Hikaru Shidou, Umi Ryuuzaki, and Fuu Hououji are strangers brought together by fate when they meet during a seemingly normal field trip to Tokyo Tower. Accompanied by a great flash of light, they hear a mysterious woman's plea to save "Cephiro," and the junior high heroines are suddenly swept away by a giant flying fish. Afterwards, they arrive in an unknown land, where they encounter a man called Master Mage Clef.
Clef informs the girls that they were summoned by Princess Emeraude to fulfill their destinies as Magic Knights, restoring peace and balance in Cephiro. The formerly lively and peaceful land has been in disarray ever since High Priest Zagato imprisoned the princess, who acted as Cephiro's pillar of stability. The Magic Knights reluctantly accept Clef's words as truth and embark on a journey to save Cephiro from the clutches of evil.
Magic Knight Rayearth was a fresh new take on the female warrior/magical style back in the 90's, that still holds up very well today.
Basically we follow three high school girls who get sucked in an alternate dimension, and need to defeat the main enemy oppressing the land, and thus make it home in one peace. Its pretty straight forward in that regards, but along the way they end up meeting endearing friends and allies that assist them in their mission(s). You will also be treated to nice little back stories on a majority of the main characters, and learn their strengths and weaknesses alike.
There will also be little side quests that the girls have to go on, that steer way from the main plot in order to keep things a bit more fresh and preventing it from growing stale. The plot twists that happen are pretty surprising as well, both with the over all storyline as well as with the characters, but I won't say what because I don't wanna spoil it for ya. The ending, while not truly epic or anything like that, is a most satisfying experience. The action scenes are also pretty nice, very fluid and thought out, even if it may show a bit of repetitious during some of it. However it is not all without its flaws; the most frustrating thing I found with the story is that it tended introduce one too many fillers at some points, and at those times I just wanted them to get on with it already! They also implemented a bit too many characters for this number of episodes, some of the villians we never really got to know much about, and seemed to be their only to keep the cast number large. Wasn't that bad and they worked out a majority of the character's story sequences as much as possibly could. So while it does have a few fillers and may tend to drag on a bit. It has great character interactions, moving moments and good action scenes. I feel I should mention that although it does have a good number of combat and action scenes, it does play about 30% or more of the series in a somewhat more cutesy and comical approach. Nothing too major, but they are there.
As far as offensive material goes, there is some blood in this title. Now while a good portion of the episodes can get away without showing any of the red stuff. There still are a few scenes where the girls get stabbed and blood is dripping down from them, or running along their wound. It never really comes off as exaggerated, but is still there none the less.
Most people may frown when looking at the clarity of it today, but the colors and detailed background were truly at their best when this came out. Nothing ever feels truly over done with it, and does make you feel attached to the scenery. The character design is also pretty charming to look at, they each have a scenes of style and flare to where you can tell that Clamp (makers of it) really made an effort to give them a nice appeal. My only complaint with it was the facial expressions, they seemed a bit too stiff at times, and I sometimes found it hard to connect with what they were feeling during the appropriate moments.
Like the artwork, it does show its age as well. Most of it does match well with what is going on, and does have an ere to adventure and struggle, even though the only real main memorable background music plays during the battles, all else of it is pretty discrete and sparse. I loved the opening and closing to this, both are sung by the same singer and are played out like a high pitched kinda of bouncy magical girl beat. I can tell you now though, it certain won't appeal to all, as some may find it a bit too cheesy and girly. Now regarding the voice actors, I think they did a pretty good job of giving the right girl the right role. While some voices may feel a bit over exaggerated, (especially regarding some of the villains) I think they pulled it off pretty well.
I really dug them, they each have a certain amount of depth and likeness to each. As the story progresses you get to know them more and more, along with what their greatest attribute is, as well as greatest fear. They compliment one another very believable-ly, and you really get a sense of the friendship they all share, as they struggle to make their way home! Nobody ever comes of as a pest or cliche, which really make you believe the story that it implements. Again I only felt that they added a tad too many people for its episode length.
Bottom Line: 8/10
Magic Knight Rayearth remains a good solid watch that should still appeal to a well rounded majority of anime fans out their, while it does contain a few filler style episodes and a few repetitive fight scenes, if you can get past that then you'll be fine. It overall remains a fun and enjoyable little series that will satisfy you once it ends, all while leaving you with a sense of remorse because its over.
