Monkey (also known in her God form as Satiaru) is the simian heroine of the animated movie Kubo and the Two Strings.
At first, it appeared that she was the monkey talisman brought to life by Satiaru (Kubo's mother) in form of a nihonzaru, also known as a Japanese macaque, whom presented as bossy, no-nonsense, and strict guardian for Kubo. However, after the fight against Karasu, one of Kubo's wicked twin aunts and Kubo's encounter with the Garden of Eyes, it's revealed that Monkey is, in fact, the reincarnated form and alter ego of Satiaru herself.
Satiaru implied herself to be dark and cold-hearted during her early life up until meeting Hanzo and obviously not hestitate to assassinate him. But upon him declared his newfound love for her, Satiaru discovered warmer emotions in form of happiness and love for the first time in her life, as she immediately married him and have a child. Through the said short-lived happiness, she later learned fear, loss, sadness, and concern for those whom close to her as well. It's worth mentioned that her earlier newfound emotions were absent from Heaven during Moon King's reign.
During her screen time as deity when raising Kubo, Satiaru often seen in catatonic state due to injuries sustained from battle in the sea as seen on the beginning of the film and still coping with the supposed death of her husband and concerned on her son's safety. But she actually capable to be a loving mother as well as fun-loving who more active at night, perhaps due to her origin as nocturnal deity just like Moon King and her sisters. Her change as mother and more humane person made her realized how monstrous her father Moon King and her sisters can be, and knows that one day, they must be dealed with one way or another. She also proved to be fiercely protective regarding her son's safety, and even resorted to fight for death if deemed necessary.
As Monkey, Satiaru is enigmatic, no-nonsense, and tough person whom not easily trust other people whom she just met while retaining her courageous and fierce persona. As the movie progressed, she started to developed warmer personality, particularly since her true identity exposed by Garden of Eyes. On an interesting fact, she was more active as Monkey due to her consciousness moved onto a better body.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Satiaru started her life as the eldest daughter of Raiden the Moon King. Being the most powerful and skillful from the rest of the Moon King's children, Satiaru was looked up to by her twin sisters Karasu and Washi. One day, she and her siblings were sent by the Moon King to assassinate Hanzo for his questioning over the way the Moon King handled his authority over Heaven and Earth. Confident with her abilities, Satiaru arrives before her sister does and challenged Hanzo to a fight all by herself. In spite of her skills which exceeding that of mortals, Hanzo is surprisingly able to hold his own that neither of them can kill the other.
Their fight however, abruptly ends with neither of them emerging victorious, as Hanzo, whom unexpectedly fell in love with his opponent, says something that melted Satiaru's cold heart: "You are my quest". As a result, Satiaru's newfound infatuation and genuine love for him blossomed that she dropped her sword, and they immediately married. Their union resulted in the birth of their son, Kubo.
Escaping from the Moon King's Invasion
Sadly, this love angered the Moon King and Satiaru's sisters, who saw this as both an act of betrayal on Satiaru's part, as well as theft on Hanzo's. They attacked Hanzo's fortress, killed every guardsman and samurai that stood in their path for Kubo and Satiaru. During the battle, the Moon King managed to pluck Kubo's left eye, but before he could take the remaining eye, Hanzo interfered and sacrificed himself so Satiaru and the child could escape. Satiaru believes that Hanzo perished in the battle, but little did she know that Raiden and his daughters stripped Hanzo of his memories and cursed him into the form of a humanoid beetle-like creature that retained his human face.
Now, hot in pursuit of the Moon King, Satiaru rides a boat across the ocean, the point where the film began. The Moon King summoned a tidal wave in order to kill them, but Satiaru uses her magic to cleave the wave into two, giving them a safe path to move forward. Even so, another wave comes and destroys the boat, which nearly killed her and Kubo. Although alive, Satiaru's head was knocked onto a rock underwater, the injury thus left her with a wounded right eye giving her a scar. Discovering a small cave on the huge rock on the beach, she established the cave as her new home.
