"Well excuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!"--Link, The Legend of Zelda: The Animated Series
You either love Nintendo's Zelda games, or you do not; and you either remember fondly the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, or you do not. Just how you respond to these questions will determine whether or not The Legend of Zelda: The Complete Animated Series is for you. This is not a show which can stand on its own two legs. If you are not prepared to fill in the blanks, to overlook the flaws, and to refrain from violently rejecting some of the more unpleasant aspects of late-1980s pop culture, then the recent DVD release of the animated Legend of Zelda can only bring pain and misfortune to your refined sensibilities.
For everyone else, these discs constitute a godsend.
All 13 episodes of the 1989 The Legend of Zelda series are included in their entirety, along with five live-action episodes of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, all of which feature the ridiculous, semi-Italian duo of Mario and Luigi, who must confront such pressing issues as how to rid themselves of intrusive and annoying punk rockers in the most diplomatic fashion possible, or how to pay for an enormous pizza tab. Clearly, these are not the kinds of problems that adults must face, but they certainly constitute the kinds of problems that most kids think adults must face on a regular basis. To take these segments seriously, then, requires of the viewer that she abandon her worldly knowledge, and become once more as a simplistic child.
The Zelda cartoons themselves, though, are of a different nature. For, in spite of the fact that they are in every instance silly and absurd, they are yet overwhelmingly preoccupied with sexual tension, the accompanying problems of which are well known to adults everywhere. We are supposed to believe that Link's ultimate mission is to steal the triforce of power from his nemesis, Ganon, in order that the forces of good may rule the land. But after only a few episodes, we adults realize that Link has an ulterior motive: to quench his man-thirst in the eager stream of womanly passion.
Nearly every single episode is concerned, first and foremost, with Link's romantic advances toward Princess Zelda. But this word, "romantic" is almost certainly too benign. For it is established even in the first episode that Link is not simply interested in winning Zelda's chivalric favor, but is rather more concerned with certain base desires. It is here, in the first episode, that we see Link peering down from a tower at Zelda's exposed bosom, and commenting brazenly about how remarkable she looks from on high. We soon realize that Link is a sex-crazed maniac; for whenever Zelda is in need of aid, Link expects his heroic efforts to be repaid through sexual affection. And whenever a new, attractive, female character is introduced, Link immediately attempts to engage her in physical lasciviousness. In fact, in one episode, Ganon, recognizing Link's single-track mind, attempts to lure him into a trap using a beautiful seductress as bait. There is even a sexual tension between Link and Sprite, the tiny, winged fairy who helps Link and Zelda fight the forces of evil. In one episode, Sprite barges in on Link while he is naked in the bath, and repeatedly insists that he allow her to wash his nude body--this, in spite of the fact that she is hardly larger than Link's rigid sword hilt!
It seems that every occasion in which Link conspires to sneak a kiss from Zelda is interrupted or overruled by some more immediate concern. The Legend of Zelda: The Animated Series is therefore characterized not only by sexual desire, but by sexual frustration. We, as mature viewers, are likely to grow quite annoyed by Link's many failed attempts at earning Zelda's affections. And yet, it is this very annoyance which makes the show so compelling, since viewers never know for certain just whether Link and Zelda will finally get it on.
In this regard, the animated series can hardly be said to be unfaithful to the games on which it is based. Let's face it: the princess Zelda has always been a symbol of sexual desire, and the act of "rescuing" her is but a polite euphemism for sexual conquest. Insofar as the cartoon series recognizes these aspects of Zelda lore, it is only making explicit what had previously been confined to implicit snickering.
And yet, it cannot be denied that Zelda, as she appears in the cartoon, is a strong and admirable character on her own. She fights the minions of Ganon on many occasions, and frequently displays a brand of good, common sense that Link himself lacks. That she is ultimately relegated to an object of desire does not speak ill of her, but rather of Link, the masculine hero who seems incapable of recognizing that the merits of a woman extend well beyond her bountiful breasts.
Aside from these issues of sexuality, the cartoon series remains, even to this day, a surprisingly evocative expression of all the things that have made the games so memorable. Nearly every single monster from the original Legend of Zelda makes an appearance: from Moblins and Octoroks to Tektites and Zola; from caped, sword-and-shield-bearing monsters and crazy, multi-layered mummies, to every other creature type whose name I'm too lazy to Google, the cartoons constantly draw upon the original game for inspiration. Even many of the sound effects are ripped straight from the NES game. And I daresay that the cartoon's musical score is superior to that of any Zelda game, no matter its age.
As a rational inquirer who is interested in my own role in the world, I am forever bound to the task of describing just what factors make me what I am. I am therefore thankful for this DVD release; for I am indeed a product of my time, and, in spite of my more conscientious wishes otherwise, I cannot deny that this animated Zelda series represents an important formative component of my own personal history. For anyone who can say the same, the modest purchase is a no-brainer.