Ha, remember when I once talked about video games, and not only weeb stuff, and I didn’t have to think of some kind of excuse to make video games a fitting topic to discuss? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, in case you didn’t know, the famous Legend of Zelda game Ocarina of Time, often heralded as one of the greatest games of all time, actually had a manga made that I can use as an excuse to talk about it.
What’s It About?
Well, I would honestly be pretty surprised if you didn’t know what Ocarina of Time is about, but I’ll give you a quick rundown just for the sake of padding this out, I mean, so we’re all on the same page. I have never been guilty of trying to pad out time. Not me, nope. Just like this rambling isn’t to pad out the paragraph. See, it turned into a joke.
So, Ocarina of time is pretty simple and not that different from most Zelda games. Link is a boy born in a forest where everyone gets a fairly. Except he wasn’t born there and actually left there by his Hylian mother for his own safety. Eventually, Link learns of his past, grows stronger, gets his own annoying fairy, and leaves the forest to journey around Hyrule and save the world from evil.
The catch with Ocarina of Time specifically is that it takes place over two main arcs. In simple terms, Link spends the first bit adventuring to get three stones as a child. He then gets aged up to an adult and goes journeying around some more to fight like six bosses and then beat the game. I mean, save Zelda. It’s hard to separate the game aspects of this story for me still, which was why the manga was interesting.
Should You Read it?
So, Akira Himekawa’s manga take on Ocarina of Time’s story is pretty solid, but it does have a few problems, a lot of them you could probably see coming from a mile away if you’re at all familiar with how adaptations of video game plots go. It’s really hard to fit a thirty-something-hour-long story into just under 400 or so pages. Not only that but the story was written for a game that you actively play, not read.
You wouldn’t think that would change all that much, but it really does when you get right down to it. Take pacing, for instance. While it might take you, I don’t know, two hours max to go through the beginning of the game and leave Kokori forest, only like two plot points happen in that time that can be summed up in a few pages. This is Link. He finds a sword and shield. He fights guy. He leaves. That’s it. It causes the pacing to be super weird at times, which is a big problem for these adaptations.
This starts to be a problem for the child arc, which takes up about a third of the book, fitting since it takes about a third of the game as well. You’ll notice the pacing slows down at different, sometimes odd times. There are two chapters dedicated to skull kid, but only one for some of the dungeons. While not great for the story, it does feel better when it focuses on adding and fleshing details of the plot out, than if it were to just do a simple, rushed retelling.
One chapter that shows both the good and the bad of this manga off really well is the adult chapter based on Volvagia. You know, the big dragon you fight in the fire temple. The manga takes quite a few liberties in this one. It doesn’t only add context to existing scenes. It straight-up adds in an entire section of lore that obviously never happened in the actual plot but shows off how much better the story would be if it did.
In manga canon, child Link adopted a baby Volvagia in Castle town. The two fought every now and then, but they grew close over time, and Link began to really cherish his dragon friend. Fast forward, and that same friend is corrupted by Ganondorf’s darkness, and as Link tries one more fruitless attempt to make his friend remember, he cuts his friend’s head off brutally. Volvagia remembered Link right at the end, his name being the poor thing’s last words.
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s another part in a chapter that tortures Link by reminding him of the time he cut the evil form of his best friend’s head off out of self-defense. Yeah, this Link has a lot more personality, largely from the fact that he isn’t a silent character. He has a personality, even if it is just being a generic hero, but he’s a bit of a reluctant hero, and Himekawa certainly isn’t shy about testing his resolve. The boy suffers quite a bit, making him a pretty solid character.
The manga is really good when it does its own thing and uses the new medium to its advantage. Giving Link personality and grounding him more in the world is better than him finding a random dragon and murdering it because some rock guy told him to. It’s good stuff, and the manga does spend a lot of time on these types of interactions. There’s even some pretty heavily implied romance for Link and Zelda too, which is neat to see.
With that being said, the fight between Link and Volvagia is pretty much one page, which happens in most of the fights. As time goes on, you feel like the manga is just following a checklist of key events. Dungeons and bosses are reduced to one chapter, fights last one, maybe one and a half pages, and we move through the actual plot really fast, only to be slowed down by the sections of world and character building that the manga does a great job on.
It makes the whole thing a little jarring because you jump back and forth between stuff that is faithful to the game and isn’t, and sections that take a while, and some that don’t, and then sometimes whole new characters are thrown in that they don’t do much with. It makes for a bit of an odd experience, but overall, one I think any fan of Ocarina of Time would really enjoy.
Himekawa did an amazing job with the art. Every character, especially Link, has more personality than ever, and while there’s not much action getting shown, the clean art, in general, will keep everything looking really nice, and you’ll kind of fly through the whole thing if you love Zelda as much as me. That is. Anyway, it’s great. You should read it. I have quite a few of these Zelda game manga, so expect more of these soon.
Thank you very much for reading
More world and character building, please.