Sacrifice and Reincarnation into Monkey
While raising Kubo for eleven years with care, Satiaru is mostly in catatonic state most of the time, both due to coping with Hanzo's presumed death and concern with Kubo's safety. One day, when she was in the best mood, she recounted legendary adventures, in which Hanzo underwent while keeping Kubo away from realizing that Hanzo and her husband are the same person, but for some reason suddenly stopped on the part of his arrival at his home, the Beetle Clan Fortress. She did, however, tell Kubo that her husband sacrificed himself to protect both of them from Raiden and her aunts. Kubo wondered why his grandfather and aunts attacked them and stole his eye, and Satiaru stated that they're monsters (due to their lack of humanity's heart and begged him to remain hidden from night sky as it would endanger him again. Kubo didn't know how traumatized she was until she had a nightmare that caused his origami papers to fly uncontrollably.
During their time spent inside the cave, Satiaru had apparently passed on her musical skills with the shamisen to her son, as well as the magical powers that seemingly came with it. After growing up a little, Kubo would leave the cave during daytime in order to perform origami puppet shows to the nearby village using his magical instrument, but always returned back to the cave just before the sun set. After returning home, Kubo would recollect his experiences in the village to his mother. And as she stood listening to his tales of the mundane Satiaru's true, nurturing personality would resurface, something Kubo took notice of.
Even with her reminding Kubo not to stay out after night, it didn’t guarantee that they remained hidden from the Moon King forever. On the next day, Satiaru realized Kubo didn’t go home in time due to him attempting to speak to his supposed deceased father’s spirit. After finally staying past the sunset, Kubo was notices by his grandfather and was chased after by Karasu and Washi, his aunts. Karasu and Washi lay waste onto the village as they after him, and when hope seemed lost, Satiaru stepped in and unleashed a powerful wave. Since she knew of the possibility of them eventually being discovered by the Moon King’s forces, Satiaru enchanted the Beetle Clan crest on Kubo’s kimono to send Kubo away to far off lands in order to retake the Sword of Unbreakable, the Breatplate of Impenetrable, and the Helmet Invulnerable, armors and a weapon that allowed the user to harm and kill a deity. As Kubo helplessly watches, Satiaru being destroyed by her sisters, he plucked a strand of his mother's hair and flew off into the distance.
Even so, Satiaru was only able to stall her sisters, and knowing that the quest proved too much for her son ti handle alone, she had her consciousness transferred inside Kubo’s monkey charm named Mr. Monkey and enchanted it. By possessing the charm, she reincarnated herself into white-furred ape and taking a new identity named Monkey.
New Life as Monkey
In her reincarnated form, Monkey approached the recovered Kubo and told him about destruction that she (as Satiaru) left behind and Satiaru has gave her life for his survival. Kubo of course, was afraid and confused, but is convinced to go find shelter with her inside the carcass of a blue whale. Before entering, Monkey stated that Kubo shouldn't complain about the smell since his sense of smell is 10 times weaker than hers, which for her in retrospect, was not good for her monkey senses.
As they rest in the shelter, Monkey cooked whale soup inside a seashell for diner, with Kubo wondering who and why Monkey was with him. Monkey only allowed him to asked 3 question. From those 3 questions, Monkey revealed her origin as the wooden monkey charm Kubo named Mr. Monkey, which Monkey found insulting due to her being female. Monkey stated that Satiaru brought her to life in form of a nihonzaru with the last of her magic before asking him to drink the soup which Kubo reluctantly drink due to smell which actually, least bad compared with in their shelter. She gets angry with him and snaps, reminding him that his aunts and grandfather were so powerful that they do to rest nor eat and would stop at nothing to remove his last remaining eye. She then tells him that the both of them must rest and be well-prepared for the journey ahead. Monkey proposed that they must find the armor, sword, and helmet, just before noticing the strand of hair from Satiaru that Kubo kept around his hand. Recognizing her mortal self’s hair, Monkey goes for reach it, but Kubo prevent her to do so. Kubo stated that he got it when Satiaru flew him away for the Far Lands, but Monkey stated that how she flew the boy away was thanks to enchantments he put on his robe that would grew wings that flew him away in emergency. Kubo allows Moneky to take the strand, which she then wraps around his left hand in the form of a bracelet.
