Manga Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1
VIZ Media just released the first volume of their latest Legend of Zelda manga adaptation, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by Akira Himekawa. VIZ was nice enough to send us an advanced copy for us to review so we can tell you what we at Legion of Leia thought about it. Disclaimer: I never got to play Twilight Princess; I had to ask my friends who have played the game a lot of questions. Warning: mild spoilers ahead.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Once upon a time, wizards tried to conquer the Sacred Realm of Hyrule. The Spirits of Light sealed the wizards’ power within the Shadow Crystal and banished them to the Twilight Realm beyond the Mirror of Twilight. Now, an evil menace is trying to find Midna, Princess of the Twilight Realm, and the fragments of the Shadow Crystal to gain the power to rule over both the Twilight Realm and the World of Light.
Link once trained in swordsmanship, hoping to protect the land of Hyrule. After disaster struck, he sought out the anonymity and peace of life in small village. But danger and adventure always find heroes to set things right, and when the dark minions of the King of Shadows threaten his new home, Link answers the call!
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1 covers the entire Ordon Village section at the beginning of the game. Link has been living in the village for a year and a half. He’s is a ranch hand, beloved by all. He’s especially popular with the kids — Talo, Malo, Colin and Beth — as well as the mayor’s daughter Ilia. He’s not much of a slacker as he’s usually depicted in the games, but he is all about those Rupees. It tickled me to see our hero brazenly ask for 500 Rupees an hour for helping a villager haul fire wood into the village. Guy’s gotta eat, right? Did I mention Link has actual dialogue in this manga? He’s definitely not the silent type, but he does have a lot of things on his mind lately.
From the beginning, we get a sense that this version Link has a tragic past that he doesn’t ever want to discuss. As soon as the sun goes down, Link is a more solemn person, and he definitely has a deep fear of darkness. Ominous nightmares about monsters attacking him in pitch black plague him throughout the night, and they’re only getting worse. He desperately wants to just live in peace at Ordon Village for as long as he can, but his past seems to be catching up with him.
There are points in the story where the mayor and Rusl (the only real swordsman in the village) want him to present a sword to the King of Hyrule. Link flat out refuses and dodges every chance at giving them a reason why. When Rusl brings it up again, he also offers an apprenticeship to become Ordon’s second swordsman. Again he refuses and even gets all moody and angry.
It isn’t until after Talo and Malo are lost in the woods after dark that we learn of Link’s past. He confesses Rusl that he used to live in a desert village where he was training to become a royal guard. He and his companions sneak around one night to pull a fabled sword out from its stone pedestal. Only Link is able to do it, but also unleashes an overwhelming force of darkness. As a result, the entire town and its inhabitants disappear without a trace. Everyone but him. Instead of finding a way to bring them back, he runs away as far as Ordon Village and hides his identity. This secret shame is also why he refuses the job to take the sword to Hyrule for fear of someone at court recognizing him.
While all of this is happening, we catch glimpses of dark forces seeping through this world from the Twilight Realm where the villain Zant has taken over. Zant aims to combine the Twilight Realm with the World of Light and subject both to perpetual darkness. But he needs all four shards of the Shadow Crystal to help make that happen. The Twilight Princess has one shard, and the other three are protected by the three spirits of light. Zant’s minions begin to appear outside of Ordon Village and, slowly but surely, disrupt their peaceful way of life.
Zant’s minions start killing the villagers who are still in the woods looking for Talo and Malo. Some manage to make it to the village where they kidnap Colin and Ilia, who is badly injured. Link catches up to the monster boss who is holding his friends captive at the spring. He fights to save them, but is overpowered. His left arm gets cleaved off and they all leave him to die. The spirit of the spring reattaches Link’s arm and revives him, telling him that he has job that still needs to be done. On his way back to the village, he stumbles upon a strange gate. An arm grabs him and pulls him in. As soon as he crosses over (into the Twilight Realm), he immediately changes into a wolf and loses consciousness. At the end of the book, we see Midna witnessing Wolf Link being dragged away by a bokoblin.
In case you haven’t realized already, the manga version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a loose adaptation of the video game. It keeps with the important parts of the source material, and then takes a few artistic liberties with the rest.
We’re introduced to the real Twilight Princess right away at the beginning of the manga, just before Zant stages a coup and forces her out. Zelda doesn’t really appear at all except for one page where she’s mentioned by someone else. From what my friend could recall, Link didn’t have a tragic past in the game. I’m not going to pretend to know why Akira Himekawa (a pseudonym for two women, A. Honda and S. Nagano) added this part to Link’s story, but it certainly adds a layer to our tragic hero’s history. Not only that but it also gives Link more of a reason to fight. In the games, Link has always been the type of character who just takes up his sword to save Hyrule without question. Allowing a traumatized Link to have a good year and a half of peace and happiness and then rip it away from him is good motivation for him to take up the sword again so he can fight to earn that peace again.
Twilight Princess has always been regarded as one of the darkest games in the series, next to Majora’s Mask. The manga adds to that established tone by making the monsters more sinister, more ugly, and more dangerous. We actually see a villager get speared through by a bokoblin. I’m told that Link’s arm never gets cut off in the game, he just gets knocked out.
The artwork is well-done. It’s definitely on par with other manga favorites out there. I spent more time just staring at the artwork than I did reading. I mean…just look at the detail on this spread!
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1 is a joy to read. I will say that takes a while to finally get to Link’s first fight. The book spends most of its time building up how good Link has it in Ordon Village. Until the final chapter of the book, the way this story is set up does just enough to tell the reader that Link’s life is just a false sense of security. When Link’s fight to save his friends finally does happen, it gets dark and brutal pretty quickly.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Vol. 1 available now in stores. The series is rated T for Teens. The print MSRP is $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN. Volumes will be released on a yearly basis.
- I like that Himekawa too the time to show Link switching from his right hand to his left. It’s a nice little nod to when Twilight Princess was revamped for HD on the Wii U. Not only was the game given better graphics, but gamers also noticed that it was a mirror image of the original. In other words, Link suddenly went from left-handed to right handed.
- I’m officially shipping Link and Ilia. The village girls always have a thing for Link in every game, but the small attraction that we see here in the book seems to be mutual.
- Check out Akira Himekawa’s other works, also available now. There are now collected editions of Ocarina of Time, Oracle of Seasons/Ages, The Minish Cap & Phantom Hourglass, and Majora’s Mask & A Link to the Past.