LAIKA, the acclaimed stop-motion animation studio that brought you Coraline and ParaNorman, recently released the trailer for its latest feature Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic adventure set in fantastical Japan.
The story centers on a young boy named Kubo who lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down. On the run from gods and monsters, Kubo must find a magical suit of armor once worn by his father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known.
The movie looks incredible. Check out this trailer:
Looks pretty badass.
In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. It is a quiet existence — until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.
So here’s my gripe: this badass-looking animated feature set in fantastical Japan stars, like, the whitest voice cast ever. Art Parkinson. Ralph Fiennes. Rooney Mara. Charlize Theron. Matthew McConaughey. This would have been a pretty cool opportunity to feature a Japanese American or Asian American voice cast.
It’s great that someone thought to include the voices of George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. But hell, their voices should just be included in every animated movie because their voices are dope.
I know. It’s just voices, you say — you don’t actually get to see any of the actors. And “stars” are more marketable. But let’s be real. Nobody is buying a ticket to this mind-blowing, visually-stunning animated movie because they’ll get to hear the voices of Ralph Fiennes or Matthew Effin’ McConaughey.
I’d argue that it makes the work more whole if animated Asian characters are voiced by Asian voice actors — even in unaccented English, when it seemingly shouldn’t matter. You don’t have to do it. You don’t need it. But these pieces add to the bigger, fuller picture. Mulan did it. Big Hero 6 did it. Up did it. And those movies are better because they starred the voices of Ming-Na Wen, Ryan Potter, Jordan Nagai, etc.
But dude, I’ll probably still go watch this.
Kubo and the Two Strings will be released in theaters on August 19.
Phil Yu is the founder, editor, and primary blogger behind Angry Asian Man, the web’s foremost destination for all things Asian American. He also co-hosts the YouTube series Angry Asian America for ISAtv.