The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved, respected series in gaming, and has expanded well beyond the boundaries of pixels or polygons. Perhaps one of the most impressive manifestations it’s had over the years is a long-running set of manga stories based on the games by mangaka duo Akira Himekawa. VIZ Media handles the North American localization of this series and a vast array of other hits, and they graciously set me up for an interview with Senior Editor Mike Montesa who has worked closely with the series.
In Touch With the Manga Zeitgeist
Mike Montesa has worked on a ton of manga series over the years. He has been with VIZ Media for over sixteen years, being in his most recent editor position for the most recent two.
Mike’s had his hand in tons of series including My Hero Academia, Ultraman, Demon Slayer, The Elusive Samurai, and most importantly in this case, Zelda. Needless to say, he’s worked on some fantastic franchises.
Mike: Yeah, I’ve worked on a lot of the big names, and whenever I’m not looking at my schedule I can’t remember what I’m working on, it’s a lot! I’ve probably worked on upwards of 50 or 60 series over the years.
Mike’s role entails helping ensure the Japanese original work is properly adapted for English readers, and a great deal of that involves communication. While he has connected with many mangakas over the years, there’s more of a chain of communication than one might realize about the process.
Mike: We don’t have any direct contact with the creators of the manga, a lot of people believe we do but we don’t. Most of the communication is done with our licensing department and the licensor’s editorial departments. We also don’t influence the creation of the original manga itself, we just do the English translation and localization for the English-speaking market.
Mike goes on to reflect on how, despite this, the work still can put you in touch with the creators.
Mike: That said, I’ve met Akira Himekawa in person, and as you know they’re a duo, two women. I’ve met them three times in different places, Anime Expo, New York Comic Con, and London Comic Con. They’re pretty cool!
How Akira Himekawa Fleshed Out Zelda to Read Better on the Page
The creative process behind writing a story doesn’t have to be done in a silo, with multiple voices helping make dialogue more organic. The results of the Zelda manga, adapting iconic stories such as Ocarina of Time and most notably Twilight Princess, make the characters feel more alive.
This gives characters personalities and a voice in the series unlike how they perhaps might appear in the game. Given Link’s status as a silent protagonist in the games, one question readers might have is how it might go over with diehard fans.
Mike: I don’t know the exact numbers, but given the overall success of the Zelda manga over the years I’d say it goes over pretty well! They (Himekawa) enjoyed being able to do that and the artistic freedom to give Link a voice and his character more depth. They’re really into it, so that whole aspect of the manga has gone over really well with the people.
For fans growing more curious about the series, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has been physically available for a while now, but the series is also going digital over the months. With copies worldwide reaching the millions in terms of sales, it’s indeed a success.
We’ve already gotten 2 waves of volumes for the story out, with the latest batch of Volumes 4-6 coming out on September 26, 2023. There are more waves on the way, with 7-9 coming on October 24, 2023, and the final wave of 10-11 in December. We discussed how exciting it is to see the readers get expanded access to this story.
Mike: I guess there’s a big difference between the Twilight Princess manga and their predecessors. It was 10 volumes in the original series, some of which were pairs based on one particular game. Twilight Princess was 11 volumes, a complete series. I liked Twilight Princess most of all I think, simply because it was the most in-depth one.
How the Creators Used the Games to Elevate Their Content
That being said, the other non-Twilight Princess volumes have yet to get a digital release. They are worth considering for how you see crazy moments from the series adapted, forgoing all the fluff.
Mike: The creators had played the games, but after that, they thought about what got them excited. What they went for were things where they had questions, parts that weren’t touched on much in the games. Was there a character in the game who didn’t do much, and can we bring that character out?
Mike: Working with the game developers and their editor, was a collaborative effort. But after Himekawa had seen what they could do after those first volumes, they said “Okay, you guys know what you are doing, go for it.” They did, this for the entire series.
People will be delighted to see how much of Himekawa’s work sticks to the originals. On top of this, some characters get more fleshed out. The series gives Princess Zelda more agency and shows Impa training Link, instead of focusing on time spent wandering dungeons, with real character development.
Mike: Manga allows that story and character exploration. They just made great use of manga as a medium and the freedom of the license to do that sort of thing.
Mike Montesa Discusses the Zelda Manga Future Beyond Twilight Princess
When asked about manga projects in the future, or other Zelda game adaptations, Mike was able to offer some insight as well as some exciting prospects.
Mike: It seems a no-brainer to do Breath of the Wild, but whether they or not they do it I don’t know. I would not be surprised if they did! But after being on Zelda for close to 15 years, they might be taking a break right now. The Zelda manga has been very successful, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the publisher was knocking at their door!
With just the sheer size and scope of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, the idea of a future manga for this should have readers chomping at the bit. But for now, the second wave of Twilight Princess digital manga is out, with Volumes 7-9 a month away from their digital release, so be sure to check them out!
- This article was updated on September 26th, 2023