Please keep in mind that this review was regarding the first season of Magic Knight Rayearth, the second one is a whole new ball game, and I felt it just didn't live up to the first one. Just so you are aware of which one I was speaking of.
Try to mix Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi and Aura Battler Dunbine and you get this animme but I say it appeals to outside the audiences of those animes as well. In comparison to Sailor Moon, the girls are in another world and have no need to conceal their identities. However, they don’t make highly dramatic speeches of why evil is wrong or anything like in a super hero shoujo like Sailor Moon. But like Sailor Moon (specifically in the Stars series), Hikaru does try to emotionally reason with enemies and plea with them that fighting is wrong. The anime in comparison to other magical
girl animes is more masculine and physical, and the way the characters are presented and developed in being more dependent than just their magical powers, but their own natural fighting abilities and their big hearts.
When I say relying on their own natural fighting abilities I mean things such as Hikaru with Kendo, Umi with fencing, and Fuu with archery. It’s not like Sailor Moon where she is managing to avoid a fight until she finds an opening to use her signature move of the season. With Fushigi Yuugi, its girls are transported to another world and they are seen as the savior. But these girls in MKR are chosen to be warriors and not celestial priestesses and have to fight their enemies themselves with minimal help from time to time. As for Aura Battler Dunbine, it’d be a spoiler if I explain it to you but if you see at the every end of the opening credits, you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
In the end, with the way the story progresses, it’s as if you are watching an old school Japanese style RPG game.
The art is of course by Clamp, so you’ll be able to recognize the way they draw the size of the eyes and the distinctive style to them. The eyes are the only thing that just looks alike but the characters have good variety to their design such as their uniforms, shapes of their faces and bodies. But in terms of other factors like hair styles and what not, it’s typical what you see in other animes like natural colored blue hair and what not so that’s always been a basic acceptable standard in anime. Because the majority of this anime takes place in another world, it is at liberty to allow more types of fictional creatures like Innova with his ears and have wicked costumes like Caladina’s skimpy gypsy outfit and Zagato’s heavy armor. The armor and the costume designs are very captivating and the environment of Cefiro is really breath taking and something out of Final Fantasy almost with floating continents and more in a world of middle ages but with monsters and magic.
Of course like other magical girl animes a lot of recycled footage is used such as when they use their magical powers. Like every time Hikaru uses her flare arrow or something, it’s the same animation sequence with a red background and so on and so forth. But this was made in mid 1990s and a certain percentage of anime was like that and acceptable. But for those of you that more new into anime, this might annoy you more than it did with me because I got into this anime when it first came out. Then sometimes for humor’s sake, characters get miniaturized. I say this it to keep it appealing to the kids and to give it some humor. I can handle it, but for some people, they might find it annoying. Other than that, when they are not relying on magic to fight, the use of their natural fighting abilities plays out well and gives more exciting build up with the fights and makes it more enjoyable like that.
The music is very excellent and beautiful. The opening theme Yuzurenai Negai meaning an Unyielding Wish is one of my favorite opening songs of all time. I like how it builds up very slow in the first few seconds and then bam, it becomes more like rock and pop. It has a good sense of tempo and pacing and the lyrics are a great way of telling the overall theme of having a strong will and always stick to your dreams. In other language versions like the English and Tagalog versions, they try to keep the song faithful. I know the Sega Saturn version in English has a different tune to the song from the anime version though. The ending theme Asu He No Yuuki or the Courage to Tomorrow is more pop-ish but shares the same things in a more light hearted context.
The background music especially when the next episode recaps the previous is very intense because the situation of the show is presented that way. The music has a variety of ways of setting the atmosphere and tends to be more orchestral because of the setting in a more midevil world.
The voice acting in the Japanese version is perfect. I really love the cast. I like Ryotaro Okiayu as Innova. Just perfect. Same with Juurouta Kusogi as Zagato perfectly matches his look. The English voices on the other hand, not too great and is why some anime fans hate dubs. Personally, I thought the Saturn game’s dub cast was much superior and more faithful to the characterizations. Such as Hikaru being tomboyish and rowdy, Umi being formal, and Fuu being intelligent. The regular anime dub just didn’t cut it for me.
