Magic Knight Rayearth (魔法騎士レイアース Mahō Kishi Reiāsu?) is a Japanese manga series created by Clamp, a mangaka team made up by Satsuki Igarashi, Ageha Ohkawa, Tsubaki Nekoi and Mokona. Rayearth combines elements from the magical girl and mecha anime genres with parallel world fantasy. The manga was adapted into 2 anime series in 1994 and an OVA in 1997.
Hikaru Shidou, Umi Ryuuzaki, Fuu Hououji are on a field trip to the Tokyo Tower with their respective schools. The girls are blinded by a flash of light and hear a voice calling for the Legendary Magic Knights to save Cephiro. They fall through the sky into another world, Cephiro. Once there, they meet Master Mage Clef. Clef explains, "[In Cephiro], one's will has the ability to change reality for better or worse. The dark fears in people's hearts become monsters, while a well-intended wish can do miracles. One person, the Pillar, whose will is stronger than anyone else's, is responsible for maintaining through her prayers the well-being of Cephiro."
In the first story arc, the current Pillar, Princess Emeraude, has been captured by her high priest, Zagato. The three girls are charged with the task of saving the Princess by activating the three Rune-Gods (魔神 Mashin?). They are given a bizarre creature named Mokona to guide them on their journey. After the girls find and destroy Zagato, they finally reach Emeraude, but they learn that she had fallen in love with Zagato, hindering her ability to pray solely for Cephiro's well-being, Zagato had attempted to solve the problem on his own terms by stealing and imprisoning Emeraude, but feeling responsible for her actions, she summoned the Magic Knights to kill her since no one on Cephiro could harm the Pillar. Her dark side then took over, seeking to destroy the Magic Knights for killing her love. After a short defensive fight against Emeraude, the Magic Knights had no choice but to kill her.
The second story arc deals with the complications caused by the first season's climax: three warring planets, Autozam, Fahren, and Chizeta, have begun their attempts to conquer Cephiro and a new Pillar must be chosen before the whole planet is destroyed. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are once again summoned to Cephiro. It is later discovered that the mysterious Mokona is responsible for their being summoned back to Cephiro as he is the creator of both the Earth, Cephiro, and the three warring planets.
Eventually, Hikaru is chosen to become the new Pillar. However, she rebels against the Pillar system, deciding that the fate of the planet should not be the responsibility of only one person, which like Emeraude before her, effectively prevents that person from ever being able to live and love freely.
Hikaru, Fuu and Umi return to earth, but still can visit their loved ones in Cephiro.
Differences in the anime adaptation
The first season remains mostly faithful to the first arc of the manga aside from the inclusion of the original character Inouva, however the second season shows a rapid departure. Most notable differences are the creation of two anime only antagonists, Nova and Lady Debonair, who were born from the intense despair of Hikaru and the people of Cephiro respectively after the death of Princess Emeraude. It is also revealed by the Rune Gods that the girls were summoned back to Cephiro by their own, most notably Hikaru's as her strength of heart also allowed her to become the new Pillar, a position she rejects in a similar fashion to the manga.
Hikaru Shidou (獅堂 光 Shidō Hikaru?) is an eighth-grade girl, small for her age and often teased for her size and "boyishness". She is headstrong, determined and loyal. She is in love with Lantis, Zagato's younger brother, but it is implied that she is also in love with Eagle Vision, the son of the president of Autozam. She is the Magic Knight of Fire.
Umi Ryuuzaki (龍咲 海 Ryūzaki Umi?) is the only child of a rich family. She is quick-tempered and at first uncaring, though perhaps the best-suited for the task at hand, but is also the most reluctant. It is implied that she is in love with Clef in the anime. She is the Magic Knight of Water.
Fuu Hououji (鳳凰寺 風 Hōōji Fū?) is the voice of reason. She is also highly intelligent, though tends to state the obvious. She often has moments where she doubts herself, but ends up coming out strong in the end. She is also in love with Ferio. She is the Magic Knight of Wind.
Written and illustrated by Clamp, Magic Knight Rayearth appeared as a serial in the Japanese magazine Nakayoshi from November 1993 to February 1995. Kodansha collected the chapters in three tankōbon volumes. The first was published on July 22, 1994; the last was released on March 6, 1995. The sequel also appeared in Nakayoshi from March 1995 to April 1996.
Since then, the manga has also been released in the United States in English by Tokyopop in six volumes, with three volumes in each series. The English version of the manga was at first issued in a flipped left to right format, but was re-released in the original right to left format in later editions.
It would appear that Tokyopop has lost their license for the series, as Dark Horse Manga announced at their San Diego Comic-Con International 2009 panel that they would be publishing the series in a new omnibus edition in honor of CLAMP's 20th anniversary. There will be either 3 or 4 of the original volumes in each of the new omnibus versions. The series is also licensed in French by Pika Édition.
Magic Knight Rayearth
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