Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.
From the creators of Paranorman and The Boxtrolls comes the story about Kubo, who wields a magical shamisen and whose left eye was stolen in infancy. With a snow monkey and beetle at his side, he must subdue his mother's evil Sisters and his grandfather, Raiden who stole his left eye.
A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armour worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.
- A woman, wearing a pack on her back with a beetle insignia on it, rides a small boat on stormy seas as the voiceover of a young boy warns the viewer not to blink or forget anything they're about to hear and see. A large wave rises in front of her but she strums her shamisen, magically splitting the wave in two, allowing her to pass. Ahead, she spots land but, before she can reach it, a rogue wave crashes down on her from behind, capsizing the boat. The woman hits her head on a submerged rock and washes ashore. She is woken by a cry coming from her pack and she comforts the baby within; her son, Kubo, who only has one eye.
Ten years later, Kubo (Art Parkinson) and his mother, Sariatu (Charlize Theron), live in a cave up on the cliffs where they washed ashore. Kubo cares for his mother who has been reduced to a semi-vegetative state with only moments of lucidity thanks to the injury she suffered. He wears a patch over his missing left eye and a robe made of the cloth he was wrapped in as a baby, which belonged to his father. During the day Kubo visits the local village with his mother's shamisen and some origami figures he makes himself. Having inherited Sariatu's magical abilities, Kubo tells fantastic stories about the samurai warrior, Hanzo, using the origami figures that he brings to life, much to the delight of the villagers. Using three magic pieces of armor: the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and the Helmet Invulnerable, Hanzo sets forth to battle his great nemesis, the Moon King but, before Kubo can finish the story, the bell rings in the village heralding the coming night and Kubo rushes home.
That evening, Sariatu tells a story about Hanzo, Kubo's father, and how he died protecting Kubo from the Moon King, his grandfather. Sariatu tells Kubo that his father was just like him, besides being a great warrior, and warns him to never stay out after dark and to keep his protective charm, Mr. Monkey, with him at all times. Should he forget any of this, then Sariatu's Sisters and the Moon King will find him and take him away. Later that night, Kubo finds his mother dreaming and talking in her sleep, causing his origami paper to fly about the room. Kubo wakes her and she asks him what happened to his eye.
The next day the village is abuzz with excitement. It is the day of the Bon Festival when people can light lanterns to commune with their deceased loved ones. Kubo is encouraged to light a lantern of his own by his elderly friend, Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro), so that he can speak to his father. One man, Hosato (George Takei) shows his daughter how to honor the spirit of her grandmother. When Kubo receives no response from Hanzo, he becomes upset and crumples his paper lantern in anger. By now, Kubo has lost track of time and the sun sets. An eerie, dark mist surrounds the area and Sariatu's twin sisters (Rooney Mara) suddenly appear, beckoning Kubo to go with them. Kubo runs to the village but the Sisters pursue him, destroying everything in sight. Sariatu runs in to save her son and uses her magic to give Kubo wings. As he flies away, Kubo grasps one strand of his mother's hair before watching her confront her sisters and disappearing in a powerful blast of energy.
Kubo wakes up in a frozen wasteland to see a macaque monkey standing over him, explaining that his mother is gone and they need to move or be found by the Sisters. Monkey (also Charlize Theron) leads Kubo to a whale carcass where they shelter for the night and feast on whale stew. Monkey explains that she was Kubo's charm, brought to life by the last of Sariatu's magic, and that they must search for Hanzo's magical armor; the only thing that can protect Kubo against the Moon King. When Kubo shows Monkey his mother's hair, she weaves it into a bracelet for him, telling him that it is a memory; the most powerful kind of magic.
In the morning, Kubo and Monkey discover that, in his sleep, Kubo brought to life an origami figurine of Hanzo which silently points out a path for them. Along the way Kubo uses his origami and shamisen to pester the ever-serious Monkey who warns him to control his magic. Shortly after, Kubo is abducted by a giant beetle who, as it turns out, merely wanted to see the origami Hanzo. Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) explains that he suffers from amnesia but is convinced he was once a great warrior and apprentice of Hanzo, cursed to live as a beetle. After learning that Kubo is the son of Hanzo, Beetle begs to be included in their quest, vowing to protect Kubo to his last breath. Monkey reluctantly agrees after seeing Beetle's skill with a bow and origami Hanzo quickly points out their next destination.
They are led to the entrance of the Hall of Bones where the trio discovers the location of the Sword Unbreakable. However, it's guarded by a monstrous skeleton that is only defeated once Kubo manages to pull the sword, one out of many, from the guardian's head. Origami Hanzo then leads them to the edge of Long Lake where Monkey and Beetle argue over Kubo's safety and magical abilities. Kubo takes this opportunity to prove his worth and creates a massive ship out of leaves so they can cross the lake. As they sail, Beetle shows Kubo how to use a bow and arrow to fish and Monkey uses the Sword Unbreakable to cut up their catch. Kubo is pleased to share a meal sitting between his friends, having never done so before, but then origami Hanzo points out the location of the Breastplate Impenetrable; below the water's surface.
