This book contains two Legend of Zelda stories, The Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass, each a modified version of the stories told in the games.

In The Minish Cap, a young hero in training seeks to show off his sword skills in a tournament at the annual Picori Festival. However, his sensei tells Link he needs more training before he can compete. Dismayed, our hero attends the festival with his friend, the princess Zelda, who attempts to cheer him up. The festival fun is soon interrupted by a mysterious stranger named Vaati, a powerful mage who not only wins the tournament but destroys the sacred chest imprisoning the evil spirits of their world. When Princess Zelda tries to stop him, she is cursed and turned to stone. To save her and defeat Vaati, Link must seek out the help of the Picori, small, helpful creatures who can only be seen by children who believe in their legend. With assistance from a talkative green cap, Link must travel unfamiliar lands on a quest to repair the sacred sword, lift the curse on the princess, and defeat Vaati.

In Phantom Hourglass, the seafaring adventurers Link and Tetra cross paths with the legendary ghost ship. What starts as a curious adventure onto the ship quickly goes south as Tetra is imprisoned by the ship and Link is washed ashore on a distant island. Ciela, a fairy, finds him and leads him to Grandpa Oshus, a wise old man with great knowledge about the world. To rescue Tetra, Oshus advises that Link teams up with the cowardly sea captain Linebeck, a treasure-motivated sailor with a mysterious past. They soon learn that to lift the curse they will need to find the mystical Phantom Hourglass and to fill it with the Sand of Hours, which is scattered across the sea in island temples guarded by monsters. They set forth, with Linebeck’s cowardice offset by Link’s determination to save his friend.

The first story is overwhelmingly adorable, from the art style to the overdramatic characters and the fluffy plot, which is fitting for The Minish Cap. The plot is motivated much less by action and much more by the characters’ desire to be strong and brave. Scenes of friendship and interpersonal bonding are prioritized over monster fight scenes in terms of page length. It is a little bit strange to see a Zelda story more or less removed from the games’ trademark puzzles. Himekawa works hard to incorporate game items that would normally be won in dungeons in the games. Some items, like the mole mitts, are introduced without much explanation, but other items are presented as being gifts from the Picori to aid Link.

Linebeck is portrayed really well in Phantom Hourglass. He’s a multi-faceted character with depth who shows growth throughout the story. He’s a perfect complement to our determined and kind-hearted hero; while his actions are admirable, Link doesn’t show much growth in this story, though he remains a lovable and inspiring friend. The Phantom Hourglass story has a bit more of a serious tone than The Minish Cap—the villains are scarier, the challenges are harder, and there’s a lot more action and tension.

Each story includes rough character illustrations, and The Minish Cap offers a few funny one-page stories about Vaati. The end of the book has a behind-the-scenes peek at the artistic process of Akira Himekawa, who is actually a collaboration of two artists. We get some brief insight into how they translate a game into a book, from plot construction and writing dialogue to inking by hand before scanning for the final digital touches. Himekawa has worked on many different Zelda stories. When creating a new manga, they center each story around a theme: The Minish Cap is themed “fairy tales” and Phantom Hourglass is “jokes.” The characters are incredibly expressive and their style really captures the feeling of a Zelda game. They’ve incorporated a lot of humor into the dialogue and the plot, creating their own playful interpretation of the stories. The stories focus greatly on friendship and of course, the balance of power, wisdom, and courage.

This book is a traditional manga that reads right to left. As with most translated manga, there are a handful of typos, but it doesn’t detract from the story. The construction of the paperback is gorgeous: a matte cover with metallic accents, with the first nine pages of the book in full color. This book could easily be shelved in a juvenile or young adult collection. It’s sure to attract a range of readers due the popularity of the Legend of Zelda franchise and the lighthearted stories. In regards to content warnings, there is some fantasy violence, brief talk of death, and a little bit of bathroom humor.

While the stories are by no means a substitute/novelization of the games, this book is a wonderful companion to them, especially for readers who are more interested in the plot than the gameplay. In fact, it’s fortunate that the book is not too close to the game—otherwise our hero would not have much to say at all! (hyaaa!)

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap/Phantom Hourglass
by Akira Himekawa
ISBN: 9781421589626
Viz, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

  • Maria Aghazarian

    Past Reviewer

    Maria Aghazarian is a librarian at Swarthmore College and the Lower Merion library system, in the stretch of southeastern Pennsylvania otherwise known as the “greater Philadelphia area.” Her love of graphic novels started with manga in middle school, but exploded after graduating college when she learned that superheroes aren’t the be-all and end-all of comics. She aims to support small and independent presses, and manufacturers of sturdy bookcases.

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