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The next page starts with Tanaka shot in the face. SPOILERS!

I saw Kubo and the Two Strings and I loved it! It’s a real shame at how quickly its dropping out of theaters and how little money its made, especially since it had such a killer trailer. How did this movie not get a massive hype train to show up on? Kubo certainly deserves more buzz and call to action than it’s received. But, even though it’s a joy to watch, it’s not a perfect movie. Lemme talk about it! (SPOILERS, for real this time)

So Studio Laika has made some of my favorite animated films, and Kubo has definitely stolen my heart! I think Coraline is a better film, but Kubo has epic sword fights and feudal Japanese stuff, so I’m enamored with it. Kubo’s not a perfect movie, but even though its plot coherence is a bit muddled, it’s emotional intent is very clear. I teared up a couple times during this movie, its ending is painfully bittersweet. But what do I mean by muddled plot coherence? well…

Was Kubo’s mom’s memory fading at the beginning of the film because she hit her head when she fell out of her boat, or because she was losing her divinity? Her father, the Moon King, lost his memory as soon as he became human(?) again.
Was the Moon King always a monster thing, or was he a human who could take monster form?
After the Moon King turns human, is his new left eye Kubo’s? Seems like it, but where did it come from, where was it being kept?
Was it Hanzo’s intention to overthrow the Moon King or just marry his daughter? “You are my quest” is a very romantic thing to say, but it confuses me as to what he wanted. Both, I guess?
There’s a lot of talk about the Moon King and his family being above humanity, which indicates they’re celestial beings, but the movie makes them the bad guys. Yet there’s very little clarification as to why being a Celestial being is bad, other than you have no empathy for humans. I guess that’s bad enough!
Why does Beetle kidnap Kubo when Monkey isn’t looking? If he just wanted to introduce himself anyway, why not just pop up and give an introduction?

There were some other things that bugged me about the plot that I can’t immediately recall, and the introduction of Beetle and Monkey also felt disjointed with some cringe worthy humor. But I don’t these are plot holes so much as a vague plot in general, operating more on feelings and concrete details. And this is also fine because the movie is pure magic. The soundtrack is wonderful, the visuals and character designs are top notch, the animation is incredible, and the characters are very likable. It’s also a kids movie that forgoes a perfectly happy ending. I mean Kubo sees his mom die twice in this movie, and sees his dad stabbed in the back. It might be bloodless but it’s still kind of brutal, and I dig it. Also, the creepy sisters are just the coolest, and that fight on the sinking leaf ship? Incredible!

Basically what I’m saying is that if you samurai stuff, you’ll probably also like Kubo and the Two Strings. Go see it before it’s out of theaters, you won’t regret it! (also if you read this before seeing the movie, I’m sorry I just spoiled a bunch of stuff for you)

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  • endplanets

    Dude should play more CoD. He would have known to yell out “Cover me! I’m reloading!”

  • Xenocide

    I feel Tanaka isn’t grasping the concept that there wouldn’t just be one person trying to shoot at him.

    • leavescat

      No, he actually seems pretty sharp right now. He understands that it could be a problem, but wants to confirm the reload time. This helps him come up with a strategy against them.

      • Xenocide

        The reload time is definitely the issue. That’s why you have multiple ranks that fire alternately, so you don’t have a period of no firing during which the highly skilled samurai slices your face off.

        In this kind of situation, Ricardo is pretty much screwed unless he finishes reloading super quick. He can dodge the initial attack (or parry it and risk damaging his rifle), but after that he’s definitely not going to get time to finish reloading so he’d constantly be on the back foot.

        The combination of the inaccuracy of rifles of that period and the reload times would put a single rifleman at a pretty large disadvantage against a skilled melee opponent, but a large squad is a different matter.

        • leavescat

          An issue is that not enough rifles survived to really arm a large squad. Also while they figure that novices will be able to be decent shots rather quickly, they also may not immediately come up with perfect tactics to alleviate the rifles’ weaknesses.

          • Xenocide

            Both very good points. There’s also the issue of gunpowder; I don’t know how much they got from Ricardo but I doubt they have any dedicated chemists around to work out how to make more.

          • Kalrakh

            Also they have likely no idea about military tactics with rifles, so no idea about using several ranks shooting after each other from the start.

        • reynard61

          Actually, depending on when this takes place, the weapon that R-R-R-Ricardo would be using would be an Arquebus. (see “History”, Paragraph #4) rather than a rifle or musket.

          • clogboy

            Who’s talking about historical accuracy in this comic. 😉 Or accuracy of the rifle itself, in fact…
            Anyway, I’m going to predict that in the next five pages the bajonet will be invented (or at least mentioned).

        • Anothis Flame

          This strategy was made famous by one Nobunaga Oda, with his 4 rank Ashigaru (basicaly lightly trained peasents) musketmen. Oda employed many men in this fashion and it basically made him Shogun by itself.

          • Xenocide

            Somehow I don’t think Nataku is quite as smart as Nobunaga, but that doesn’t mean one of the other Wataro isn’t.

            Since it is a historically Japanese strategy, I guess it would make sense for one of the sides to everyday come up with it though!

