"Kubo and the Two Strings" is the latest movie from Laika, the company that brought us "Coraline," the marvelous "Paranorman," and "The Boxtrolls." They've outdone themselves this time with animation of extraordinary beauty. Although it felt like approximately half of the movie was shot at sunset ... But it's not just the colours of sunset that make it so beautiful: many of the sets they've created are ... "simple" is the wrong word. "Simple" in the sense of perfectly planned and artfully, perfectly asymmetrical. Elegant, with gorgeous colours. And the writing is marvelously witty and lively.
Kubo is a young boy who cares for his mother, as day after day she seems to drift further from the world. He goes into the town to play his shamisen, with which he can animate sheets of paper to tell dramatic stories. One day he disobeys his mother's stricture to never stay out after dark ... and "the Sisters" come for him. Magical, powerful, and evil, he's saved by his mother who uses her own magic to send him away. He awakes to find himself in the care of a rather ill-tempered monkey.
The movie is a coming-of-age tale as Kubo goes on a quest and comes to terms with his rather bizarre parentage. I found the ending somewhat disappointing (Laika leans too heavily on their preference for non-violent solutions - admirable, but after four movies a little too predictable). But the journey ... One of the best animated movies of the year, just a lovely piece of work.