New animated film “Kubo and the Two Strings” introduces kids to Buddhist concepts

The Buddhist Channel, August 30, 2016

San Francisco, CA (USA) -- Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.

The film is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato, Akihiro and Kameyo. But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta.

Some reviewers have thought the deeper themes running through the movie were derived from Shinto. And no doubt there are visual elements derived from that tradition and there is a sense in which it does influence the film. There is throughout a Japanese aesthetic that include Shinto, and much more.

Armond White at the National Review, calls Kubo a “vaguely Buddhist fairytale…” He goes on to note, “Kubo is a delicate tale addressing today’s sense of moral bereavement.”

Here, filmmaker Travis Knight talks about the Buddhist elements in the just released animated movie:

Q: There’s a strain of Buddhism throughout the film -- this idea that lives don’t end with death and live on in memories. Apart from it being set in Ancient Japan, where did that come from?

Knight: My mother-in-law and her family are Buddhists. That kind of spirituality is not something you typically see in film. I think it spoke to the basic idea about losing something that matters to you, which is a fundamental part of life. You don’t get through life unscathed. Being able to explore those ideas through the prism of fantasy and animation really allows parents and children to experience those things together, in a way they can understand. Sometimes these ideas are difficult to articulate, but in a film, if done in a poetic way, those things can make sense and you can talk about them.”

The movie aggregated a ninety-six percent positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, while ninety-one percent of the slightly more than thirteen thousand viewers who chose to comment liked the movie.