First things first, I love animation. In my sight, it’s the most innovative and culturally different method in the movie industry today, and if 2016 has proven anything to us, it’s that animated movies are on a move with hits like Zootopia, Finding Dory, Sausage Party and the upcoming Moana. Animation works so well for imaginary stories because it’s able to make anything believable. It takes just as much time and money for an animator to draw a man walking down the road as it does for them to draw a dragon battling a massive octopus. The only boundaries are the filmmakers’ creativeness.
So now we have Kubo and the Two Strings, the newest venture from Laika studios, popular for beautiful stop-motion movies such as Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Not since Aardman Studios or the animated Tim Burton movies have we seen stop-motion done with such expertise. By mixing classic pose-and-shoot, puppetry, and computer-generated results, Laika draws off a design unique to itself which features amazing visuals while maintaining unchanged the imperfect, unreliable appeal of stop-motion.
Without giving too much away, Kubo and the Two Strings follows the tale of a young boy known as Kubo who lives outside of a little town with his single mother. His father was a great soldier who passed away defending him, and his tale lives on through Kubo’s performances in the town square. Using a Japanese three string guitar called a shamisen, Kubo delivers origami figures to life with magic and recounts the tale of his samurai father, Hanzo.
The tale is a by-the-numbers hero’s journey, but the structure works very well for a film like this. Kubo has to journey the areas to find three items to finish his father’s armor, and he encounters three difficulties to acquire each one. While this structure is foreseeable, it’s extremely interesting. For example, when the three characters get into a cavern to acquire the Sword Unbreakable, an enormous skeleton beast appears to eliminate them. This beast is so intensely affected by video game bosses from The Legend of Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus that it breaches plagiarism, with which I would have had more of a problem if I hadn’t just experienced what was for all intents and purposes a Zelda boss battle in a movie.