Kubo and the Two Strings is visually beautiful, has a good soundtrack and an engaging story. If you are going to see it with your kids, here’s a quick review of what you’ll experience.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Caution: Contains spoilers.
Kubo of the Two Strings is the story of a little boy who has inherited a destiny of conflict, danger and adventure as the result of his parents’ choices. Kubo’s mom (daughter of the Moon King in the spirit realm who hates and interferes with humanity on a regular basis) fell in love with a human warrior that she was sent to kill, and through an experience of his compassion and love toward her, is converted to appreciate and embrace humanity. They marry, have Kubo, and then father is evidently killed by his sisters-in-law.
Mother and son flee from her family who seek to bring Kubo to the spirit realm and cause him to reject his humanity—but not before the Moon King removed one of his eyes (it’s only talked about, not shown). The trauma incurred during their escape causes Kubo’s mom to mostly lose her memory and he must care for her while they are in hiding. Kubo has also inherited his mother’s magic which comes in handy repeatedly. Kubo is eventually discovered by his aunts (who never stopped hunting him), his mother fights them and uses her magic to get him away to relative safety. He is sent on a quest to find armor that will make him a great warrior so that he can defeat his mother’s family. He is given a magical monkey as a guardian and protector, meets a beetle Samurai warrior who joins the quest, and all along they are guided by an origami warrior.
Overall, I felt that there were strong themes of self-sacrifice, compassion, family, the importance of sharing our stories and the connectedness between us and those who have gone before us.compassion, family, the importance of sharing our stories and the connectedness between us and those who have gone before us.
The art was beautiful. The music was really neat. It reminded me a little of the story of Zuko’s mom from the Last Airbender (although, Airbender was better).
Things to consider
I’m not really sure what audience they had in mind. The theater had lots of little kids in it, and they certainly understood the humor, but I wondered if the story might have been a little slow and tricky to follow. There was a lot of action, fighting, potentially scary elements and lots of opportunity for a sensitive mother to cry (my kids made their usual fun of me for it). There were no bad words (although, the grandfather character used the word “hell”, but he said it in the proper context), no sexual content, but there were some mixed messages about immortality.
Some Themes for Discussion
- Eyes and seeing were a consistent element of the story: the loss of Kubo’s eye, the blindness of his grandfather and aunts, the eyes beneath the lake, and the desire to take away Kubo’s remaining eye. What does it mean to “see”, and what are the different ways that we see one another? This theme reminded me of the story of the man born blind in John 9—it might be an interesting parallel for discussion.
- The theme of relationship with our ancestors is heavy in this story. It offers potential for a conversation on the Communion of Saints. While the story’s version isn’t perfectly matched with ours, the appreciation of, changed relationship with, and ability to speak to and help one another beyond the grave certainly are enough to start the conversation. Check out paragraphs 946-962 in the Catholic Catechism of the Church for our teaching on the Communion of Saints.
- Characters routinely sacrificed themselves to protect one another. Discuss what sacrifice means to us, and how Jesus’ sacrifice gave meaning to all of the sacrifices we make for one another.
- Kubo is a terrific storyteller. He gets that from his mom. She becomes most herself and most clear (she suffers memory loss otherwise) when she is telling stories of the past. Why is sharing our family stories (and our faith’s family stories) important?
- Ultimately, the grandfather’s story is re-written. Compassion from the villagers and Kubo give him a new chance. Why is it important to offer people the opportunity to change? How can we help others to move beyond the past and choose a new future when their past decisions have not been good ones? Here, you might consider the story of the Samaritan woman from John 4.
- There was a point in the story where Kubo was led into danger by following a dream. He had been given the little paper warrior to lead him, but he put it away (literally) and followed the advice of the person in his dream, instead (the guy in the dream was the grandfather and it was obvious that he was a bad guy—his outfit had a Death Star right in the front of it!). The little paper guy was representative of his father. When we allow ourselves to be misled, we put away our Father who guides us. Have you ever been distracted from doing what you were supposed to? What were the signs that it wasn’t a good idea? Did you ignore the guidance of a good guide to follow the bad? How did you get back on track?