Princess Zelda has had a vision: evil is approaching Hyrule. Her maidens gather, and with the young hero Link, they check on the Four Sword, a sword driven into a stone seal in a hidden temple. The sword is the only thing that holds back the power of the evil mage Vaati, as it is the object the hero used to defeat him long ago, when Vaati first attacked Hyrule. But before they can complete their ritual, the maidens seem to disappear into thin air. An unexpected figure appears from the darkness—a dark clone of the hero Link. While Link does not hesitate to attack, his sword swings right through his phantom clone and Shadow Link captures Zelda, disappearing without a trace. Left with little choice, Link draws the Four Sword from its seal, splitting himself into four Links: Green, Blue, Red, and Violet. With great evil unleashed, our heroes must work together to have the strength to defeat it.

It’s a little strange to read a black and white story that relies so much on color to distinguish the main characters, but Akira Himekawa accomplishes this well. All four Links are shaded somewhat differently, and their personalities shine through when it is difficult to tell them apart visually. When the framing of the panel separates the characters from their dialogue, speech bubbles are occasionally labeled with the characters’ names for clarity. The author has an interesting approach to managing essentially four of the same character: the characters themselves address their names and differing personalities within the story itself, so it is easy for the reader to see that they are four sides of the same person. Red is the one to suggest they nickname each other based on the color of their tunics. Acknowledging the differences in their personalities, they explain that Green is focused and motivated, Blue is hotheaded and aggressive, Red is innocent and optimistic, and Violet is calm and collected. Though they begin by squabbling over who is the “main” Link, through their trials they learn that their weaknesses are complemented by each other’s strengths, and they need to work together if they want to defeat the evil that has descended. They find focus and drive in their commitment to Princess Zelda, and become united in their quest to save her and the kingdom of Hyrule.

Despite their relatively fixed personalities, the characters do grow remarkably over the course of the story. They find ways to turn their weaknesses into strengths; for example, Blue’s stubbornness turns into determination in the face of danger. The seriousness of the heroes’ adventure is kept pretty lighthearted with humor, though it’s not quite as fluffy or cutesy as the stories told in The Minish Cap/Phantom Hourglass. Red’s character is predictably at the center of much of this humor with his bubbly personality, occasionally breaking the fourth wall or acting a bit too self-aware. The dialogue also features some great puns ( “There’s a new link in this chain!”).

The story is well-paced and the battles and struggles seem genuinely difficult. Himekawa illustrates fights blow by blow, dedicating enough space on the page to build dramatic tension for the reader. The action is intriguing enough for an older audience while still being appropriate for younger readers. While there is a lot of action, it’s not particularly violent, much like the Legend of Zelda games. There are monsters and weapons, but no blood or gore, though there is a brief scene in which a character stabs themselves in the leg. When villains are defeated, they more or less disappear, much like a video game death. Regarding other content warnings, there’s a brief scene in which Red is thrown upside down and, in embarrassment, holds down his tunic to cover his underwear, though Himekawa notes in the gutter “he is wearing tights.” In two instances, Blue tells an overly affectionate Red that he is being “creepy,” which reads as low-key homophobia on the character’s part.

The end of the book includes 10 bonus mini-comics, and a roundtable discussion with the two women who make up the collaborative persona of Akira Himekawa and a designer and a producer from the video games. The roundtable is focused on how they adapted a video game into a manga, what creative liberties they could take, and how storytelling differs in the manga format.

Akira Himekawa’s telling of Four Swords expands upon the original story of the game with some interesting twists. Readers who have never played the game will find this volume easy to pick up, and fans of the series will follow the antics of the four Links with interest. The motivations of the villains may be a little hard to understand without canonical context, such as Ganon’s brief but significant appearance, but I think the authors successfully manage to balance a standalone story within a much bigger world. Key elements of the game are introduced nicely without feeling forced, such as different weapons and the force gems. There are also subtle references to other Legend of Zelda stories, acting as easter eggs for fans. While this is volume does not need to be read alongside others in the series, I anticipate that readers will want to pick up other volumes soon after finishing this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords -Legendary Edition-
by Akira Himekawa
ISBN: 9781421589633
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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