This year has been exceptional for animated films, each with new concepts, new ideas and each very enjoyable in its own way. Among this throng of animation, Kubo and the Two Strings manages to stand out of the crowd with its stop motion animation, its setting, mythology and the tantalizing dark side of spirits and demons. Unlike Disney and Pixar, this studio is not afraid of exploring the dark and scary that pushes the limits for being suitable for young children but still remains funny and adventurous.

At the start of the movie, we are introduced to Kubo and his shamisen with two strings that magically orchestrates origami paper into shapes of samurai and other characters of folk tales. By night, Kubo returns home to take care of his ill mother. One day, Kubo finds himself staying out at night despite his mother’s warnings against it and this is when his adventure begins. With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must battle with his evil grandfather and aunts who are after his other eye.

The animation on this film is stunning, and if you watch it, do so in 3-D, because the level of detail, effort and complexity that has gone into making this is truly amazing. The story is complex and unique in its understanding of the relationship between parents and children. The way Kubo cares for his mother and wants to be like his father is endearing but instead of following in their footsteps, he makes his own journey. It shows how a kid has to grow up beyond his years due to his circumstances and his journey while doing that. The chemistry between the monkey and beetle is interesting and provides the relief to the dark subject matter of the film. The villains are some of the most vicious that I have seen in animated films. The Japanese mythology makes for an interesting and engaging backdrop to the narrative also.

The only thing that does seem a little out of place in the film is the background voices. All the actors have done a good job with their voice-overs but I couldn’t help but notice that they were all non-Asian actors giving a voice-over for a film with Japanese characters. I guess this is a more industry wide issue rather than one specific to this film. Besides this one minor ethical flaw, the film is absolutely brilliant and a definite treat to watch over this weekend.

Kubo and the Two Strings is on general release now