Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautifully created stop-motion world that shows how far the technical elements have jumped forward in such a short space of time, effortlessly combining the action and visual procedures into something so utterly smooth and real that you can’t do anything except accept it as hand-drawn animation, in the classic sense.
The studio behind this magical tale is Laika, you’ll know them for Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, and now they’re delving into the world of a stop-motion Samurai adventure. The narrative focuses around Kubo, a young boy (voiced by Art Parkinson) who loves to tell a story and can often be captivating the people in his village with tales of adventure and the unknown. He does this through a magical ability to play a traditional Japanese instrument called the Shamisen that, in turn, creates characters in origami from the paper he keeps with him. It’s charmingly imagined and even more inspiring to watch as it comes to life.
However, things take a turn for the worse when Kubo accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past and has to go on the run to find the tools he needs to fight off the darkness that’s after him. He’s got support though, as Kubo is joined by the somewhat negative, but deeply honest, Monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and eventually Beetle (voices by Matthew McConaughey), a seemingly dumb but strong samurai doing everything he can to help the young boy on his quest.
Over time, and of course armed with a magical instrument, Kubo must eventually battle the ‘Moon King’ and numerous other monsters to save his family, himself and solve a hidden mystery regarding what happened to his father. What makes all these elements extra special is the models created and their astonishing detail and believability, even in a fantastical world. It’s beyond impressive; it’s mind-blowing and looks magnificent with the giant skeleton being a standout piece for sure.
Laika always find a way of delving in with different types of characters, those on the edge of darkness who are more than willing to search for the light. This sets them apart from the other studios because while Pixar anthropomorphise the majority and Disney forever go wide-eyed – I’m generalising of course because the likes of Zootopia has shown a whole new world for the latter – Laika appear to want to bring in a child-like human insight that somehow holds all the elements of those classic Grimm fairy tales that are full of fantasy and tradition but most importantly still give us something original. Kubo and the Two Strings is very dark in places but completely intoxicating with the world they create – There’s no doubt this is their absolute visual masterpiece.
Kubo and the Two Strings arrives on Digital on 2nd January and Blu-ray™, DVD (Order here) and On Demand on 16th January, 2017 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.