Now, here’s something interesting about the latest iteration of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess –Volume 6 is only two chapters! Eagle-eyed readers may’ve already noticed this, but as Akira Himekawa’s manga adaption progresses, each volume is condensed into fewer and fewer chapters, the series gradually but boldly elongating individual chapters into sixty-page epics. Owing to a shift from biweekly serialization to a monthly schedule, it’s a boon for Twilight Princess when you consider how rushed their previous adaptions were; here, the Himekawa duo’s imaginations soar, unfettered from magazine limitations as they confidently blend source material and original inventions.
Of course, all the confidence in the wold comes to naught if it’s not done well. More pages is all well and good, but with only two chapters to digest — two huge ones, mind, but only two all the same — the weaknesses in Himekawa’s pacing become readily apparent. It’s here in Volume 6 we’re met with a twist of irony: even with sixty-some pages, Himekawa’s eagerness to unload abundance of ideas and developments leaves precious little breathing room to properly flourish. It’s not enough to ruin this installment, mind, but disappointment lingers considering how expertly Himekawa’s hitherto adapted the underwhelming source material.
Putting it this way: one chapter is vastly superior to the other, and I can’t help but be perturbed the good chapter hails from the Wii game in Link and Midna setting out to Snowpeak Mountains for the Mirror of Twilight; yes, this means it’s Yeti time! Vigilant Zelda fans may note VIZ’s localization doesn’t retain their childlike prose — incomplete sentences and third-person references and all — but even if we dove into the Japanese/English comparisons for the original game, the two giant snow monsters are just as lovable as ever. As rare examples of engaging Twilight Princess NPCs, Himekawa doesn’t take any drastic liberties with their relevant story arc, offering only a teaspoon of heart-melting sympathy to Yeto’s cure-all soup — or should I say his eyes? (Ah, and yes, don’t worry: a certain 180 face-turn’s just as creepy as the original game!)
Instead, the chapter wisely shines the spotlight on Ashei, the gloomy woman swordsman of The Resistance; y’know, the yeti mask-donning lady with the random Super Smash Bros. Brawl trophy? Of course you don’t, but as always, Himekawa makes us care. It’s always a rare delight whenever Himekawa touches upon mysteries never elaborated within the source material, and diehard Zelda fans who’ve endlessly scrutinized and debated over every nook and cranny of in-game locales are certain to get a kick out of Ashei’s connection to the decrepit Snowpeak Ruins. With the character’s innate intimidation and dreary demeanor clashing with Link’s overt heroics, we look forward to how she’ll further contribute to this adaption.
Pop Quiz: Was Dark Link in the original Twilight Princess?
Alas, not every original development hits their mark, and we arrive at this adaption’s first stumbling block via a familiar trope: an arrogant, overconfident hero drunk with delusions of grandeur. Let it be known I’m hardly opposed to this downturn on paper — we’ve witnessed Link grappling with his role as hero from his quest’s outset, and from reluctantly accepting the mantle to diligently recognizing his task, it’s only natural the Master Sword’s power would get to his head. Yet this flawed–nay, human hero’s descent into darkness comes about far too abruptly for my tastes, with his ensuing falling-out with Midna’s clumsily juggled between the Blizzeta aftermath. (Right down to threatening our reading comprehension, namely when sneaky skeleton monsters repeatedly assault Link within, uh, some shadowy void.)
Even so, temptation is but a notable staple of the Hero’s Journey, and Twilight Princess surely but steadily rises back to its feet. Not that it’s perfect — I don’t buy a certain boss monster’s random resurrection — but Link’s literal descent into darkness is devilishly symbolic, our hearts sinking upon the palpable parallel Dark Link presents towards his flesh-and-blood counterpart; as we just witnessed in the illustrative contrast between the persistent King Bulblin, our poor hero’s confidence and pride blinds his rapid transition into a genuine monster. An all-too-familiar trap for fantasy fables akin to helplessly witnessing an inevitable train wreck, can a certain agent of light salvage Link from the abyss?
With the deliberate steps taken to alter this adaption, it may come as a disappointment that Volume 6 stumbles in an original — not to mention predictably familiar — development; regardless, I maintain faith Himekawa’s manga will recover. What we have here isn’t burnout, but instead a simple case of the duo adjusting to their expanding freedom. With how everything else in this spectacular take on the Hero’s Journey went along swimmingly, Link’s recovery from his near-fatal pride won’t just signal his redemption, but how Himekawa can appropriately condense their ideas.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.