  • Arkone Axon

    NOW he’s making me think of the current Pentagon brass and the F-35. He didn’t like the test results, so he’s going to skew the test.

  • Sunwu

    And lo’ Ricardo’s helicopter’s gunship appeared and struck down the non believer

    • Madison Link

      It depends on what game this is. In Age of Empires, my helicopter gunships were wiped out by a couple of tribal javelin throwers. True story.

  • SKy

    “See, it’s easy! You kill them before they shoot!”
    You know even a tiny barricade will thwart that plan, right? Or one or two soldiers covering him. Or distance. Or preloaded guns. Anything but him defenselessly standing out in the open, really…

    • Da’Zlein

      Plus, if they happen to figure out bayonets then even getting into a melee is dangerous

      • Stumpy Da Paladin

        Bayonets are a use full attachment for when muskets are as cheap and easy to field in mass formations as pike men. Until then, muskets are 2 handed boom stick that can double as a *see google image of war club* and the reason that Musket’s one handed little brother Pistol looks like a *see google image of Knobkerrie* with a barrel.

        Besides … encouraging trained battle ready musket men to engage in CQB will just damage the hard to come by muskets and kill off hard to come by combat specialists.

        • SKy

          Still… Better to kill one or two enemies more and damage your valuable gun than to just die – handing it to the enemy in the process.

          • WylleECoyote

            Dying for the shogun is what samurai are for. As a trained musket man, instead of making a glorious last stand I’d rather go stand someplace else like behind that friendly wall of pike men. Then reload the boom stick and go shoot more enemy like it’s my job. Cause it is.
            Give me an option to turn my club into a spear and I may get it in my head, (or worse my commander) to go charging into battle.

            And if the enemy has better tactics anyway and I got no place to go … better I break the gun on my foes than giving them a low cost musket.

  • foducool

    never bring a katana to a gunfight

    • Ido Jeorchim-Litman

      You got it wrong my friend.
      Never bring a gun to a swordfight.

      • Galeden

        Never bring a matchlock, powder rifle to a sword fight, and if you do, make sure its preloaded and bring a few spares.

  • Da’Zlein

    Hey kids! It’s time for a game of “What will happen next?”

    Will it be:
    A. Ricardo blocks the sword with his rifle
    B. Genchu blocks the sword with his sword
    C. Tanaka’s attack goes off without a hitch, but he’s only demonstrating so he stops before he murders Ricardo
    D. Cho bursts out of nowhere and gives weird philosophical advice
    E. Ricardo dies

    • Flaming Squirrel

      I choose F. Birdfish happens.

    • BeigePaladin

      or G. Ricardo reloads and points it in Tanaka’s face and boom happens

    • Stumpy Da Paladin

      I choose C. Tanaka is moving with a purpose. Ricardo is not.

      That said: Ricardo is a well traveled adventurous type.
      This may not be the first time that some indigenous yahoo from a savage land with a melee weapon is trying to rush him during a reload.

      so i say there is a 12% chance of A.

      followed up by a friendly musket butt to the wrist/face/skull
      (as opposed to a less friendly musket ball)

    • Xinef

      I choose J. A cliffhanger happens, as we switch to Ina and co.

    • Not Real

      You forgot one:
      Tanaka blocks the bullet with his sword.

  • Flaming Squirrel

    See, Ricardo, this is more like Chrono Trigger’s combat that Final Fantasy’s. Your opponent can attack you as soon as his meter fills. That means you can’t take your time reloading like that.

    Ohhh, man, I want to see Kubo and the Two Strings! Looks so cool! I was going to wait until I had saved a little more money (I’ve been buying more video games lately than I really should have), but if it’s dropping out of theaters, then… maybe I should splurge a little bit more.

  • IDPounder

    You mean the general actually knows how to fight? I thought he put all his ability points into Stoic and Aloof.

  • Miyto

    The party’s translator is incredibly good at translating culture.
    Maybe not Woosly good, but this totally a fisherman and not a samurai has perhaps found his calling. Provided his first customers survive the business transaction

  • Arkone Axon

    Oh, I’m also thinking of what Miyamato Musashi, said to be the greatest swordsman in Japanese history, had to say about firearms:

    “Inside castle walls, nothing compares to a gun. Even in an engagement in the open fields, there are many advantages to a gun before the battle has begun. Once the ranks have closed in battle, however, it is no longer adequate.”

    Translation: Japan’s greatest swordsman understood the value of guns. Tanaka… really needs to get over himself.

  • Rhee

    I have been hoping to catch it in theatres but not sure I’ll get a chance before it’s out! I’ll at least pick up a DVD. My kids got these dorky little toys from Burger King that are a little plastic replica of Kubo’s instrument (not sure what it actually called? I fail at Japan, sorry 😳) and it disarmingly cute, press the button and it goes ” tunkatunkatunk” just like the actual strings would sound

  • Richard Cockman

    But-but…guns need to reload, therefore they are inferior!

  • Marduk

    Guns have the psycological impact thing to go along with their danger. Some armour could even stop their bullets, but the way it freaked out horses and men cannot be underestimated.

    … er… I think.

