Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of a one-eyed boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson) who has the ability to magically animate origami through the music of his shamisen. He lives with and takes care of his neurotic mother, and earns money by being a street performer in his village. One day, the Moon King’s malevolent twin daughters (Rooney Mara), who have long been hunting for Kubo and his mother, attack his village. With her last ounce of magic, Kubo’s mother sends him safely away, tasking him to look for his father’s magical sword, armor, and helmet. On the run from the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughters, Kubo meets Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), who pledge to be his guardians in his quest.
This movie is co-produced by stop-motion animated studio Laika. Stop-motion is a timeless, elegant animation medium (it’s rare to find a bad stop-motion animated movie), and Laika is arguably the best studio doing it in the past years, as what Coraline and ParaNorman, and to a lesser extent, The Boxtrolls (it’s fine but not as awesome as the other two), had proven. With Kubo and the Two Strings, they succeeded in adding another masterpiece to their portfolio, and I wish they’ll be able to eventually flourish like Pixar – they deserve it.
Aside from having fantastic animation, Kubo and the Two Strings also has an endearing, original adventure plot. The story emphatically brings the feels, and emits both a sense of triumph and tragedy. It has excellent twists (though somewhat predictable), well-paced storytelling (though the ending is a bit abrupt), and beautiful themes on humanity and family.
As of now, Kubo and the Two Strings ties Zootopia as my choice for best animated movie of the year. Of course, there’s always the possibility that I will be able to watch something superior before the year is over – still around two months left in 2016. Moana is just around the corner, and I’ve yet to see the anime movie Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), which I’ve heard is pretty awesome, and The Red Turtle, which was co-produced by Studio Ghibli (thought it’s quite possible it’ll be next year before I can finally watch it). Nevertheless, Kubo and the Two Strings is one of my favorite movies of the year.