This anime is more universally appealing that other magical girl animes because of the action and story isn’t all that feminine in comparison to other predecessors. Before the anime and manga came out, there was the Saturn game that came out in late 1998. It was the last Saturn game to come to America. It comes with some great stickers and high quality box art. The game itself is like the old school Zelda games like Link to the past except you have control of 3 characters. The graphics are still excellent in terms of background but the game play style has the characters chibi-ized like in Zelda. It offers great challenges and the story itself still faithful to the original material, but offers an alternate story with more characters and development. It’s a high recommendation for Saturn owners. You’ll enjoy the anime for the characters, action, and unpredictable story.
What makes a "Fantasy" anime so good? When someone says fantasy, the very first word that comes to my mind is "saving the world". Magic Knight Rayearth is one of those anime who stood up in this kind of platform. Yes, very common and very predictable. The anime aired in 1994, a lot of anime produced this time are fantasies. As a kid, I grew up watching a lot of old school anime and most of them are actually about a group of people saving the humanity, incredible powers and needless to say a very bad animation style..
[b]The Story -[/b]
The story itself is very common,
nothing new about saving the universe, the world or other countries.. I've seen this anime before when I was a kid but I didn't have the chance to finish it actually until yesterday. The story is predictable except for the ending. CLAMP's works are known to have unpredictable and unbelievable endings. As you can notice from their other works like Chobits and Code Geass, they went crazy on their endings which makes the story so good and yet so bad (it depends on what kind of people are watching) but imo the ending of this series is not that good but I have to admit that it is very unbelievable. I was caught up watching the series because the pacing was fast but in every end of each episode you will be able to know what will happen to their next adventures.
[b]The Art -[/b]
The animation is bad but considering that the anime was produced in 1994 I would say there's really nothing I can do about it. One thing I like about the series is how CLAMP managed to create a very good and quite detailed robot designs for their rune-god characters. I think this where they got the idea for Code Geass' Knightmare designs.
[b]The Sound -[/b]
This is where the anime stands out. The opening and theme "Yuzurenai Negai" by Naomi Tamura brought life to the whole series. In my whole time watching anime, this is the second or probably the third time I got mesmerized by a good sound tracks like Clannad and Angel Beats. They made different variations of this song and inserted it in the series and guess what... it really added some good feelings and excitement while watching the series.
[b]The Character -[/b]
Three MCs got warped into a world known as "Cephiro" but surprisingly, they don't look like they are scared or anxious or they just lack emotions? The characters are like jobs in a very popular RPGs. Magus, Knights, High Priest, Summoner, Illusionist, Blacksmith and a princess. Each character develops very slowly but surely.
[b]The Enjoyment -[/b]
I can't say I really enjoy the series because of all the plot holes I found while watching it. Bad animation, the story is predictable and other noticeable holes made it hard to finish the series. I can sit for whole day and watch a 24 episode long series if it is very enjoyable but this time I wasn't.
[b]Overall - 5/10[/b]
Nevertheless, it's still a good thing that I finished watching a series that I started when I was a kid. The only thing I like about this anime are the OSTs. If you like fantasy anime then you might want to check this out..
Welcome back to magical girl month. Let's talk about Clamp again. Yes, the same studio behind xxxHolic and Cardcaptor Sakura. Now, I've already talked about their most famous magical girl series and, although I could look at one of its films, this month let's look at the other major one, Magic Knight Rayearth. One of the odd things about Clamp is that their anime adaptations all seem to be handled by different studios. Cardcaptor Sakura was a Madhouse production, Production IG did xxxHolic and this series was handled by TMS, a studio that's done a lot of famous stuff like Lupin, Detective Conan, Sonic X
& Monster Rancher. None of which I've reviewed. So, let's take a look and see how they handle Clamp's work.
Our narrative opens at Tokyo Tower where three different schools have all come on a field trip at the same time. That seems a bit convenient, but I'll let it go because I honestly have no idea if that's actually a thing that happens for Tokyo Tower. It is a famous landmark, maybe it's a perfectly normal occurrence for multiple unrelated schools to visit at the same time. In a flash of light three girls, Fuu, Umi and Hikaru, appear in a strange world with floating stones. They meet a tiny man who calls himself Clef, the master mage. He tells the girls that to return to their world they have to revive the Rune Gods, become magic knights and save their land called Cephiro. Their princess and the pillar of their world, Emeraude, has been kidnapped by a villain called Zagato. But Clef's exposition dump is interrupted by the arrival of Alcyone, one of Zagato's minions. Clef buys time for them to escape, telling them to find Presea, a master blacksmith who will forge weapons for them. So, the girls set out on their quest to stop Zagato and save Cephiro.
