© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

Kubo - Der tapfere Samurai (Kubo and the Two Strings)
U.S.A. 2016

Opening 27 Oct 2016

Directed by: Travis Knight
Writing credits: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler, Shannon Tindle
Principal actors: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei

The film begins much as The Light between the Oceans did: a small boat bobs aimlessly in the sea. Here the similarity ends. In Kubo, both occupants, baby Kubo and his mother, survive; the boat capsizes and they are washed up onto the beach. Now, 10 years later, they live on an isolated rocky bluff overlooking the sea. His mother is ill and suffers from strange visions. Kubo regularly goes into the village and plays his shamisen (a Japanese type of banjo or guitar), while spinning a spellbinding story about a Samurai soldier made out of origami. He is popular with the villagers, especially a cute little granny, and the audience breathlessly anticipates the end of the story.

This relatively peaceful beginning changes drastically when a mishap causes his mother’s evil twin sisters to appear, spouting threats. Kubo is forced to travel outside his village to meet his equally menacing grandfather and solve the mystery of the death of his father, Hanso. To solve the riddle he must find three objects: a sword, a suit of armor, and a helmet. Mr. Monkey and Beetle accompany him, although often their disagreements cause more problems than anything they can do to help.

This animated children’s film is a must-see for the whole family, except for those young ones especially sensitive to monster attacks. The artwork is extraordinary; each figure comes alive and the background is beautiful. There is much symbolism such as lanterns floating in the sea, origami art including the necessary square pieces of paper, the strings on the banjo, as well as George Harrison’s original song “While my guitar gently weeps,” or even Kubo’s eye patch.

Although it seems to be based on some very old Japanese legend, it is actually an original story by Americans, made totally by a huge team in the U.S. It’s not Hayao Miyazaki, but could easily stand beside his Princess Mononoke. It would be quite interesting to hear how the Japanese judge it. The film would have been even more brilliant if the makers had abstained from any kind of 3D (here it is quite low-key and therefore not necessary) and if it had been 10 minutes shorter. Nevertheless, this is a film to see. (Becky Tan)

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