Beetle volunteers to retrieve it but Kubo warns him of a creature his mother spoke of that lives in the lake. Using eyes that stare deep into you, the creature shows you images to entice you to stay submerged forever. Beetle dives in but, after a while and as a storm comes upon them, Kubo goes after him, thinking something is wrong. Monkey is prevented from following by one of Sariatu's sisters and the two do battle. Meanwhile, Kubo finds the armor but is entranced by the Garden of Eyes. Appearing to have forgotten about the armor, Beetle surfaces and is sent by Monkey back to find Kubo who is nearly swallowed by the underwater creature. The Sister mocks Monkey and calls Sariatu weak and a traitor for having fallen in love with Hanzo. Monkey is wounded but manages to defeat the Sister, claiming that falling in love "made me stronger".
Beetle returns with Kubo who realizes, thanks to images he saw from the Garden of Eyes, that Monkey is actually his mother reincarnate. They sail across Long Lake and shelter in a cave where Sariatu tells her story. She lived in the heavens with her father, the Moon King, and her sisters and was tasked to kill Hanzo, for if he found the magical armor he would become too powerful and upset the natural balance. However, during battle with Hanzo, he tells her that she is his quest and Sariatu, in recognizing his compassion, found her own. They fell in love and had Kubo shortly after. But the Moon King, furious over her betrayal, stole Kubo's eye and killed Hanzo but not before Sariatu was able to escape, using her magic to keep herself and Kubo hidden. Sariatu explains that the Moon King wants Kubo's other eye so that he can then welcome his grandson to live with him in his kingdom, cold and hard and perfect.
Kubo falls asleep and Sariatu confides to Beetle that she didn't tell Kubo her identity before because the magic keeping her alive is fading. Beetle promises to care for Kubo once she's gone. Meanwhile, Kubo has a vivid dream where he meets an elderly blind man playing a shamisen. The ghostly man tells Kubo to find the last piece of the armor, the Helmet Invulnerable, in the place where he might have lived; Hanzo's fortress. Kubo wakes, excited, and the trio head out to complete their journey. At the fortress, decaying after years of neglect, they find murals depicting the locations of the pieces of armor, but no helmet. In the courtyard they are confronted by the second Sister who reveals that Beetle is, in fact, Hanzo whose memories were stored away and manifested in the origami figure that was leading them. Hanzo dispatches the Sister but only has a brief moment to cherish the reunion with his family before he is fatally stabbed in the back. Before the Sister can deal a death blow to her, Sariatu tells Kubo to fly home. Kubo quickly grabs and strums his shamisen, breaking two of the three strings and setting off a large blast of energy that eliminates the Sister.
When the dust settles Kubo sits silently, alone. Hanzo lies motionless and the monkey charm is broken at Kubo's feet. Kubo sheds a single tear for his parents but knows he can't stay. Origami Hanzo, despite being crushed by Sister, points weakly at a drawing of the Helmet. Kubo realizes the Helmet is in his old village, disguised as the bell that always tolled at sunrise and sunset. He picks up the Sword and the string from his father's bow, making a bracelet from it and putting it on his wrist beside his mother's hair. He strums his shamisen, breaking the last string. Wings form on his back and he flies back to his village. The villagers meekly greet him from the rubble but he warns them to leave because the Moon King is coming. He retrieves the Helmet, completing his armor and demands that his grandfather face him.
The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) appears, revealed to be the same old man from Kubo's dream. He offers Kubo the chance to give up his eye so that they can live together, immortal. Kubo refuses so the Moon King takes the form of a gigantic fish-like creature and attacks, knocking Kubo into the nearby forest. The Moon King confronts Kubo in the graveyard where the village ancestors are buried. As the hiding villagers look on, Kubo uses his mothe'rs hair, his fathe'rs bow string, and a hair from his own head to restring his shamisen while the Moon King mocks him. Kubo uses the shamisen and his magic to summon the spirits of the village ancestors, telling the Moon King that their memories and the memories he has of his parents are the most powerful kind of magic there is. The Moon King moves in to finish Kubo but is repelled by the spirits and a final wave of magic from Kubo strips him of his power.
The Moon King is left alive but reduced to a mortal man, blind in one eye, and with no memories of his own. The villagers step forward and introduce Kubo as his grandson, each one of them offering the Moon King a memory of acts of kindness and how he's beloved by the people in the village. Kubo agrees to be his grandfather's storyteller. As the sun rises, Kubo lights two lanterns for his parents and wishes they were there with him, so he could end his story happily. The film ends with Kubo setting his lanterns adrift in the river, the spirits of his parents proudly standing by his side.