The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1Creator: Akira Himekawa
Translator: John Werry
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421593470
Released: March 2017
Original run: 2016

Akira Himekawa is the joint pen name of A. Honda and S. Nagano, two women who have been collaborators for over thirty years. The two-person creative team is probably best known for their work on the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda series of video games, although some North American readers may associate Himekawa with the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics as well. Despite being a fan of both franchises, I actually hadn’t made a point to read any of Himekawa’s work until after meeting the two women briefly at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2014. Twilight Princess is the most recent entry in Himekawa’s series of The Legend of Zelda adaptations. Initially Twilight Princess was intended to be a children’s series, but when the original 2006 video game it was to be based on became the first in the franchise to be rated for teens, plans for that manga were cancelled. It wasn’t until 2016 that Himekawa would begin serializing Twilight Princess digitally, the first volume subsequently being released in Japan in print later that year. Viz Media’s English-language edition of Twilight Princess debuted in print in 2017.

Link is a young man trying to outrun his past. A year and a half ago he wandered into the border village of Ordon, hiding his personal history in hopes of establishing a new life for himself. Ordon is idyllic, seemingly a perfect place for Link to retreat. The land is said to have been blessed by the spirits and the village is well-known for its bountiful harvests. Although Link arrived as a stranger, he was warmly welcomed by the villagers and has since become an integral part of the community. Link loves Ordon and its people, but there’s always a small part of him that feels like he doesn’t quite belong. He is still plagued by guilt over the tragedies of his past, dealing with a weighty feeling of responsibility which is impossible to ignore. Having experienced disaster before, Link may be one of the few who can prevent it from happening again. Most of the other people in the sacred kingdom of Hyrule are unaware of the looming threat that the long-forgotten Twilight Realm poses. It’s a danger that grows even greater when the ambitions of one man to rule both the light and the dark begin to come to fruition. As the shadows of darkness gather around Ordon, Link will have to face his past and his fears, confronting the possibility that he will once again lose everything that he holds most dear.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1, page 122Although I’ve played some of the original Twilight Princess, familiarity with the video game is not at all necessary to enjoy Himekawa’s adaptation. At least so far, the series can stand on its own as a work–the manga largely comes across as a freely-developed fantasy rather than a strict reimagining of a video game. Himekawa’s narrative in Twilight Princess is streamlined and quickly paced, incorporating elements of the original game in clever ways. Some of the wonder of having a world to leisurely explore and discover is lost as Twilight Princess is adapted into a different medium, but in exchange the manga emphasizes depth of characterization. As the protagonist, Link is generally the most fully-realized character. I really like Himkeawa’s multi-faceted interpretation of Link in Twilight Princess. While at heart Link is a troubled and brooding hero, he also exhibits happiness and joy and there are moments in the manga when his good-natured goofiness shines through. The Twilight Princess manga, much like the video game itself, is intended for a more mature audience than many of the previous incarnations of The Legend of Zelda. The story tends to be fairly dark and can be strikingly violent at times.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about Himekawa’s work on The Legend of Zelda manga is the creators’ ability to adjust their tone and style to fit the requirements of a given series. Himekawa’s skill and flexibility as artists can be seen as they move from one adaptation to the next, but can also be exhibited within a single manga. In Twilight Princess specifically there is a wonderful contrast between the serene, pastoral setting of Ordon and the ominous darkness and shadowy creatures encroaching upon it. The artwork in Twilight Princess is beautifully executed, ranging from the gorgeous to the grotesque as demanded by the story. In comparison, the storytelling itself isn’t nearly as strong. The first chapter of Twilight Princess in particular suffers from some awkward exposition and Link has a tendency to ask questions that he should already know the answers to having lived in Ordon for so long. Still, I do like the story, characters, and settings of Twilight Princess. In the past, Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga have only been one or two volumes long. I would be surprised if Twilight Princess could end satisfactorily in such a short span, so I hope that the series will be longer to allow the story to unfold more naturally; I enjoyed the first volume of Twilight Princess a great deal and look forward to reading more.

Thank you to Viz Media for providing a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 for review.

My Week in Manga: March 13-March 19, 2017

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted an in-depth review of Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by Kazuto Tatsuta. It’s an important and fascinating manga which reveals the day-to-day lives and work of the people who are directly involved with the ongoing cleanup following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters in Japan. On a related note, a while back I also reviewed Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill’s Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster which provides a fairly comprehensive and approachable overview of the disasters themselves as well as some of the initial recovery efforts. As for future in-depth reviews, I’m currently working on one for Akira Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 which I hope to post sometime later this week. (That would mean two reviews from me this month!) Initially I was planning to write a quick take on Nagabe’s The Girl from the Other Side, Volume 1 for today’s post, but I loved it so much that I want to delve into it more deeply, so expect to see a more comprehensive review for that manga in the relatively near future as well.

