Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop-motion animated movie created by Studio Laika. As a children’s fantasy story, it draws heavily from Buddhist myth. It distances itself from God’s universe but still draws on themes key to God’s story, such as love and sacrifice. As with all pagan worldviews, viewers will see no hope of resurrection or redemption. The story treats death as a natural part of life. Right and wrong are subjective, making justice impossible. We impart truth through the stories and memories we keep, and those memories are the link binding us to those we have lost.
The Story Of Kubo And The Two Strings
A one-eyed boy named Kubo is the hero of the story, and he lives with his mother near a Japanese village. Kubo earns his keep by storytelling but must always return home before sunset, or his grandfather, the Moon King, will find him and steal his remaining eye. Despite his mother’s warnings, the Moon King inevitably discovers them. Kubo then flees on a quest to retrieve the magical sword, armor, and helmet of his father Hanzo before his grandfather can seize him.
The story draws from Japanese Buddhist festivals such as Obon where the dead supposedly visit the living. Death is inescapable. The only hope anyone can have of reuniting with his loved ones is either by joining them in the afterlife or by seeing their spirits light paper lanterns at an appointed time. Again, there is no hope or promise of a bodily resurrection.
A guardian called Monkey accompanies Kubo on his journey along with Beetle, a warrior who has lost his memories. They both sacrifice themselves repeatedly for Kubo’s well-being, and their guidance forms his framework of right and wrong.
What Is Right And Wrong?
The story assures us that Kubo and his companions represent good and the Moon King, evil. But when Kubo asks Monkey why the Moon King hates him, she answers:
“He doesn’t hate you. He wants to make you just like him. Blind to humanity as I once was. Only then can you take your place beside him as part of his family. Cold and hard and perfect.”
In the Christian worldview, God is perfect in all things, including holiness and love. As three Persons and one Substance, the love of God is, first, the Father’s love for the Son and the Spirit. It is also the Son’s love for the Spirit and the Father and the Spirit’s love for the Son and the Father. In Kubo and the Two Strings, the concept of perfection excludes love and rejects anything not itself. “Perfection” and evil hold hands.
In contrast to this cold evil, Kubo’s mother tells Kubo the story of how Hanzo won her heart. Her father initially sent her to kill Hanzo, but his compassion toward her transformed her from his enemy to his eventual bride. There’s some interesting symbolism here.
Justice And Mercy In Kubo And The Two Strings
Regarding the nature of justice and mercy, the movie fails to be consistent. In a world distanced from God’s righteous rule, there cannot be true justice. Tying in the theme that our memories “are the most powerful kind of magic there is,” Kubo, armed with the memories of his parents, defeats his grandfather by erasing his memories. Faced with an old man who remembers nothing of who he once was, the story ends with Kubo and his fellow villagers assuring the grandfather that he has always been a wonderful human being. But Kubo is now alone. Any relationship that may stem between him and his remaining relative is based on a lie.
This casts a shadow on what Kubo and the audience can expect of the future. The characters and their struggles pull on the themes of God’s story and yet they clearly diverge from Him. Consequently, this story doesn’t end well when examined through the lens of a Biblical world and life view.
Christians take comfort in knowing that Christ is victorious over sin and death. We will be resurrected to new life. In God’s plan then, justice and mercy are both satisfied. It is sad that Kubo does not have the same comfort at the end of his adventure.
You may also consider reading another Live The Adventure Letter article: Movie Review: Watching “The Incredibles” Again With A New Pair Of Christian Worldview Glasses
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