Two Strings Attached

Kubo and the Two StringsWARNING! SPOILERS! I thought this film looked interesting, but I didn’t get around to watching it until I’d heard some good things about it, and borrowed the DVD from Netflix. I think it was definitely my kind of movie, which isn’t to say it was one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen or anything, but the mythical/fairy tale style really appealed to me. It has a structure that sums up a lot of my favorite media: an inexperienced hero teams up with unusual companions to go on a quest for some mystical items, fighting monsters and overcoming obstacles along the way, then finally has to overcome the main antagonist. Filmed in stop-motion animation, it was not a Japanese film, but took place in Japan and used Japanese themes. The more prominent members of the voice cast were white, including Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, and Ralph Fiennes. Kubo is a one-eyed boy who lives in mountain cave near a village with his mother Sariatu, voiced by Theron. She tells him stories of his father, a samurai hero named Hanzo; and of her father, the Moon King, who sought to kill him. Kubo isn’t sure how much of this is actually true, but he incorporates these stories into performances in the village involving origami and music from his three-stringed shamisen. When he stays out after dark to attend a festival, his creepy aunts track him down and his mother dies, using the last of her power to send Kubo away on magic wings and bring his snow monkey charm to life.

Beth told me she’d seen pictures of snow monkeys before, and they always looked like they led miserable lives. This particular monkey certainly comes across as pretty world-weary.

They’re soon joined by McConaughey’s character, a former samurai who’s part man and part stag beetle, and claims to have known Hanzo, although he hardly remembers anything at all.

Kubo also finds out that he can work magic by playing his shamisen. The three companions seek out Hanzo’s armor in order to defeat the Moon King, and are constantly on the run from Kubo’s aunts. Along the way, they fight a giant skeleton with swords in his head, based on the Gashadokuro of Japanese mythology; and have to escape an underwater pit of eyes.

The boy eventually learns that his animal companions are actually his parents, Sariatu having transferred her own spirit into the monkey charm and Hanzo being cursed by Sariatu’s sisters. There’s some build-up to this, as they fight like a married couple, and Beetle is constantly making what people now call dad jokes. Mind you, they’re the same sort of jokes I tend to make, and I’m not a father. They both die protecting their son from his aunts, and he has to face his grandfather with his shamisen, replacing its two broken strings with his mother’s hair and father’s bowstring. I guess that explains the “two strings” in the title, at least in part.

He uses the magic of memories to defeat the Moon King, voiced by Fiennes, who turns mortal loses his memory, and is then brainwashed into thinking he was a nice guy. And that’s pretty much it, although I feel I should also mention the promotional tie-in with Discover the Forest, for the sake of posterity if nothing else. Also, the cover of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor, which is played over the end credits, is pretty cool.

This entry was posted in Animals, Beatles, Cartoons, Fairy Tales, Families, Humor, Japanese, Magic, Monsters, Music, Mythology, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Two Strings Attached

  1. rocketdave says:

    I saw Kubo in early November when I was really bummed about certain things and thought going to the movies might lighten my mood. But when it was explained in the opening scene that baby Kubo’s grandfather had plucked out his eye, I started to suspect that maybe this was not the right film to cheer me up. That feeling was further confirmed once it became clear that the story is basically about losing your parents. I did enjoy it, however; I just wasn’t expecting something so heavy.

    • Nathan says:

      From what I remember of the promotion for the film (and there wasn’t that much that I can recall), you couldn’t really get a sense of how serious the film was going to be. Not that it didn’t have silly and bizarre elements, but it was certainly dark in spots. But then, that’s probably natural when making a movie that pays homage to anime.

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