Keeping with LadyBacula’s theme of talking about the series that got one into anime and manga, I feel it’s only right to bring up this series. I found Magic Knight Rayearth during my “buy something randomly and hope I like it” phase early on in my career (I have a lot of these, for better or worse) and luckily I enjoyed it quite a lot. Although the art style lends itself to the shojou genre and despite having both school girls and snippets of romance, this series manages to keep itself firmly planted in the “magic girl” genre, focusing more on the adventure rather than the romance. And by this point, I think it’s safe to say that CLAMP is skilled at making stories that contrast with the art style; even X/1999’s art is rather cute, especially for an apocalyptic manga. That’s for another review, though.
It’s fair to say that this series is broken into two distinct parts (not counting whatever the anime series did). The first part focuses almost exclusively on the three girls, and not without good reason. Hikaru, Fuu, and Umi are three girls from three different schools who are all on a field trip to Tokyo Tower when a blinding light transports them to the land of Cephiro. From there on, the girls have to essentially play through a real-life RPG, with a princess to save—the princess of Cephiro, Emeraude, has been seemingly trapped away by the evil priest, Zagato—weapon upgrades, a token mascot, the works. In other words, my dream come true. However, after getting some sweet mechas, cool magic, and reaching the princess the girls realize that the situation was not what they were lead to believe. After a heartbreaking final battle, the girls are thrown back into their own world (where not even a moment has passed since they were transported) with the possible destruction of an entire country on their hands and a lifetime of pain in their hearts.
After ‘settling back in’—I use the term loosely because none of the girls truly return to their previous selves, and who would?—the second part focuses on the return to Cephiro and the attempted reconstruction of the country. After the last battle, Cephiro has lost their pillar—the one person that protects everyone and everything in Cephiro at the sacrifice of their own desires and life (they don’t die, they just can’t live for themselves)—and that has left the country in total disarray and it is literally falling apart. Because of this, the countries of Fahren, Chizeta, and Autozam have decided to invade to become Cephiro’s pillar for their own reasons. Fahren wants to make Cephiro their personal playground. Chizeta wants a subordinate. Autozam just wants to make the country fade into nothing. So, once more Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu must don their mechas and protect Cephiro.
What I like most about this series is how unique the girls are and that the three main characters are strong females. Fuu is exceedingly proper and intelligent. Umi is hot-headded and emotional. Hikaru is almost overly-caring in some places and always optimistic. They have their arguments, but still can remain friends and kick ass. They have weak moments, they have strong moments. They’re human. They’re characters that a young girl reading the series can look up to.
At only six volumes, the series isn’t too much of an investment money or time wise, but I would recommend reading this well-loved series.