The Legend of Zelda Manga Review

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga is an essential collectible. Originally serialized for Nintendo Power magazine in the 1990’s, The Legend of Zelda chapters were compiled into graphic novel format in 1993. The rare collection has been out of print for decades, but thanks to VIZ Media’s Perfect Square, fans can once again revel in one of Nintendo’s most beloved stories. Presented in over 195 full-color pages, Shotaro Ishinomori’s work has never looked better.

His Zelda adaptation radiates with nostalgia, and is an absolute must-have for franchise fans. The reprint quality is outstanding, and Shotaro’s watercolor work still impresses after twenty two years. The manga is as much of a masterpiece as the original games. Shotaro’s timeless illustrations provide a sentimental overview of Nintendo’s golden years, serving as a reminder of why Link has become such a global phenomenon. 


"The rare collection has been out of print for decades, but thanks to VIZ Media’s Perfect Square, fans can once again revel in one of Nintendo’s most beloved stories."

In 2008, Shotaro Ishinomori became the Guinness World Records holder for the most comics published by one author. With over 770 stories under his belt, Shotaro remains unrivaled in the manga industry. Formerly known for his work on Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider, Shotaro reached global fame after beginning his work on the monthly chapters of A Link to the Past. He died three days after his 60th birthday in 1998, leaving a legacy of everlasting classics. Shotaro’s work for Nintendo is undoubtedly his most monumental achievement. When the Zelda series was still in its infancy, Shotaro expanded the universe by deepening Nintendo’s storyline and fleshing out the characters. In a way, Nintendo’s creation can’t be fully appreciated without Shotaro’s comprehensive storytelling.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga is an anthology of short stories, and is most enjoyable when experienced in small chunks. Since the original comics were released once a month and only cover around twenty pages per chapter, the narrative pacing is unlike that of traditional graphic novels. There’s little buildup between panels, and most climactic events are summed up within a page or two. This isn’t a criticism, instead it shows Shotaro’s masterful ability to carry a plot with limited space. Shifting from humor to drama within a single page is no easy task, yet Shotaro makes it appear effortless. The bite sized character developments beautifully compliment Nintendo’s storytelling in the SNES Zelda titles.


"The artwork looks breathtaking to this day, and while the storytelling isn’t particularly profound, Shotaro’s work is a fundamental piece of Zelda lore."

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga is first and foremost a collectible specifically republished for Zelda fans. Since the comics were released in tandem with the SNES games back in the 90’s, series newcomers may not appreciate the storytelling like older gamers who grew up with Link. Viewed as an independent story, the pacing may feel disjointed to those unfamiliar with the source material. When the comics published in Nintendo Power, its audience was notably younger than the average gamer today. Young readers of today aren’t going to respond the same as 90’s gamers.  

Zelda games are grandiose in scope. They require player investment and patience to reveal everything they have to offer. One the contrary, Shotaro achieves similar results with only a few panels. Within the first four pages, Link finds himself face to face with Aganhim, the dark wizard from the third Zelda installment. Consequently, the manga serves as an invitation for readers to play the games to thoroughly experience Link’s adventures. It presents itself as both a game teaser and a narrative extension to Nintendo’s digital universe. It’s similar to Faith Eric Hicks’ The Last of Us: American Dreams, although it’s not as fleshed out.

VIZ Media’s  Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past manga collection is a crucial piece of Zelda memorabilia. Like a great HD game remake, the Zelda anthology is the definitive comic book version of Nintendo’s most revered franchise. The artwork looks breathtaking to this day, and while the storytelling isn’t particularly profound, Shotaro’s work is a fundamental piece of Zelda lore. At only $19.99, VIZ Media’s flawless reprint is a no brainer.       

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Published by: VIZ Media

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