In terms of quality, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. But, in terms of morality, sadly, it’s one of the worst. This doesn’t say too much, of course, because animated films in general don’t tend to be that offensive (no, I haven’t seen “Sausage Party,” but “Kubo…” and most other animated films are for children). And that’s not to say there aren’t positive messages. Indeed, there are plenty of good moral teachings from this film, about family, boldness, and sticking to what is right. There’s no profanity or sex, either.
The problem with this film is the perspective from which the positive messages are taught. While no specific religion or god is ever named, many of the major plot points rely on mysticism, séances, and reincarnation. There are also magic powers, which, although fantastical in nature, would kind of have to come from the pagan concepts. There is no idol worship, but all of the spiritual elements—ghosts, reincarnation, the unbiblical afterlife, etc.—are clearly not just fantasy; they all fit together into the pagan religions of the film’s setting.
The film starts with Kubo, a little boy living with his widowed mother, being pursued by the ghosts of his two aunts, who want to take him away to their spirit realm. To defeat them, he must embark on a journey to find the pieces to a magic suit of armor. The first half of the film didn’t seem too bad to me, but then it took a much stronger pagan turn, introducing iconic spiritual elements of Buddhism and Hinduism.
The film assumes this worldview, and never tries to actually preach it. The creators of the film may not believe it or expect viewers to accept it; it’s most likely just there for a good, entertaining story. It is still dangerous, however, especially for young children, because becoming fascinated with the story necessitates becoming fascinated with the pagan worldview.
On another note of caution, I should also point out that there is quite a bit of peril, action, and scary imagery, including skeletons and monsters. This film reminds me quite a bit of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. It’s not as violent, but it’s still pretty intense for young viewers.
How sad that I can’t recommend this film! It is stunning, and I mean STUNNING! The atmosphere and visuals are gorgeous, and all of the (good) characters stole my heart. It is also a well-crafted tribute to the culture it is set in. But I advise families to avoid this film, and parents, if you do let your kids watch it, PLEASE pause it when necessary to talk about the spiritual problems (you’ll have to do that a lot, which is why I recommend just skipping it).
As an alternative, I recommend another film of this year that has similar themes NOT including the paganism. It is “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Be sure to read our review of that, however, because there is some caution for young children about the frightening images in that, as well.