I assumed that Kubo and the Two Strings is a Japanese made film, but it is not. It is an American film about Japanese characters. Going into it, I also assumed that it is computer animated, but I was wrong again. It is beautifully animated with stop motion and the effect is almost as good as computer animation, although not quite as smooth; there is a hardly noticeable jerkiness to the the movement of the characters. However, this is the best looking stop motion film I have ever seen. The quality of the animation is just amazing.
The Japanese centric story is a mind bender for American audiences. It is almost a kind of culture shock.
Kudo is a child with magical powers living with his mother. Both are hiding from the evil Moon King who stole one of Kudo's eyes and wants to kidnap Kudo and steal his other eye. The Moon King is Kudo's grandfather, and Kudo's mother was one of three sisters, actually witches, who were sent to kill Kudo's father, who is the most powerful Samurai warrior. Instead Kudo's mother fell in love with Kudo's father and had a child with him. Later the father goes missing and is presumed killed. Kudo and his mother are safe in hiding until Kudo is accidentally discovered. The only way Kudo can survive is to go on a quest to find three pieces of magic armor that would allow him to fight the Moon King. He is joined on this quest by a couple of very unusual creatures. One is a talking baboon, and the other is a giant beetle.
This is a beautifully made film. The story, which is laden with Japanese mysticism, didn't fully resonate with me, but I did find it entertaining. The thing I like the most of about the movie is how it humanizes Japanese characters. Americans think of Japanese characters as Samurai or warriors, and I suspect this is how some Japanese see themselves, but here the characters seem genuinely human with heartfelt emotions.
I think that the story is too weird for American children, but I could be wrong about that. For an adult audience it is a cultural experience. I managed to catch the movie on the last day it was showing in a small town theater. I am not surprised that I was the only one in the theater watching it; that's what I expected. It is a good movie, but it is not the kind of film that would have broad appeal.
Rating: * * *
Kubo and the Two Strings has a whopping 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.