Manga: Magic Knight Rayearth
Tomaaaaaranai! (Don't stooooop!)
Mirai wo mezashite (Aim for the future)...
This Shoujo series
is one of the most popular creations of the creative collective known as CLAMP
, blending Magical Girl
, Humongous Mecha
and Heroic Fantasy
into a unique and entertaining mix.
Three schoolgirls—the boisterous
Hikaru Shidou, the graceful
Umi Ryuuzaki, and the bookish
Fuu Hououji—are visiting Tokyo Tower
on a class trip when they are suddenly whisked away
to the magical land of Cephiro. There, they discover that they have been summoned to become Magic Knights and go on a grand quest to save Princess Emeraude, whose prayers sustain the peace of Cephiro
, from the clutches of High Priest Zagato.
In the grand tradition of Eastern RPGs
, the trio must travel across the land seeking out key characters to acquire their weapons, armour, upgrades and Summon Magic
. Over the course of their journey, the three strangers gradually learn about each other and forge a true bond of friendship; a bond that is sorely tested as they approach the climax of the ancient prophecy and discover their true
purpose as Magic Knights.Magic Knight Rayearth
, despite its deceptively simple "schoolgirls on a quest" appearance, is a story with layers of motivation and backstory
behind the events of Cephiro's crisis. What seems at first to be a simple, straight-line adventure/quest plot turns out to be darker and far more complicated, and the final revelation of the prophecy's true meaning forces Hikaru, Umi and Fuu to make mature, grown-up choices that belie the earlier impression of "fairytale fun".
The manga has a sequel, which deals primarily with the aftermath of the Magic Knights' action in the first half. The anime is split into two seasons, with the second season deviating more from the manga than the first.
Other media include Rayearth OVA
, a Super Famicom
game done as a turn-based RPG
, and a Sega Saturn
version released in the United States by Working Designs
. The latter version is noteworthy not so much for the actual game, but for the Development Hell
that it went through - it was delayed for so long that it ended up as the final title ever released for the Saturn in the U.S.
It has its own wiki here
.There's also the Character Sheets
This work provides examples of:
- Abdicate the Throne: Hikaru, the moment she gets it.
- Aesop Amnesia: At the start of the Season 2, Clef is sincerely guilty over having deceived the girls about their true purpose and says he should have told them the truth from the beginning. But at the same time he concocts a new lie that Presea was resurrected, when it's really her twin sister. His reasoning? That doing otherwise would somehow break their hearts more, even though they had no reason to think Presea wouldn't still be dead and he could just tell them before they went in that she had an identical twin. The lie was for Ascot's benefit too, as his creatures killed Presea, but it it still goes against the lesson and hurts Sierra badly, not to mention he isn't happy about it either..
- Attack Drone: The FTO in the manga has these.
- Adaptation Expansion: There's a lot of new content in the anime compared to the manga, where the girls progress in a straight line from weapons to Mashin to final battle. The anime shows the girls' travel in more detail, which is used to develop them and the people of Cephiro. The Sega game takes it even further, with multiple characters and villages added for mini-quests.
- Accent Adaptation: The Swedish translation gave Fuu a speech pattern that hadn't been used since the 1940's to emphasize her excessive politeness.
- Adaptive Ability: The monster Atalante from the anime can adapt to different attacks and abilities... after learning this, and it's adapted to many things, they try overwhelming force. It isn't good.
- Adjective Noun Fred: This is the title's format, which is kept fairly intact in the English translation.
- After the End: The second season. Cephiro has been reduced to a wasteland and a crystal palace filled with refugees.
- A God Am I: Subverted. Hikaru actually becomes the Pillar of Cephiro, but immediately uses her powers to get rid of her status and the Pillar System, and allow Cephiro to be shaped by all its inhabitants instead of one person.
- Could be played straight with Debonair, though.
- Aliens Speaking English: The girls take it for granted that the Cephirans are speaking Japanese, until they meet Caldina and her Kansai Regional Accent. Then they start wondering how two different worlds have the same linguistic history.
- All Therapists Are Muggles: When the second half begins, the girls' families (Hikaru's brothers, Umi's parents and Fuu's older sister) are deeply concerned over the mysterious depression they've developed since that class trip to Tokyo Tower. But even when Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu appreciate their efforts, they can't exactly say that they went to another world and killed two people.