Little Hanzo's Guidance
On the morning of the following day, Monkey noticed that Kubo had a dream which resulted in one of his papers morphed into an origami samurai named little Hanzo. Kubo stated that this usually happened while his mother slept, but those papers would eventually returned to their place. However, his dream somehow made this origami creature remain it its form and was waiting for them to wake up. Kubo noticed that it was trying to guide them on something. Though she remained skeptical with little Hanzo’s intention, she stated that it would be their only lead in finding the armor and the sword.
Journey through the snow and meeting Beetle
Monkey and Kubo followed the origami Hanzo through the snowy landscape, all the while exchanging banter between one another. Monkey displayed a sardonic wit while Kubo complained about her attitude, which he found mean. Unbeknownst to them, a stranger takes notice and fallows them to a nearby buried statue o a warrior. The stranger grabs Kubo and the origami Hanzo and makes his way into the tunnels beneath the statue. Monkey chases after them and finds them inside a chamber filled with a number of samurai equipment. Just as she is about to stab the stranger Kubo interrupts her, revealing that the enigmatic Beetle humanoid was merely fascinated with the origami statuette because it reminded him of Hanzo. The stranger, known simply as Beetle, identifies himself as an amnesiac, but is sure that he must have been a samurai of the Beetle Clan, working directly under Hanzo himself. Although Monkey is reasonably wary of Beetle, Kubo immediately takes a shy to him, revealing to Beetle his Beetle clan robe as well as that Hanzo was his father. beetle is overjoyed with this news and as a result offers to assist them on their quest. But Monkey further doubts the amnesiac and asks in what manner could he be useful. To that end Beetle demonstrates his remarkable archery skills by shooting four consecutive arrows into a wall, Robin Hood style. She begrudgingly agrees to have Beetle tag along, but none the less reminds him that she distrusts him in a snide manner.
Skirmish in the Hall of Bones
The newly formed trio travel through a series of underground tunnels, with Kubo reciting his and Monkey's story up to that point, until the group comes across a cave entrance shaped like a human skull. Monkey warns the two not to touch anything, but Beetle accidentally activates a mechanism after removing one of the entrance's "teeth". There is a cave in and the trio land inside a decorative chamber wherein a giant, skeletal hand is impaled with a sword. They assume it to be The Sword Unbreakable so Beetle removes it from the hand. This only proves to be a trap as the hand, along with several other bones levitate and fuse to the body of a Gashadokuro, a giant skeleton. Moneky takes the sword away from Beetle and lashes at the skeleton, only to have the sword break on impact with its foot. The trio then notice several swords embedded in the monster's skull and a fight ensues. Monkey is grabbed by the Ganshadokuro, which prompts Beetle and Kubo to fire at him with arrows and origami projectiles. While captive, Monkey is able to grab onto two of the swords in the monster's head, but neither of them is the Sword Unbreakable since they break on impact with the skull. Just as the the monster is about to stomp on them, Beetle saves Kubo after realizing that he can fly. The two fly over the skeleton and land on its head, where they begin searching for the sword. But, the Gashadokuro grabs Beetle and tosses Kubo to a wall. Beetle rescues the boy by pinning him with an arrow shot in his robe. Finally, after landing yet again on the monster's skull, Kubo removes the real Sword Unbreakable and the Gashadokuro collapses, just before it could bite Monkey and Beetle to death. While falling Beetle sprouts his wings, grabs Monkey and Kubo and flies outside the chamber, escaping through another skull-faced entrance and crashing on a sandy beach of the Long Lake.
