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Magic Knight: Rayearth 1, Book 1

Review

Magic Knight: Rayearth 1, Book 1

Magical happenings often occur around Tokyo Tower . . . at least in the realm of anime and manga.

Schoolgirls Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu have nothing in common except their age. Hikaru is bubbly and childlike, Umi is an elegant model and fencer, and Fuu is a brainy wallflower. The three have never met. They don’t even attend the same school. One day, all three happen to be on field trips to Tokyo Tower when a bright light engulfs them and sends them plummeting down to another world—the magical world Cephiro.

Greeted by the mage Guru Clef, the girls are told that they are the legendary Magic Knights, three girls from an outside realm who will awaken the Mashin and save the world. Cephiro is built on the wishes and prayers of Princess Emeraude, the “pillar of Cephiro.” Emeraude has been kidnapped by her once-protector Lord Zagato. The girls must forge their own weapons, master magic use, and confront their deepest fears if they are going to become strong enough to rescue the princess. Lord Zagato, however, is fully aware of the Magic Knights’ presence. He sends out his generals, each with devastating powers, to hunt down the girls and destroy them.

This series comes in two parts, each three volumes long. The first trilogy works fine as a standalone; it leaves the reader satiated, though perhaps curious to know what happens to Cephiro and the girls afterward. The second trilogy isn’t so self-contained; however, it does give a satisfying follow-up.

Magic Knight: Rayearth is considered one of the classic shoujo series. Female-targeted, fantasy manga is what Clamp (a collective of female artists) does best. Rayearth is an excellent series for a young audience, but it can also be appreciated by more mature crowds. Certain parts of it may seem a bit adolescent, but then there will be shocking twists that make a reader second guess just who exactly this story is intended for. The emotions and the relationships the characters form are all very believable. The series also has a very distinct and expertly drawn signature art style. Every page is filled to the brim with imagery, and the cover art is superb in sheer elegance and detail.

Fortunately, Rayearth’s weaknesses do not drag it down. There are some major clichés related to manga-style art and storytelling in general. The characters “super deform” (an art style in which the characters become small and squat, usually when surprised or shocked, for comedic effect), which makes this series feel a bit immature since it happens so often. Another general cliché is in the names. For example, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu translate to “fire,” “water,” and “wind,” respectively. Each girl uses the type of magic that corresponds with her name. Then there are the Mashin, which are rather typical Japanese mecha (giant robots), but in this case lean toward the mystical side rather than the technical. Rayearth also beats the reader over the head with the whole “friends forever” theme.

On the other hand, Clamp seems to be aware of its own clichés. Characters even point out on multiple occasions how their experiences are a lot like the kinds found in video games (which is especially ironic, because there is a Magic Knight: Rayearth video game).

Readers not familiar with anime and manga may not even notice any of these clichés. If you are familiar, but willing to let them slide, then this will be an enjoyable reading experience. The story is very well structured, and the art is solid.

Reviewed by Courtney Kraft on July 10, 2012

Magic Knight: Rayearth 1, Book 1
by CLAMP