I was never great at sticking with any of the numerous instruments I picked up throughout my life, and boy do I feel cheated. Had I known they could be as magical as Kubo’s samisen I may have kept with one!
Technically I don’t think Kubo’s instrument is magical itself, but that’s ok because Kubo has enough magic inside him for the both of them. The whole world is full of magic really, pulling from mythological tales of old to inspire a new story filled with an epic quest, vengeful immortal beings, talking animals, and great battles. It has everything you’d want in a hero’s journey like Kubo’s. And its everything is stuff you’ve probably already seen before.
Well, maybe not everything. I don’t think I’ve seen a sea of giant eyeballs before. But still, Kubo and the Two Strings feels like a very familiar story with its predictable reveals that impact our main character’s journey and the convenient answers to questions raised along the way, but that’s not to say this movie is without a life of its own. The world created and characters that inhabit it spark the imagination in a way that begs to be filled with more: more of the history of this world in which magic and spirits are commonplace, more to the lives of the characters that came before this current timeline, more of the stories that Kubo’s origami figures act out.
Predictable or not, one thing that cannot be argued is Kubo’s beauty. Just as I’ve always found claymation and stop motion to be creepy in the way it brings inanimate objects to life, the artists at Laika always find ways to bring awe in the way they breathe life into their creations. Each frame is a piece of art with the thought that goes into them, and it’s impossible not to lose yourself in it all. Personally it was something as “simple” as Monkey’s fur and the origami that would send me into a trance of wonderment, but everything here is really something of beauty worth seeing.
So yes, the story is familiar, character lines and plot elements might not always hit with the satisfaction desired, but Laika has created another living, breathing piece of art worth experiencing.