Adult animation, and I’m including anime in this, is very similar to the horror genre. It is a genre that is full of potential, has a loyal and dedicated fanbase, is a genre filled with many of the greatest films of all time… and about 99.9999999999999999999999998% is as tolerable and pleasant as sewage water being poured into a mouth ulcer.
The great animated films for adults made outside of Japan can be counted on your hands, and the ones made in Japan can be counted on the hands of any loved one you might have to hand. That list will include everything ever made by Laika. Ok, so they release a film as frequently as Haley’s Comet turning into a cheese wheel and they’re still child-friendly, but damn if those films aren’t worth the wait. When you start your existence as a studio with Coraline, you’re something us mere mortals are only allowed to appreciate in fleeting glimpses.
And their newest release, Kubo and the Two Strings, is to the surprise of no one absolutely fantastic, a film I’ve only seen a couple of hours ago and is already a contender for my film of the year. It actually puts Zootropolis and Finding Dory to shame, as if it’s Laika that’s been the biggest film studio for the last near-century rather than Disney. “You want achingly beautiful animation, with great actors putting some of the best work of their careers?” Laika asks. “Don’t bother with that CGI junk, we’ve got misery and action scenes, all stop-motion puppet animation by lunatics!”
It’s difficult to say where to start with the film’s innumerable strong points. Soundtrack? Phenomenal, mixing Japanese traditional orchestra with more traditional Western orchestra. Script? Funny, sharp and subtle, which is what my doctor said of my urine samples. Animation? So beautiful it’s actually irritating to look at times, like Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa while blindfolded just to show off.
The plot of Kubo takes a lot of Journey of the West (no durr) with three legendary artefacts that are required to kill the Moon King. In fact, the film at times feels like one of the pre-Playstation era Final Fantasy video games, with new items unlocking new abilities after Kubo fights the big boss monster of the area. So you’ve got a giant skeleton boss that’s weak to hitting it a lot, there’s a big lake that can only be reached with the “create boat out of leaves” spell, and just like Final Fantasy it’s about a teenager responding to PTSD by punching God in the face.
The multiple references to sadness throughout this review haven’t been a mistake, by the way. Kubo can basically be renamed “Depressing Revelations the Movie.” Most of them I genuinely didn’t see coming, but eventually they do get tiring in the way only soap operas are. It turns out that Kubo’s mother has BRAIN DAMAGE! But that doesn’t matter because SHE’S BEEN KILLED BY HER SISTERS! And Kubo has a monkey and a giant beetle to help him but THE MONKEY IS DYING! AND THE PAPER MAN IS DYING! AND THE MOON KING IS PREGNANT AND KUBO’S THE FATHER! AND THE EVIL SISTERS ARE TRYING TO SHUT DOWN THE JUICE BAR, AND PHIL MITCHELL’S ON THE COKE AGAIN!
There are a couple of other issues with the film; the ending is pretty weak, some of the deeper themes will undoubtedly go over the kids’ heads, and the villain very suddenly plops into the film two thirds of the way through with no explanation of why he does what he does. However, I have to stretch my arm so far that it hits the moon to find those flaws. All of Laika’s other films were cult sleepers that faded from the box office, and we cannot have a repeat of that tragedy. Close this webpage, get to your car and watch Kubo and the Two Strings, today. I will literally hunt you down if you don’t.
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