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Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by on Nov 21, 2016
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld checked out the Blu-ray for Kubo and the Two Strings. Is this fanciful, beautifully-made, stop-motion animation movie a great holiday gift or keeper for you? Read our Blu-ray review.

By: Lynn Barker

In Kubo and the Two Strings, a young tween tells so many fantastic stories that one of them comes back to “bite” him.  Kubo accidentally summons a vengeful spirit that might actually help him solve the mystery of his fallen samurai dad and reveal to him that he has magical powers to save his family.

Kubo with his protectors Beetle and MonkeyKubo with his protectors Beetle and MonkeyCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

A Rough Beginning

In ancient Japan on a turbulent sea, a young mother uses magic to plow through the waves to protect her baby. They are washed ashore and we see that the baby has only one eye. Eleven years later, the baby is now a tween named Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson) who lives in a cave with his depressed and forgetful mom and makes a daily living by enchanting villagers by telling adventure tales with the use of paper origami figures, that magically come to life when Kubo plays his 3 stringed shamisen, a lyre-like instrument. Kubo has always been told that he must never be out after dark.

Kubo plays his shamisen with tiny Beetle onboardKubo plays his shamisen with tiny Beetle onboardCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Breaking His Promise

In the hope of contacting his dead warrior father’s spirit, Kubo stays in the village after dark to light a lantern in his honor at a festival. Instead, his lantern brings forth The Sisters (voice of Rooney Mara), his black magic aunts who took his eye when he was a baby! They want the other one for Kubo’s grandfather, the mystical Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) who lives in another realm and wants Kubo to join him there.

Kubo's weird evil sistersKubo's weird evil sistersCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Kubo’s Protector

With the aid of magic, Monkey (Charlize Theron) changes from a wooden charm into Kubo’s protector and he learns that, to defeat his enemies, he must find his father’s armor, sword and helmet. On the run and with the aid of Monkey and man-like insect samurai warrior Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), Kubo sets off to solve the mystery of his fallen dad. Through blizzard, under seas, and through a bamboo forest, Kubo hones his magic to battle gods and monsters including his grandfather the Moon King. Along the way he discovers that some things and some people aren’t what they seem.

Kubo underwater facing the eye creaturesKubo underwater facing the eye creaturesCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Special Extra Features

The extras in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack are all short but interesting.

  • The multi-part, “Making-of” featurette is called Kubo’s Journey and is introduced by Laika Studio head, director/producer Travis Knight who admits that this stop-motion feature was the most challenging yet for the studio that gave us Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Mythological Monsters, talks about the challenges to create the several monsters in the film; some were the largest puppets the studio had ever created, others were made of bizarre materials like a load of orange Mylar balloons.

Animator working with 16-foot-tall Skeleton monsterAnimator working with 16-foot-tall Skeleton monsterCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • In Braving the Elements we are shown the difficulties of mixing stop-motion animation with water. Whether rain or ocean, anything wet was created with an interesting mix of live-action pieces on the movie’s tiny sets and computer animation. The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music focuses on the film’s cool musical score that combined traditional Japanese instruments and styles with Western film score magic and why the Beatles’ “My Guitar Gently Weeps” was used. Really cool. An Epilogue with Knight reveals how telling this Japanese story became important to Laika. Overall, another cool trip inside the ultra-detailed world that is stop-motion animation.

Laika filmmaker works on Beetle's armorLaika filmmaker works on Beetle's armorCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Three shorter featurettes; Japanese Inspiration, Corners of the Earth and the Myth of Kubo reveal details with filmmakers and voice cast discussing the Japanese Samurai tales as inspiration, the challenges of creating larger scale landscapes and locations and the core story of young Kubo’s quest.  All nicely done. The Audio Commentary with Travis Knight is a detailed recounting of story, themes, the amazing images, attention to detail and just how the genius stop-motion filmmakers pulled it off. Really a very, very cool listen after seeing the film once.

Stop-Motion animators working with giant eye puppetStop-Motion animators working with giant eye puppetCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Wrapping Up

Kubo and the Two Strings looks and sounds amazing on this home entertainment set. The Japanese folklore element makes “Kubo” just as “deep” emotionally as a lot of the best Pixar films and more beautiful to look at and listen to than many. Little kids might not “get” all the nuances of the story and some of the magical “critters” are pretty darn scary but teens and other family members will be onboard. This would make a wonderful holiday gift or keeper for your collection. 

Tiny Kubo vs. the giant, glowing MoonbeastTiny Kubo vs. the giant, glowing MoonbeastCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

The extras on this set are well-presented and all visually interesting as well as informative. We go 4 stars.

Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-ray Rating:4

Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-rayKubo and the Two Strings Blu-rayCourtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Buy Kubo and the Two Strings available November 22nd!


Have Your Say

Are you into beautiful artwork in your animated films? Do you stay connected to the spirits of your loved-ones who have passed on? Lay down a comment below.