Quick Takes

Erased, Omnibus 1Erased, Omnibus 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-2) by Kei Sanbe. Although I haven’t actually watched it yet, Sanbe’s Erased manga was first brought to my attention due to its recent anime adaptation. I’ve heard very good things about it and so when Yen Press started releasing the original manga in a hardcover, omnibus edition it immediately caught my attention. Satoru Fujinuma has a peculiar ability which causes him to spontaneously travel back in time. Usually it happens just before some tragedy is about to occur, allowing him to try to prevent it, although doing so can sometimes cause problems for him personally. When a particularly traumatic event occurs, Satoru unexpectedly finds himself nearly two decades in his past, giving him the opportunity to try to stop a series of kidnappings and murders that haunted his childhood. While I found the story’s premise intriguing from the very start, it actually took me a little while to get into Erased. But by the end of the first volume I was hooked and by the end of the first omnibus I couldn’t wait to read more. (Also, fun fact!: Sanbe was one of Hirohiko Araki’s assistants and worked on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of AgesThe Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages by Akira Himekawa. Despite being a fan of The Legend of Zelda, I haven’t actually read very many of the video games’ manga adaptations. However, the Legendary Edition of Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga that Viz Media has recently begun releasing may very well change that. With the handsome book designs, larger trim, color pages, and previously unreleased material, the new edition of the series is tremendously appealing. Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages is the second volume in the Legendary Edition to be released, adapting the two linked video games of the same name. I haven’t actually played the Oracle games so I can’t comment on the adaptation itself, but the manga is fun and energetic. The series is aimed at younger readers which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but the story and characters can occasionally come across as somewhat simplistic as a result. The antagonists in particular seem to lack nuance and tend to be evil for evil’s sake. But as a whole the Oracle manga are enjoyable adventures, following a young Link, a warrior of destiny but still a knight-in-training, as he tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life even while he’s saving the kingdom.

Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kunSamejima-kun and Sasahara-kun by Koshino. Currently, Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun is the only boys’ love manga by Koshino to have been released in English in print, but I enjoyed it so much that I hope there will one day be more translated. For a while there Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun had gone out-of-print, but it’s more-or-less available again. (Digital Manga seems to be using some sort of print-on-demand service to restock titles lately; sadly, though adequate, the production quality isn’t quite as good.) Samejima and Sasahara are both college classmates and coworkers at a convenience store. Everything seemed to be going along fine  between them until Samejima confesses that he has fallen in love with Sasahara, thereby putting their friendship in danger. At first Sasahara tries to ignore the development, wanting to just remain friends, but he comes to realize he enjoys the attention, if only he could get Samejima to believe him. Their relationship (as well as the eventual sex they have together) is endearingly awkward–Samejima obviously cares about Sasahara and vice versa, but they also annoy the hell out of each other in a way that only the closest friends can do. They’re an argumentative couple, but the manga’s humor makes it work.

Now with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for AmericaNow with Kung Fu Grip!: How Bodybuilders, Soldiers and a Hairdresser Reinvented Martial Arts for America by Jared Miracle. It would be understandable, if inaccurate, to assume from its title and description that Miracle’s Now with Kung Fu Grip! is a work of popular history. I personally found the subject matter to be interesting and learned quite a bit, however the book is difficult to recommend to a casual reader. While Miracle’s style of writing isn’t overly academic, it is incredibly dense and as a whole the volume seems unfocused. Most people will do well to simply read the book’s conclusion which provides an adequate summary, foregoing the rest of the content unless more explicit detail is desired. The cover image, taken from the Chinese martial arts film Fearless, is somewhat misleading as well as the book is almost exclusively devoted to Japanese martial arts and the ways in which they’ve been incorporated into American culture. Now with Kung Fu Grip! is less about martial arts themselves and more about their social and historical contexts and the mythologies and stories that practitioners construct around them. In particular, Miracle ties the evolution of Japanese martial arts traditions in America to their commercialization and to the changing interpretations and expectations of idealized American masculinity over time.

