In the world of movies, nothing is more immediately interesting than eye catching graphics, and in the realm of computer animation, no one is more distinct than Laika Studios. While I managed to catch their rendition of Coraline, I’m still kicking myself for never sitting down and watching ParaNorman. (Maybe I’ll put that on my resolution list for New Years.) After 2014’s Boxtrolls, I wasn’t sure when we would hear from them again, or what to even expect. However, in all my thoughts, I don’t think I would have guessed something like Kubo and the Two Strings.
In a statement made by director—and Laika President and CEO—Travis Knight, Kubo is “[a] gripping yarn woven from Japanese folktales and mythology, with lost civilizations, mystical origami, noble heroes, star-crossed lovers, and blood-curdling monsters. At once epic and intimate, Kubo is a funny, intense, and ultimately uplifting fairy tale draped in some of the most bizarre and exciting imagery I’ve ever seen. Most importantly, it’s deeply moving. It’s a story that means something, a story that deserves to be told.” From the summary earlier in the article and on other sites, the movie follows Kubo, a young boy in ancient Japan who lives a quiet life of taking care of his mother. Suddenly, his entire life is turned on its head when a spirit from the past involves him in an old vendetta. What that vendetta is up to anyone’s imagination (maybe someone stole the shamisen—that stringed instrument—from a god?) but the adventure it puts him on is sure to be massive.
Being a fan of Japanese folklore myself, I’m thrilled that Laika is taking a stab at making their own legend with the culture. However, as with most things, I sincerely hope that they’re consulting with, you know, actual Japanese people on how to construct the pieces of Kubo’s life and conflicts. Additionally, I’m wondering if this film is actually set in Japan, or everyone is just assuming it is given the very obvious Japanese influences. While everyone is quick to say it takes place in “ancient Japan”, I have yet to see any confirmation on which era it could be in, or if it’s some nebulous “ancient” era. Again, I’m hoping they’re actually doing their research and not just giving audiences a hodge-podge of stereotypical ancient Japanese/East Asian things. On this note, I’m extremely disappointed with the voice cast. While Kubo’s got talent out the ass, I have to wonder why no one thought it was strange that every headlining voice actor, save for George Takei, is white. While Laika has been applauded for their inclusion in the past, this feels like an oversight that simply came from negligence; an oversight that shouldn’t be afforded when making a film about another real country.
Kubo and the Two Strings is set for release in August of 2016. While the folklore lover in me yearns to see it, I really just want to hear some sort of acknowledgement that they understand their mistake before I spend money to watch the film in a theater. If I don’t hear that, or at least hear reviews that this is the most amazing film ever, then I might have to break my own heart by skipping it. (Or watch it anyways and shake my head at myself.)