Reviewby Casey Brienza,
The Legend of Zelda –Ocarina of Time–
Deep in the forests of Hyrule there live a race of little people known as the Kokiri, ruled by the Great Deku Tree. Unfortunately, nefarious forces are afoot, and they destroy the Tree. It is then up to Link, a misfit boy who has never quite fit in with the rest of the Kokiri, to take a magical emerald the Tree was guarding to the outside world to Princess Zelda. But he soon learns that that his adventures have just begun. Even she cannot stave off the evil Ganondorf for long and that he will need to gather three spiritual stones and use the Ocarina of Time to open up the Temple of Time and become Hyrule's Chosen Hero. Only then will Link have the slightest hope of wresting the power of the Triforce back from Ganondorf's clutches.
Viz Media's “VIZ Kids” imprint is guaranteed kid-friendly. Unfortunately, it is not guaranteed kid-approved. And sure enough, The Legend of Zelda –Ocarina of Time– manga by Akira Himekawa, based upon the 1996 Nintendo 64 game of the same name, is certainly the former but most unlikely to be the latter.
The high point of the manga is Himekawa's exquisite artwork. Lines are bold and confident; layouts are dynamic. Backgrounds are richly detailed, with plenty of shading and screen tone to add depth. You will find yourself squinting at panels for seconds at a time; there is far too much detail to full take in with just a brief glance, and the volume is bursting at the seams with charming visual gags and whimsy. And, as might be expected for a kids' manga, character designs, whether pointy-eared people, ponies, rock men or fish men, are teeth rottingly adorable. Even as an adult, never mind as a child, Link is almost too cute for words. Likewise, the bad guys would definitely be much improved with some more scary genes; for example, the cartoonish, less than imposing figures of a skeletal warrior and the hook nosed Ganondorf himself do not exactly leave you shaking in your boots. This last fact is, of course, a good thing if the goal is to attract the purchasing power of (the parents of) young children.
But alas, everything else about the first volume of this manga is a shameful letdown by comparison. It's so bad, in fact, that you are liable to forget to linger over the eye candy in your hurry just to get the reading experience over and done with. The story covers quite a lot of territory in 200-odd pages. From the destruction of the Great Deku Tree, to the first meeting with Princess Zelda, to the gathering of the three spiritual stones and the opening of the Temple of the Time, to the start of the search for the Five Sages…well, you get the point. That would have taken at least two or three volumes in any other title. Unfortunately, it all goes by so quickly that you have no time to enjoy any of it. Nothing, not even the deaths of innocents, is particularly affecting. It feels like the manga is working from some long list on his wall with every plot point he needs to cover in the series. The only satisfaction to be found here appears to be that of Himekawa himself—when he can cross another annoying plot point off that list.
Characters bring this series no measure of redemption either; they also lack affect. Link is your typical, brash shounen manga hero, but his emotional intensity seems permanently stuck on lukewarm. He is only somewhat miserable when he is a misfit at home and only somewhat miserable when he finds out he has royal blood and is destined to save all Hyrule. Despite his many trials and tribulations, you don't really care about him. And needless to say, it should come to no surprise that the supporting cast of characters is even less interesting than Link. Young female characters, of which there are three, all seem born to hang on Link's every word, while the one older female character exists primarily to smile benevolently at Link's amazing personal development and secondarily to show off her ample cleavage.
All in all, it is quite the mystery who exactly is going to most appreciate this manga. Although the illustrations are lush and detailed, the prose, with its high fantasy world jargon, may be too complex for very young children. (The layouts of the first edition are also quite poor; quite a lot of the text recedes too deeply into the binding and is flat-out unreadable.) By the time they have become competent enough readers, they are likely to be mature enough to perceive the hurried, thumbnail sketch of a plot and sanitized, bloodless atmosphere as decidedly less than satisfying. Fans of the videogames might, likewise, feel that their time and money might be better spent on more games. Clearly, while The Legend of Zelda may be a classic videogame franchise, The Legend of Zelda –Ocarina of Time– definitely is not destined to be remembered as a classic manga series.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : A
+ Beautiful. Lushly detailed artwork and gorgeous character designs.
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