Battle in Long Lake and True Identity Revealed
While on the beach Monkey treats Beetles injured wings with an ointment, much to his pleasure. After that she informs him and Kubo that they have to walk around the Long Lake, but Beetle suggests swimming across instead. An argument breaks out, wherein Monkey claims to know what's best, both for the mission and Kubo's well-being. During their fight, Kubo uses his shamisen's magic to conjure up a ship out of the fallen leaves and dead logs. Both Monkey and Beetle are very impressed of Kubo's powers, although Monkey retains her dry-wit, humorously calling Kubo "show-off". While sailing across the Long Lake, the trio continue bonding, akin to that of a family, with Monkey and Beetle fliting with one another. Monkey helps with the fishing by tying a rope to an arrow so that Kubo can pull fish out using archery taught to him by Beetle. She also cuts the fish with the Sword Unbreakable, and later, while eating dinner, she prompts her two comrades not to play with their food. After dinner Kubo, at the behest of Beetle, tells them of the time spent with his mother and how happy he was whenever he told her stories because they made her feel alive again. Just then, Monkey climbs the ship's mast and notices that a storm cloud approaches and that the sun is about to set, to which she tells them to sail back to shore. But before they can react the little origami Hanzo points towards the location of the Breastplate Impenetrable, directly under the lake. Beetle once gain offers to go after the second piece of the armor, but Kubo warns him of the Garden of Eyes that dwells beneath the lake and how it ensnares unsuspecting victims with visions, as was told to him by his mother. Regardless, Beetle jumps after the helmet, after which Monkey wisperss him good luck.
As nighttime falls, Beetle still hasn't returned from under the water, so Kubo decides to jump in after him. Monkey follows after them, but before she could hit the water she is dragged back onto the ship by her sister, Karasu. The two start fighting, with Karasu continually mocking the earth and its inhabitants fore their weaknesses, while Monkey defends them, claiming there were things worth fighting for their. Mid-way through the fight, Beetle returns with an arrow and fish that he lost while fishing. Monkey tells him to go back down after Kubo, to which the amnesiac does. Monkey continues her fight, during which she is critically injured on the left side of her waist by Karasu's chain claw. The fight ends with Monkey killing Karasu, either slicing the latter in half or merely stabbing her in the head, since the sister's mask was seen cleft in half. With the fight over, Beetle returns with an unconscious Kubo, now clad in the Breastplate Impenetrable. Kubo survived and used his magic to rebuild the ship after being damaged in the previous fight. While under the influence of the Garden of Eyes, Kubu discovered that Monkey was in truth his mother, which brings them both great happiness.
The trio land the ship on a beach and make camp inside a nearby cave. Beetle and Kubo are curious as to Satiaru's current simian form and beg Monkey to tell them her story. Monkey agrees, but only if Kubo provides accompany music and his usual magical puppet show. She reveals to them the story of how she met Hanzo, how they fell in love and their eventual tragedy at the hands of her father. Kubo asks why does his grandfather hate him so much, to which Monkey replies that the Moon King doesn't want to harm him out of malice, but rather so that Kubo may transcend to god-hood, an action that would strip the boy of his humanity. Kubo swears never to become like his grandfather. After tucking her son to bed, Monkey moans over the wound inflicted by Karasu previously. Although Beetle tries to help she dismisses it. Beetle asks her why she didn't inform Kubo sooner of her identity, to which Monkey says that the magics keeping her on earth were fading and she only intended to live long enough so that Kubo could remaind safe. Beetle vows to protect Kubo after she had gone, but also comforts her with the thought that Kubo will continue telling her story to those around her, and thus will live forever through her son.
