Back at New York Comic Con, we had the chance to speak with the mysterious duo known as Akira Himekawa, the primary creative force behind The Legend Of Zelda manga series for over 18 years. We had a chance to chat with them briefly about their time on the series, the success of Twilight Princess,
BC: How has it been for both of you to work on this series as long as you have? Specifically, how were you approached to start the project, and what made you both say yes to take on such a huge series, massively popular not just in Japan or US but also around the world?
AH: It’s kind of hard to say since it’s been such a long time. Really it started twenty years ago when we got the initial request for Ocarina of Time. We knew it was popular, we knew it was popular in America, but we didn’t realize how popular it was overseas. When we first saw the Zelda TV show, it just happened to match with the kind of fantasy world we’ve worked on in our past works and what we were working on at the time. So we thought “okay, this feels like a good title for us to do,” and decided to take the offer. However, at the time, we didn’t imagine it would be twenty years. It turned out to be a much bigger project than we were initially thinking and it turned out to be so much more popular than we initially understood it to be. There’s more of pressure now to live up to that than when we initially took the project.
What kind of challenge is it to create adventures within Hyrule that are both original and stay within the lore of the video games?
In a way, it wasn’t that difficult to work with the world that was given to us. There were already constraints determined by the game that allowed us to focus on more on the story-telling of humans, and use more of our creativity to follow the drama and follow the development of the characters and be a little more creative within the framework once the world was set for us.
So there was never any kind of conflict with Nintendo or the kind of stories they were telling in the games?
We actually don’t expand on the world of Hyrule more than the game does. We use it just as-is and rather focus on the drama and develop that, because we have two different modes: games and manga. There are places where the manga has to fill in the gaps because of the drama, but in doing this Nintendo has always approved and appreciated where we’ve filled in. When we came out with the first book, [Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto at Nintendo] came to us and said, “Thank you for filling in and expanding and drawing out those parts that are necessary in the manga and not there in the game.”
What was it like for you both creating the Twilight Princess series?
Before the Twilight Princess series, all the other series [we worked on] have kind of been light-hearted and happy in tone. This one is very different in that sense. It’s much more dark—there’s much deeper development of the characters and the plot. There’s a different depth when we write this. A big part of it is the age difference in the audience. Up until now [our work has] mainly been towards children, so the good characters are good and the evil characters are bad; it’s been very clear-cut. Whereas with Twilight Princess, we draw out and really develop the humanness of the characters in that there’s weakness within both the good and the evil characters or a naivety that they can develop. Like a light and the shadow within all the characters. It’s a much deeper story that explores more of the human drama rather than art in comparison to the series before.
Fans of the series seemed to enjoy the Twilight Princess manga series more than the game. What did you think of the reception to it?
The basis of the story is the same, but the difference between the game and manga is that the game is good as a game, but in the storyline, there are a lot of gaps in the plot. So we filled in those holes in order to make a more complete storyline. Maybe that’s why the fans like it more. It’s really surprising to us that the manga was more well-received than the game here because, in particular, about Twilight Princess, we were asked by so many to create a manga version and draw this one in particular. So it’s surprising that the game itself wasn’t that well received.
Do you have anything else in the works you’d like to talk about?
Right now we’re spending a lot of time and energy on Twilight Princess, which is still ongoing. That’s what’s kind of taking up our mind space. But there are so many other ideas on our minds and we’ve done a lot of other work as well. We’re looking forward to the day when we can bring [our other work] over to the U.S. and share it with our American fans.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the American audience?
We really feel our American fans really embrace and understand the creativity we bring to our work, and we really appreciate that. When it comes to both the Zelda series and our other works, we really put our hearts and souls into it. So for the fans to embrace that and be so welcoming of that, we really love and appreciate it.
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