My Week in Manga: May 26-June 1, 2014

My News and Reviews

Last week was a slower week at Experiments in Manga, which is just as well because I spent a long weekend with my family in Ohio for my youngest sister’s high school graduation. I was pretty busy with things there, but I was still able to post a few things here. The most recent manga giveaway, for example. There are still a couple of days left to enter for a chance to win Oishinbo, A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine, too. All you have to do is tell me a little about your favorite food manga (if you have one). May’s Bookshelf Overload was also posted. Interestingly enough, I think I actually bought more comics last month  than manga. (I largely blame TCAF for that.) As for reviews, I took a look at Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 5: Char & Sayla. Char happens to be one of my favorite Gundam characters, so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that this volume is one of my favorites in the series thus far.

There were a few things that I found to read online last week that were particularly interesting, too: Manga Therapy is writing and hosting a series of posts for Mental Health Month, including Lauren Orsini’s article about Mushishi as a metaphor for mental illness. FanboyNation had an interview with Tokyopop. Brigid Alverson interviewed Akira Himekawa for Comic Book Resources. And finally, Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga, Part 3 was posted at The Lobster Dance. I’m sure there were plenty of other interesting articles and new to be found last week, but as I mentioned I was rather occupied with traveling, helping out at home, and visiting with family. If I missed anything major, please do let me know!

Quick Takes

Fujosports!Fujosports! by Various. The most recent anthology from the Love Love Hill collective, Fujosports! collects six sports-themed comics with a female-gaze. These aren’t necessarily the sports you might be expecting, though: logging competitions, roller derby, free-form rollerblading, Turkish oil wrestling, field hockey, and competitive dodge-ball. All of the stories tend to be generally upbeat and optimistic, but the artists’ styles are distinct. As might be expected from the “fujo” in the title, the anthology includes a bit of bromance and boys’ love potential, but there’s some girls’ love, too, and plenty of general team bonding. Each comic is followed by a short freetalk by the creators, which is a very nice addition and makes the stories even more personable Fujosports! is a cute, sweet, and humorous collection. Every contribution in the anthology left me with I huge grin on my face, or at least a smile. Simply put, Fujosports! is a lot of fun; I’m really glad that I picked it up.

Gangsta, Volume 2Gangsta, Volume 2 by Kohske. I enjoyed the first volume of Gangsta so much that I immediately went out and preordered the second. The series is quickly becoming one of my favorite manga currently being released. Gangsta has plenty of action in addition to a wide range of interesting characters (both women and men, young and old), many of whom have dark, tragic pasts. More characters are introduced in the second volume, some of them even manage to survive to the end of it, and the larger, overarching plot continues to develop. The Three Laws binding the Twilights (should they actually choose to follow them) are directly lifted from Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, nearly word-for-word. While this certainly emphasizes the inhuman characteristics of the Twilights, I did find it to be an odd choice. Still, the Three Laws provide excellent narrative frameworks for robot and android stories, so I’m willing to reserve my judgement and wait to see how Kohske uses them Gangsta.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Volume 1The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Volumes 1-2 by Akira Himekawa. After meeting Akira Himekawa at TCAF, I realized that although I was familiar with some of their work, I hadn’t actually read much of their manga. Granted, only The Legend of Zelda has been licensed for print release in English so far. I actually happen to be a fan of the Zelda video games, so I wasn’t surprised that I’m enjoying the manga series, too. Ocarina of Time was the game which inspired Himekawa to pursue The Legend of Zelda manga. The Ocarina of Time manga is accessible even to those who haven’t played the game, but those who have will be able to appreciate the nods to the original more. The manga follows the same basic plot as the video game, though Himekawa adds a few touches of their own. The Ocarina of Time manga is definitely an adventure story aimed at younger readers, there’s more action than there is nuanced character or plot development, but it’s fun.

K-20: The Fiend with Twenty FacesK-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces directed by Shimako Satō. K-20 is a live-action film based on the novels of Soh Kitamura (which sadly haven’t been translated into English) which were in turn inspired by the works and characters of Edogawa Rampo, specifically his famous detective Akechi Kogorō and his nemesis “Twenty Faces.” Akechi’s young assistant Kobayashi also has a role to play. It was because of this Rampo connection that I decided to watch the film in the first place, but even those unfamiliar with the references will be able to enjoy the movie. Packed with action and stunts, a little bit of romance, a great cast, and a large dose of humor, K-20 was extremely entertaining. The film is set in the late 1940s in an alternate history in which the Second World War was never fought but in which a strict hierarchical class structure is enforced. The story follows Endo Heikichi, an acrobat who is arrested for being the master thief K-20 after being set up, and his attempts to prove his innocence, basically by becoming as skilled as K-20 himself.