Visiting Hanzo's Fortress and Demise
The following morning, Monkey and Beetle are woken up by an excited Kubo who had learned of the Helmet Invulnerable's whereabouts in a dream he had the night before. The trio travel across a partially snow covered forest where they notice a flock of golden heron, to which Monkey tells them that these birds are believed to carry the souls of the dearly departed into the afterlife. Later that night the trio arrives to the derelict Beetle Clan Fortress. Inside the fortress they come across Hanzo's study, wherein the whereabouts of the Sword Unbreakable, Breastplate Impenetrable and Helmet Invulnerable are recorded, although the helmet, which they believe to be their is nowhere to be found. Monkey notices a scroll that reveals the helmet's true location, but before she can inform Beetle and Kubo, the trio are ambushed by Washi, the last of her sisters. Washi expresses her disappointment in Satiaru, as well as her hatred for Beetle whom she reveals to be the cursed Hanzo. After tossing him aside, Washi proceeds to have Kubo's other eye gauged out, but the boy breaks free and damages his aunts mask. A battle between Monkey and Washi ensues, where the younger sibling gains the upper hand by hitting Monkey in her wounded waist. The battle is cut short as Beetle impales Washi with a katana. He then rushes after his wife to tend to her. Having finally been reunited with her Hanzo repeats his words that had started their love "You are my guest", followed by "You always have been!" Unfortunately their reunion is cut short as Washi stabs Hanzo in the back and continues her onslaught. Kubo reacts to the fight, he picks up his shamisen and with a wave of magical power seemingly destroys his aunt, but before the latter succeeds in killing her sister. What's left of Monkey has been transformed back into a broken monkey charm.
Reuniting with her son and husband
With both his parents dead, Kubo is forced to undergo the quest all on his own. The boy flies back to the village, where the Helmet Invulnerable had been used as a bell to announce the time of day. With the armor now completed Kubo challenges his grandfather to a fight. Raiden initially tries to sway Kubo to his side, but the boy remains loyal to his mother's teachings, thus the fight commences. Halfway through the conflict, the boy decides to use his mother's teachings in order to defeat Raiden. So Kubo uses the strand he kept of his mother's hair, along with the bow string of his father's, and a strand of his own hair as strings for his shamisen. Raiden approaches Kubo to finish the fight, but the young man is able to defeat him by invoking the magic of the dearly departed.
With the Moon King vanquished, Kubo remains in the village in order to lay his parents to rest during the local Bon Festival. As he places his parents' paper lanterns into the river, the spirits of Satiaru and Hanzo, now restored to their true human forms, sit by his side.
Powers and Abilities
As a previous deity, Satiaru was an immortal of infinite strength and stamina, who did not need to eat nor sleep, but soon lost those powers after becoming human. While in this form she was far stronger then her younger sisters. As a monkey, Satiaru benefited from her newly acquired agility, dexterity and enhanced senses.
Swordsmanship - In both her godly and simian forms Satiaru was an exceptional practitioner of kenjutsu, able to fight off hordes of enemies and could hold her own against the accomplished samurai Hanzo.
Musical and magical talents - Aside from her martial training, Satiaru could play the shamisen and channel her magic through her music. She used this magic to summon waves of energy that could slice tidal waves in half, slay her immortal sisters and even bring origami paper to life, talents she had passed on to her son. She had also enchanted her son's robe with the power of flight, with wings growing out off the robe's back should he need to make a quick escape or just fly off into the distance. Aside from these, Satiaru could transfer her soul inside the monkey charm she had given to Kubo, in the process becoming an anthropomorphic Japanese macaque.
Monkey skills - As Monkey, Satiaru possessed all the skills that came with being an ape. She had an enhanced sense of smell, ten times stronger then that of a human, and enhanced agility, muscles and opposable thumbs on her feet, which allowed her to climbs surfaces faster than any human as well as jump higher that them. Despite the usually clumsy hands presented in apes, Monkey's dexterity and hand-eye coordination were not hindered as she could grab and use any object just as well as when she was a god, be it a ladle for cooking or a katana.
- Hanzo's declaration of love to Satiaru: "You are my Quest! You always have been!", is reused during the movie's credits by the director as a love letter towards his own parents, furthering the movie's theme of family love.
- According to the movie's director, Travis Knight, actress Charlize Theron was brought in the role of Monkey because she could demonstrate both the struggle and the joy of a mother raising her children.
- Contrary to the movie's claims, Japanese macaques have no qualms with getting wet or being partially submerged in water. In fact, during winter, these apes bath in hot springs to keep themselves warm.