also, it got a little muddy towards the second act when the audience begins to understand that Kubo does actually have special magic abilities and is just learning how to use them, but then the introduction of how he has to defeat his family is convoluted and haphazardly explained.
Even though this film is meant for kids, I would suggest bringing your children that are at least 8 years and older because there are some elements that would scare little children. Also, some topics might be too difficult for little kids to understand like parent death and family violence – I mean the grandfather is literally trying to physically harm Kubo and his aunts try to kidnap him with violent force. The topics are heavy and meant to be handled as such so if you do not feel like having an in depth conversation with your 6 year old about why Kubo’s dad is missing, or why his mother doesn’t remember him, I would skip this one. If you are trying to connect with your tween before they head off to middle school in the fall, this could be a great last summer flick to catch as a family.
Kubo and the Two Strings is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril and has a 101-minute runtime.