"If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish."
What is it?
Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth feature film released by the stop motion animation company Laika-- the same folks who did Paranorman, Coraline, and The Boxtrolls. It was released August 19, 2016.
It is fucking amazing. And unfortunately, it is also tanking at the box office with a budget of 60 million and a gross of 12.8 million its opening weekend. I bring this up because dammit.
Dammit dammit. People always complain about the shitty kids movies out there, and when we get something genuinely well-crafted, both in story and in art design, it tanks.
Enough with the complaining. What's it actually about?
Okay, I am going to try to be as vague as possible while also giving you enough meat to want to see the film. To those of you who HAVE seen it (going by the box office results, there's about three of you on the internet. Perhaps one of you found this) you may notice me not using names and leaving bits out.
Kubo is a young, one-eyed boy living with his mother in feudal Japan. They live in a cave along the cliff near a village where Kubo performs every day. Kubo is a story teller; he uses his shamisen and inherent magic abilities to make origami plays for the villagers to watch in the feudal-era sorcerous equivalent of busking. His mom, meanwhile, stays home in a catatonic state during the day and only "wakes up" at night. At night, she tells Kubo stories and showers him with love, but her memory is faulty, and she has trouble remembering the two's past together, much less anything about Kubo's dead father.
The one hard rule she has is that Kubo must never go out under the night sky, because if he does his celestial grandfather and aunts will find him and tear out his other eye.
So guess what fucking happens?
Stuff happens and Kubo is forced to seek out the magic armor his father had hidden so that he may face his grandfather in battle. He is accompanied by a guardian monkey named Monkey who had been a small charm his mother had given him, but was brought to life by his mother's magic. Also accompanying him is Hanzo, an origami figurine of the hero Hanzo from Kubo's storytelling act that silently points to where the armor is located, and Beetle, who is a giant cursed man-bug who also suffers from memory loss. Beetle remembers nothing about himself before he became a beetle-bug-man, but he is pretty certain he was a samurai serving under the original Hanzo.
Together the three (and a half, if you count tiny-paper-compass-Hanzo) travel the country looking for the three pieces of armor while fighting off the forces of Kubo's grandfather and the monsters guarding the armor.
That was remarkably unremarkable.
I CAN'T HELP IT. I don't want to spoil any of this. It was hard enough saying Hanzo's name, dammit. Please, just go see the movie. It's better when you're blind.
Give me a real reason.
84 on metacritic, 96 and 91 on Rotten Tomatoes, George Takei plays a villager who says "Oh My", there's a scene with an origami fire-breathing chicken chasing the great hero Hanzo around at the request of an old woman who is the best villager, the film itself features a Gashadokuro (skeleton demon) that is the largest animation puppet ever built at 17ft, the story features poignant points about family dysfunction and what makes a family, the inevitability of death while also celebrating life, and references to traditional Japanese and Chinese mythology and storytelling. There's messages of forgiveness vs. revenge, the most heartbreaking rendition of the "reality ensues" trope I've ever seen, and the only time I've ever seen an ending where the villain of the story gets everything he wants while the protagonist still wins.
The art is fucking amazing.