Let's start with the story issues. The biggest one involves a character death. I won't spoil who dies, but I will say that at this point it's been established that Fuu has healing magic and while this character is dying she doesn't do a thing. Later, they tell you that she tried her healing spell off-screen after the events you see, but there's still the problem of why she didn't do it sooner. Why wait until this other character stopped talking and moving to try and help them? Was she worried that she'd interrupt their speech by acting while they were still talking? It just makes the magic knights seem pitifully slow to react and incompetent. The worst part is that there are two easy ways to fix it. Method one, Fuu gets knocked out in the battle and doesn't wake up until it's already over. Method two, the character in question dies instantly. No time for a death speech or for healing magic. Honestly, the fact that they have the scene and only explain quite a bit later that Fuu did anything at all just makes it look like the writers forgot she had the healing spell or didn't think of having her use it at the actual critical moment, only realising they'd screwed up later on.
There are some more minor issues too. For example, the magic knights spend way too long fighting the same few minions. Zagato is shown as having five major underlings and more than half the series is spent with two of them. Which results in the other three having really rushed conflicts with the knights and most of them not getting much screen time or room for development. The story is also pretty predictable since it relies heavily on cliches, but it's also intended for a pretty young audience so they'll probably find the events somewhat surprising, at least.
So, what does the series do well narratively? Well, it is good at foreshadowing the events that are coming, which will give the intended audience a good head's up and some sources of tension. The heroes journey element is also done fairly well with a nice, steady progression. The romance elements, though not exactly good, are better than what you'd expect from Clamp's usual works. For one thing, only one of the girls gets a love interest, although the sequel might change that. For another thing, he is important to the plot and, in a rare move for Clamp, he's not far too old for her nor is he related to her. Granted, that's only a positive because Clamp is usually pretty pants at writing romance, but I'll give them credit for writing one that isn't gross or overly intrusive. I also do like that all three of our heroines do share the focus pretty evenly with all of them getting the spotlight at times, their own subplots and their own shining moments.
The characters are pretty mixed. Hikaru, Fuu and Umi do get a respectable level of development and are somewhat fleshed out. However, the side characters are pretty weak. The vast majority of them follow a very basic and common character type with nothing to distinguish them from any other character who follows that type. They aren't terrible or offensively written but they also aren't good or interesting. Even the love interest is just your typical charming rogue character. They try to make the villains sympathetic, but most of that just involves using the lazy “they're doing it for love” excuse without putting any actual effort into making them the least bit compelling or three dimensional.
I won't lie, the series does not look good. Yeah, it was made back when everything was hand drawn so it's bound to be a bit dated by today's standards, but even when comparing it to other anime that came out around the same time, or earlier, it looks pretty bad. I will grant that there are some interesting designs, both in terms of characters and environments, but the animation is choppy and there are a lot of really noticeable art errors, usually having to do with drawing faces.
Our main three are voiced by Shiina Hekiru (Hikaru), Yoshida Konami (Umi) and Kasahara Hiroko (Fuu). All of whom give competent performances, albeit not the best of their careers. You could say the same thing of the acting as a whole, it's competent but not anything special. The music is... there. It's not bad but it's not really good either. It's okay.
There's a bit. The series does have a lot of moments where Hikaru, Umi and Fuu strengthen their relationship and some of those seem to go beyond the realm of friendship. Still, it's obviously not deliberate and nothing comes of it. So, I'm calling the ho-yay factor a 3/10.
Magic Knight Rayearth is a pretty standard series. It has some things that are pretty well done and others that are pretty badly done, but most of it is in between the two. All in all, it's average. If you're curious about it then it won't hurt you to check it out but you also won't be missing anything if you skip it. My final rating is a 5/10. Next week we'll continue the month with a look at Umi Monogatari: Anata ga Ite Kureta Koto.
Do you have an older game console sitting in the cupboard, basement or attic? Perhaps it's time to dust it off, plug it in and start enjoying it once again. We're about to discover some fascinating retro games based on anime franchises we've grown to love over the years.