Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings (Laika and Focus Features 2016. directed by Travis Knight) has been a journey for me. Well, not really, but you open stuff the way you open it, right? Maybe I should just go back to the beginning. I had heard about the movie a few times before I finally saw it. I didn’t even see it in theaters (sad but true). The first time I had seen it, I was absorbed into the story and left with nothing but the enjoyment of it. It took a couple more viewings (over the past couple days) to reach this point now.
Now I could go into the whole ordeal of watching this with my granddaughters (they were riveted) and not getting to a point to write this bit of blather. But that doesn’t really take us to a point where I am actually doing anything. But as I sit here and attempt to come up with the words to encompass my feelings for the film, I realize it is all part of the journey and tied to the experience as a whole. And in the end it is only after another viewing that I feel like I might have a grasp on the thing as a whole. And like I said, it is all tied together as a journey of sorts.
The story of Kubo, is at its top most levels a tied together meta experience of at least three stories that are all tied together. At the base of it, you have the hero’s journey and yada yada yada. We know the gist of it all, the chosen one goes on a quest to defeat the great evil and discovers something about himself along the way. But this is only the surface of the story and a glimpse of the greater stories beneath it all. See, as we are living through Kubo’s quest, we find that there is so much more to his world. He is living his father’s quest, where his father failed the primary quest, only because he hadn’t realized the quest he was on to begin with. And this is the twist of it, his father had actually been on Kubo’s quest, so he failed where Kubo eventually succeeded.
Now, remember where I mentioned journeys and all that. The word is double edged. There is of course the physical journey, but we also have the mental journey. (No I am not looking to explain the whole hero’s journey thing here. Mostly, I am digging through my own thoughts as I figure the whole thing out). Through the story we have different realizations and understandings that come to us as we travel to the end. The various stories all come together in different ways and show us that each of the players is on their own version of the hero’s journey. They all have their own dragons to slay that interrelate to the main story.
And this is where it all becomes a little strange (the meta moments). See, as it all plays out, Kubo is working his way through that main quest. While at the same time, he is also reliving the story of how his parents met and fell in love. It was their love that caused his father to fail the main quest, his realization that his quest was actually the love of Kubo’s mother. While she had been put a part of the first quest, she became a player in the retelling during Kubo’s quest. In her role she had to learn that she wouldn’t be able to protect him forever. She would have to love him enough to let him go.
Which brings us back to the realization of Kubo’s quest. The physical aspect of it, was of course defeating the Moon King and saving the town, finishing the quest that his father had failed. But it was also the mental growth of the child to adulthood, or at least part of that journey. He had to set aside his childish thoughts and accept a higher purpose.
It as I am sitting here that I am finding the deeper meanings and relationships within the story itself. The bad guy (there is always a bad guy, our perspectives are so weird like that) is the one who clings to the old ways, the traditions we must rebel agains. The grandfather (the Moon King) is first who Kubo’s mother must rebel against to start her own life and bear a child with her mortal samurai. He is also the one that Kubo must eventually face in his bid for freedom. But in all of the battles we return to the main cause of it all. Their root falls back to a need for protection. The father, protects the mother from the pain of growing up, and in turn becomes the grandfather trying to protect the grandchild from the same pain. And the mother takes the same mantle of protection with the child, but in her own way as she protects the child from the grand parent as well as the world at large. Life still finds a way through it all, as the child still grows older, from youth to adulthood.
Wow, at this point, I don’t know if I said anything that made any sense. And the crazy thing is, I didn’t even get into the metaphors of the changes to his parents throughout his journey. I guess the point of it all is this, Kubo and the Two Strings is a great story with layers for both adults to enjoy as well as a main story line for kids to enjoy. It does the work of a fable like the fables we knew as kids. The story gives us a chance to see our world in new eyes while not telling us where to look.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.