Instead of pondering the deep mysteries of this game or progressing its story, I decided to fool around with minigames for a bit.
The first thing I do is to go fishing. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass to get to the Fishing Hole, but it’s worth it. Hena, the young woman who runs the business, is a cutie pie, but the real draw are the cherry trees lining the pond, which are gorgeously in full bloom. As Link fishes, pink cherry blossom petals occasionally drift across the surface of the water. As if this weren’t beautiful enough, time passes in this area, meaning that Link gets to view the scenery in a range of dramatic daytime and nighttime lighting.
If Link rents a fishing rod from Hena, she’ll paddle out with him in a small canoe, the rowing animations for which are stunning. The fishing mechanics are a lot of fun too.
Between one thing and another, I spent an entire evening of my life at the Fishing Hole. I had a beer and listened to the summer rain fall outside my apartment window as I waited for the fish to bite. I’ve gone fishing a few times in the real world, and I have to say, this was much more enjoyable.
As a nice bonus I leave with a new empty bottle and a complete heart container.
Link then heads over to the Rapid Ride game, which is closed because of fallen debris along the waterway. As he turns to trek back up to Zora’s Domain, a twilight portal opens in the sky and shadow beasts drop down. Link smacks them all down, easy peasy living breezy. Iza, the owner of the River Rapids game, watches him and is impressed enough to cajole him into clearing the blockage. Which he does, because why not.
I want to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation of Hena and Iza.
Despite wearing an open-collar shirt, Hena is dressed in a relatively masculine fashion, hip waders and all. She is skilled and knowledgeable about fishing, which in Japan is considered to be a relatively masculine hobby. And yet she entertains girlish romantic fantasies, saying that she will only share her personal canoe with her boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Iza is wearing some sort of halter top with a boob window, which bares her midriff, and her low-waisted pants seem to be unzipped all the way, exposing her turquoise underwear. It’s fair to say that her design is sexualized, yet she has a personality that can be easily coded as masculine – she is pushy and abrasive, and she bullies both Link and her Zora part-timer into doing what she wants. The Zora girl later tells Link that Iza is stubborn and tends to fly into a rage if things don’t go her way.
Hena and Iza are sisters, but they seem to be mirror images of each other when it comes to femininity. One might also same the same thing about Zelda and Impa, or about Ilia and Luda, or about Telma and Ashei. What I love about Twilight Princess is that it has so many wonderful and interesting and diverse female characters. (I love this about Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker as well!)
Sure, Zelda ends up damseled in these games, but for every Zelda there is a Midna, or an Impa, or a Sheik, or a Tetra, with plenty of other models of female roles and femininities to provide contrast. While damseling does happen in the Zelda games, I think there’s a lot more going on with gender than immediately meets the eye, and one day I’d like to write a much longer essay about how gender is constructed in these games.
Skyward Sword messed everything up, though. That game is regressive in a number of ways. Ghirahim is supposed to be creepy because he blurs binary gender boundaries? Not cool, guys. I’ve already discussed my frustration with the way Zelda is treated in Skyward Sword, and I’m not super-happy about Fi or Impa either. Unfortunately, Zelda and Fi and Impa are about it as far as female characters in that game go. I really want someone to defend Skyward Sword, because I’m willing to change my mind, but…
…but I truly believe Twilight Princess is a superior game in just about every way.
( Header image by BakaArts on DeviantArt )