Twinrova happened almost by accident, but this picture turned out to be one of my favorites of the entire Legend of Zelda Cosplay Project.
I’ve Photoshopped a lot of baddies into being. Many basically just show Link and the Boss facing off—on the verge of fighting. A few have some action. But with its close-cropped detail, genuine eye contact, energy and movement, this picture has an incredible intimacy and intensity.
I had it in my head to do a Twinrova cosplay picture for a long time. The two bickering witch sisters Kotake and Koume are one of the most entertaining bosses of the franchise, and I figured it would be easy to find pictures of flying witches to customize to suit my purposes.
This didn’t turn out to be as easy as I’d thought. Witches on broomsticks have become such a popular icon that most witch pictures are actually quite friendly looking—not exactly the sort of imagery you want in a combat picture.
So, I switched gears and started looking for one woman who could fill the roll of Kotake and Koume’s (much younger looking) final merged form.
This, of course, came with its own set of problems. I needed to find a woman who looked like she was floating…and fighting…and not just fighting, but dual wielding, since Twinrova carries paired wands of fire and ice.
I considered a lot of candidates, mostly from Chinese martial arts movies, but nobody fit the bill.
I was about ready to give up on Twinrova all together when it hit me.
During one of our Link cosplay photoshoots, I had dressed up in a basic black costume and, wielding my shuang dao twin broadswords, had photographed a series of photos of myself in combat with Link in order to get more genuine, focused reactions in action shots.
These pictures produced a lot of nice Link shots once I replaced myself with an appropriate bad guy.
As I was looking through some of our shots, I came across this image:
There I was, an apparently leaping or floating villain who was double wielding and already perfectly matched to Link’s position, his lighting and the focus in his eyes.
In other words…I was the perfect Twinrova!
…after a little more editing to appear female, of course.
I may have found the right Twinrova body, but obviously there was still a lot of work to be done. Let me walk you through some of it.
Do you recognize the face in the final edited Twinrova picture? A lot of the people I show it to say it rings a bell but they can’t quite put their finger on it…
It’s actually from a film still of actress Kierra Knightley.
In the film King Arthur, Knightley plays a fierce druidic woman and the tribal war paint she wears worked perfectly for my purposes.
And, while we’re on the subject of faces, I just love Link’s expression in the final picture. He seems absolutely disgusted by what he’s looking at, which actually pays homage to one of the funnier moments in the Ocarina of Time:
Takes you back, doesn’t it?
Knightley may have had the perfect face for the job, but obviously her hair needed some work.
Twinrova’s hair may be her most iconic feature—big pigtails of fire and ice pouring off either side of her head.
Since I’d already decided to go with a body which had little in common with the costume from the game, I figured I could get away with changing the hairstyle as well.
I’m really glad I did. With all the motion in the shot (leaping body, swinging arms, screaming face, etc) she just needed to have her hair down and flying wildly. Pigtails would have ruined it.
I kept with the original fire and ice theme, though.
I used free Photoshop brushes of windblown hair to create the entire do, but on the ice side I let the hair blow in loose, cohesive curls that gave visually cool (like, temperature kind of cool) look to that side of her face.
On the opposite side I tried to evoke an explosive feeling through wilder hair being tossed every which way. It took a lot of layering of lighter and darker hairs to finally get a feeling of burning heat on the inside layer that dissipated as it flew through the air.
Another distinguishing feature of Twinrova is the enormous jewel—half blue, half red—which sits in the headdress above her brow.
When I say enormous, I mean it. This thing is huge—probably as big as the rest of her face.
Obviously, that wasn’t going to work in a picture which was turning out with such a gritty realism.
One of the major purposes of the Legend of Zelda cosplay project was to try to reimagine Link’s fantasy world of Hyrule as a real place that might actually exist out there somewhere. So, in addition to shrinking Twinrova’s stone considerably, I went looking for a real-life gemstone that contained both red and blue elements.
I found one: beautiful pietersite.
I chose to put a pietersite cabochon not on a headdress, but sunken directly into Twinrova’s brow. I surrounded the stone with purple cracks in her skin as if to suggest that this was the point where Kotake and Koume were magically bonded, and the point from which they could tear back apart.
Finally, to really create a sense of action, I created streams of “magic” residue trailing from Twinrova’s wands. One flies behind her head and one in front, creating complete distinction between the fire and ice halves of the picture.
I built the main ice trail using another set of free Photoshop brushes, including swirls, sparks and water splashes. The splash of ice across Link’s shield is the focal point of the entire picture and references the magical “mirror shield” that is used in the game to reflect Twinrova’s attacks back at her.
Overall, the magical power bouncing off of Link’s shield evokes the same sense of defensive action as the game, which helps finish off the “in your face” feeling of the picture.
The last piece of the picture is actually a bit of an Easter egg. If you look closely at the background of the finished picture you’ll see that it is a room carved from sandstone of approximately the same color as that seen in the game.
That’s all well and good, but where is that sandstone room located?
Well, Link fights Twinrova in a temple called the “Desert Colossus,” right? So, I decided to put the real-life Link inside the real-life Desert Colossus!
That’s right, you’re looking at the interior of the urn tomb at Petra!
The royal tombs of Petra are incredible ancient ruins located deep in Jordan. Yes, it’s not exactly a giant statue of a woman, but nothing else on Earth comes closer to replicating the Gerudo Valley and the Desert Colossus than these tombs.
All, in all, this cosplay photo does Twinrova a lot of favors. It turns a slow-paced, long-distance fight with a girl in pigtails into an intense, intimate defense against a wild and ferocious sorceress.
In the end, I think the real reason this picture turned out as one of my favorites is that of all the pictures in the project, it is the most real. There really is a person leaping at Link with twin broadswords in hand, and he really is reacting to it.
You can’t fake that sort of action.