Release Date(s)2016 (November 26, 2016)
Studio(s)LAIKA/Focus Features (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Of all the animated movies released in 2016, one stood heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of storytelling, visuals, and aesthetic: Kubo and the Two Strings. Striking a nice balance between popcorn entertainment for people of all ages and progressive art film, it tells the story of Kubo, a young man with the ability to influence the things around him via the power of his magical two-stringed instrument. After his village is destroyed by a pair of evil witches, he is set upon a journey to acquire a set of magic armor that will help him defeat those dark forces out to do him, and the people he loves, harm.
Kubo and the Two Strings was produced by LAIKA, the studio famous for creating Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls, all of which have their own merits. However, I think it’s fair to say that Kubo is their masterpiece. The vocal performances are top of the line and the stop-motion animation is ahead of the pack in nearly every possible way, ranking as some of the best ever put on screen. Combine that with a powerful and moving story and you soon forget that you’re watching an animated film, which is how all good stories usually transcend their limitations. While LAIKA’s previous films have many of the same qualities as Kubo, everything seems to have come into perfect alignment here.
Unfortunately, Kubo and the Two Strings wasn’t well appreciated by movie-going audiences, as the film only managed to eek out a minor profit at the box office. The acclaim it’s received since, however, continues to grow. Any story about a youth overcoming obstacles in the face of adversity should be fairly simple and straightforward, but this one is handled with an adult’s hands, yet is still seen as through a child’s eyes (or eye, in this instance). Kubo is a beautiful movie with a wonderful score and is a truly magical experience.
“Reference quality” comes to mind when describing the transfer found on Universal’s new Blu-ray release of Kubo. It’s everything you could want in a presentation of a modern stop-motion animated film, with a crystal-clear picture, an enormous amount of visual detail in all respects, strong textures, lush color reproduction, inky deep black levels, perfect contrast and brightness, and no signs of digital manipulation. It’s virtually flawless. The same goes for the audio, which is presented in three different mixes: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 DTS, and a DVS track. The DTS-HD is just as impressive as the video presentation, with strong dialogue reproduction, an amazingly lavish score, powerful sound effects, and an abundance of speaker-to-speaker, ambient, and low end activity – all with amazing clarity. This is just a top-notch A/V presentation all around. Note that it also comes equipped with subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
The supplemental package here is far from perfect, but it does feature a terrific audio commentary with director/producer Travis Knight, a brief set of six featurettes collectively titled Kubo’s Journey (including Introduction by Director/Producer Travis Knight, Japanese Inspiration, Mythological Monsters, Braving the Elements, The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music, and Epilogue by Director/Producer Travis Knight), two additional featurettes (Corners of the Earth and The Myth of Kubo), a set of previews (which also open the disc), a DVD copy, and a paper insert with codes for Digital HD/Ultraviolet options.
Whether you’re an adult or a child, Kubo and the Two Strings has much to offer you. It’s touching, dazzling, and almost guaranteed to require a box of tissues by the end. Universal’s Blu-ray release features a wonderful transfer, with extras that could be a little more thorough, but at least have zero chance of actually spoiling the experience as a whole. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons