Ordon Village in Hyrule is a quiet, friendly place, home to farmers, mischievous children… and a young man with pointed ears named Link. It’s said that spirits protect the village from harm. Just to be safe, though, the villagers close the gate to the hanging bridge at the edge of town every night. The bridge crosses an ominous gorge and leads to Faron Woods, which may or may not be infested with monsters.
Link has only lived in the village for a year and a half. He doesn’t talk about his life before that. He just enjoys the peaceful days in Ordon Village and tries to ignore his recurring nightmares of monsters and a strange, magical wolf.
Then the real-life monsters arrive, and no spirits or bridges can protect Ordon Village. Link fights to save his friends, but he is struck down. Though his wounds should be fatal, Link awakens, unhurt, to find the village empty. He sets out after his kidnapped friends, but a shadowy barrier has appeared at the end of the hanging bridge. When Link approaches, a hand drags him through the barrier—and he transforms into a wolf.
Stuck in a wolf’s body, Link forms an uneasy alliance with an impish creature called Midna. An evil mage from the Twilight Realm is taking over Hyrule, filling the land with monsters. Midna might be able to help Link save Hyrule, but can she be trusted? After all, she too is a creature of the Twilight Realm.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes the events of the video game and makes them personal. In the game, Link simply lives in Ordon Village, with no suggestion of a mysterious backstory. His personality is pretty much a blank slate. The Link of this manga, on the other hand, uses humor—and occasionally anger—to cover a serious case of angst resulting from his tragic past. He messed up before, and now can’t quite believe that he is worthy of being the hero who saves Hyrule.
The manga takes a closer, scarier look at the monsters as well. Whereas the game’s monsters knock Link out and kidnap his friends, the manga has them slaughtering villagers. The leader of the group says of Ilia, a young woman kidnapped from the village, “This one is pretty… I’ll make her mine.” Thankfully, this doesn’t go any further in a sexual direction, at least in these first two volumes. We do, however, see more of the monsters and their captives than appeared in the game.
Midna appears in her true identity and introduces herself by name in the very first chapter, a sort of prologue that shows how Zant began his campaign of evil. In the game, Midna’s true identity is not revealed until the player defeats Zant at the very end. The game has been out since 2006, though, so readers may not be concerned about early spoilers.
The art is intricate, with much attention paid to characters’ outfits and to beautifully detailed settings. Characters are distinctive and expressive, and action scenes are clear and easy to read. The monsters are genuinely scary, and while the violence isn’t gratuitous, it is deadlier than it was in the game. While we’re on content, there is no sex or nudity, but some readers might be startled when a village child surprises Link with kancho, a Japanese children’s prank that involves jamming your fingers directly into someone’s (clothed) butt.
With this series, Himekawa seems to be trying a new direction for Legend of Zelda manga: a more grim and serious tone, plus a slower pace that will presumably lead to a full series, rather than just one or two volumes. (It takes an entire volume for Link to meet Midna and another volume for them to conquer the equivalent of the game’s first dungeon. The game has nine major dungeons.) Unsurprisingly, while much of the other Legend of Zelda manga is rated All Ages, this one is rated Teen. Some younger readers will likely still enjoy it, but its complexity and emotion—and the excellent art—will appeal to teens and older readers.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, vols. 1-2
by Akira Himekawa
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421593470
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421596563
VIZ Media, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Teen