  • Flaming Squirrel

    Hi, I’m back on this page so I can weigh in on the Kubo movie. I thought it was pretty good too, but there were a couple glaring plot holes. Such as… (spoilers incoming)… If Monkey was Kubo’s mom all along, why did she act like such a jerk at the beginning? I get that she didn’t want to tel Kubo, but she apparently also knew that her magic was running out and she’d die soon. If I were her, I’d spend that time being as nice to my son as humanly (monkeyly?) possible! And the fact that she was his mom could have been an awesome twist, but I feel like they blew it by doing it halfway through the movie. That means they had to top that twist by making Beetle Kubo’s father, which I thought was just cheesy as hell. Doing it once was cool and dramatic, doing it twice means you’re just desperate for a sappy happy ending. Not to mention that they just RAN INTO HIM IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

    Also, how did Hanzo become a beetle? Was that ever explained? He was cursed, yeah, but by who? The moon king? His daughters? Why didn’t they just kill him? He has a beetle on his crest, so did they just have a sense of irony? If so, why did they leave him as a giant humanoid beetle who can fight, instead of an actual, harmless beetle? Beetle was a fun character, but I don’t feel like his existence was justified, plot wise.

    Lastly, Kubo. He has magic paper powers. I’m okay with that. His mom does too. Again, I am okay with that. My problem is that they never explain how their powers work. Presumably, they have them because they’re both celestial beings or descendants of celestial beings. But then… why paper? The sisters and the grandfather never show any connection to paper at all, they just kinda do whatever they want. So, why can Kubo and his mom only control paper? It’s not because they choose to, because when they’re doing it in their sleep paper is still the only thing affected. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, if Kubo hadn’t turned the Moon King human at the end of the movie. I mean, I know this is a kid’s movie and I shouldn’t be analyzing it this deeply, but my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson, has a saying: “Your ability to resolve conflict with magic depends entirely on your reader’s understanding of how that magic works.” We have no flipping idea how Kubo’s magic works. Sure, he control paper. That’s fine. But how does controlling paper translate in any way to turning literal gods into mortal humans, restoring their eyesight, and erasing their memory? Why did Kubo even do that? Kubo started the fight saying he was going to kill him, and Moonie did absolutely nothing (that I can recall, anyway) to change his mind and make Kubo pity him enough for a merciful ending like that. And, while we’re on that topic, why did the villagers just go along with it? Heck, they weren’t even “going along” with anything, they started doing it before Kubo had even said anything. MAKE SENSE STORY NO DOES.

    But yeah, it was an enjoyable movie, plot holes or not. I liked the animation, and the music was cool. And I agree, the battle on the sinking ship was awesome. It’s weird that I’m able to write that big, long list of complaints and then still say it was a good movie, but ultimately it just does more right than it did wrong, and the characters were fun enough to watch to make up for it. Plus, you know, it’s a kid’s movie. 😛

    • suburban_samurai

      I do think the story’s emotional intent is clear, and it works because of that, but its plot is definitely running on the fairy tale style of magic, where stuff just happens and everyone rolls with it. Sanderson is my favorite author, too, so I’m always aware through him that magic systems that follow a logical flow are immensely satisfying, but if the story itself is more interested in the characters’ emotional responses to events and less interested in the how and why of the events themselves, the story can still provide a solid and satisfying arc.

      I would argue with you that beetle is there just to provide a happy ending! At the end of the day, his parents were still murdered in front of him, and his change to spend once last moment with their spirits struck me as very bittersweet. I think Beelte/Hanzo is there to provide Kubo with a complete emotional arc. He longs for his parents as he envisions them, meets them in reality and accepts them for who they are, loves them, whatevs. Then they die and he uses the power of their memories to fulfill their wish of keeping him safe from his grandfather. Without Beetle the movie would require significant plot changes or a new title, I think. But, yeah, his introduction is very random.

      • Flaming Squirrel

        Maybe I’m alone, but Kubo’s parents’ deaths didn’t really get to me. I felt like it was rushed. Like, Monkey Mom was already dying, and then the aunt stabbed Beetle/Hanzo and he died almost immediately. Then the story just moves on, without Kubo pausing to mourn his parents at all. Not showing how Kubo felt about it kept me, as the viewer, from really feeling anything either.

        • suburban_samurai

          Squirrel, I give you permission to not be emotionally moved by Kubo! In fact, my favorite thing about the movie was probably the same as yours, the audio/visual presentation. It captured my imagination and it was a joy to behold, so much so that it transcended its undercooked plot.

        • Jake

          Please bear in mind i have yet to see this movie though i am familiar with some of the context of it. A child, especially following the catastrophic loss of one’s parents combined with the need to get to safety far and away from the thing/people that killed what are traditionally strong protectors to a child tend to shut
          down deeper emotions in said child. That being said, a spirited child will find some way to secure for themselves a more permanent form of safety before they will settle down to sift through more complicated emotions like grief, et cetera. but in special circumstances they might just destroy what pursues them in order to achieve the safety goal. sure they might call it “vengeance” but ultimately it’s to ensure their safety and to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

          on second thought, i just might be reading too much into this and just see the movie.

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