The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, vol. 1
Writer/artist: Akira Himekawa
Viz Media; $9.99
Rated T for Teen
The big news regarding the world of Hyrule is the release of the new Legend of Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, for the new Nintendo Switch game system. This month also sees the release of the first volume of a new manga series adapting a previous Zelda game, however, the 2006 game Twilight Princess.
That particular game may be over a decade old now, but the stories of the Zelda games are all essentially timeless, and they don’t age the way that, say, videogame graphics, game play or storytelling techniques might. As a sort of high fantasy series with a fairly elemental quest structure, in which a hero generally has to save a princess from an villainous wizard, it’s not like the characters or adventures can ever really be presented in a way that make them feel dated.
So it is with the comic by “Akira Himekawa,” the shared pen-name of women A. Honda and S. Nagano, the creative team responsible for ten previous Legend of Zelda comics sagas. This being the first volume, there is an awful lot of set-up, with the entire first chapter or so detailing a full-scale creation myth of Hyrule and its ancient past.
Long, long ago a group of powerful wizards tried to conquer the world with their magical powers, but spirits of light intervened, banishing them to The Twilight Realm beyond The Mirror of Shadows. In this sister, shadow realm to the everyday, real world of light, they continued their existence, eventually becoming forgotten. The princess of the realm, Midna, was usurped by her late father’s evil adviser Zant, who wanted to escape their realm and again attempt to conquer the world of light.
Meanwhile, the mysterious elf-eared young man named Link has spent the past year and a half enjoying a rather idyllic life in a small village, where he serves as a ranch hand, and almost no one suspects that before he arrived there, he had trained to be a swordsman. Team Himekawa spends plenty of their initial page count detailing how happy his life there has become, but slowly there are hints that something wrong is encroaching on the village. By the book’s climax, the village girl who likes him and the little boy who idolizes him are captured by a huge and scary warrior after a raid by various goblins and shadow creatures, and when Link gives chase he finds himself being transformed…into a wolf?
The original Twilight Princess game was notable among those in the franchise for its darker tone—it was the first of the games to earn a T for teen rating—and Himekawa demonstrate that tone throughout this first volume. Though happy-go-lucky most of the time, their Link is haunted, having terrible, almost PTSD-like dreams, and getting moody and anxious at twilight, when day starts to evaporate into night. His battle with the warrior is violent, but not gory, in a rather Star Wars-like way: He gets his arm chopped off, but it is magically replaced.
Video games rarely make good source material for film adaptations, but comics—or at least manga—are a different story altogether. Both film and comics are more passive media than video games, as you’re taking the information in rather than playing it, but the many pages that Himekawa can devote to the material at least echo one aspect of the Zelda games, the sense of exploring the world of Hyrule.
As the opening book in the series, there is a lot of stuff to explore here, and while it’s a slow boil to the eventual surfacing of the action and conflict, the creators carefully detail this particular corner of Hyrule and foreshadow what is coming.
I imagine fans of the game franchise will enjoy it. I know it stands up perfectly well as an enjoyable fantasy comic regardless of one’s experience with or affection for that game franchise, however.