- All Your Colors Combined: The Magic Knights perform a spell called Rainbow Flash against Zagato.
- Alternate Continuity: The anime diverges a little from the manga in the first season but has a completely different path in the second, adding a new Big Bad and a very different ending. The OVA is so different that it has its own page.
- Amazon Brigade: All of Chizeta's soldiers appear to be female and wear Belly Dancer-ish outfits like their princesses.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: The Mashin (a Punny Name that can mean both "demon-god" and "machine", rendered as Rune God in the anime). They're living beings, but entirely controlled by what the girls do.
- Anti-Villain: Basically every single one of them aside from Lady Debonair. Zagato, Emeraude and Eagle especially.
- Artistic Age: Apart from the fact that anyone in Cephiro can look whatever age they want, Umi and Fuu look a little older than 14. Hikaru looking like a grade-schooler is Lampshaded.
- As Long as There Is Evil: Is Lady Debonair's claim to immortality as The Heartless of Cephiro. Averted, however, after Hikaru pretty much rations out her godhood to everyone, and the Combined Energy Attack blasts her into true nothingness.
- The Atoner: Several in Part 2, but especially the Magic Knights themselves for killing Emeraude and Zagato. Hikaru is the most affected.
- Awful Truth: The full legend of the Magic Knights. They're a failsafe measure to kill the Pillar in case she ever turns evil.
- Backup Twin: When Presea is killed in the anime, a HUGE plot hole appeared since she was alive in the manga. CLAMP fixed it by introducing Sierra, Presea's twin younger sister, who pretends to be Presea so she and Clef can keep the girls under a sort-of illusion that Emeraude revived Presea as her last wish, lest they'll be even more broken.
- Badass Adorable: The Magic Knights, but especially Hikaru.
- Badass Cape: The final evolution of the girls' armor, which dons itself whenever they fight in the Mashin, includes a very long cape.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The first episode shows the trio like this when they're given magic (a shot that is also used in the first opening). The second opening has a similar scene that lingers the longest on Hikaru, who has a full-frontal shot with no nipples or genitalia.
- Because Destiny Says So: Once summoned, the Magic Knights have to awaken the Mashin and save Cephiro. No buts. It's given a dark Deconstruction at the end of the first half with Emeraude, who believes that she has exactly two choices: love Zagato at the cost of her world, or die. At the end of Part II, Hikaru rejects this attitude and takes a third option by saying "A God I Am Not".
- BFS: Fuu's sword, especially near the end of the first season, is longer then she is tall. Lafarga and Zagato also have one.
- Big Bad: Zagato in the first season (probably), and Debonair in the second.
- Justified with Debonair because she is the manifestation of Cepherio's fear, sorrow, and despair after Emeraude's death.
- Big Fancy House: Umi and Fuu both live in one. Hikaru lives in a Big Fancy Kendo Dojo.
- Bishōnen: As per CLAMP's standard modus operandi for character designs.
- Bittersweet Ending: The ending of the anime series. Cephiro is restored, the Big Bad (Lady Debonair) is defeated, but Eagle is dead and the three girls have to return home for good. However, in the last few minutes, the trio manages to get a glimpse on Cephiro being restored to its former beauty thanks to Hikaru abolishing the Pillar system, and it's (vaguely) implied that they can now return whenever they wish similar to the manga.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The Brazilian translation is "Magic Knights of Rayearth", making it sound like Rayearth is the name of the setting.
- Blonde, Bluenette, Redhead: Fuu, Umi, and Hikaru.
- Bodyguard Crush: One of the most tragic cases ever in CLAMP manga and anime: Zagato and Emeraude.
- Bond Creatures: The Rune Gods/Mashin. Whatever injuries they sustain, the Knights will, too, albeit at a smaller scale. Rayearth getting his shield sliced in half results in Hikaru having a very nasty cut on her arm.
- Bonus Material: The manga has omakes in between chapters/volumes, as well as character mini-bios and artwork of the main trio wearing Pimped Out Dresses. There's also an "omake" option on the North American DVD release.
- Brain Bleach: Chizeta's muscular djinn seem to cause a need for this in Umi and Aska. It's like Distracted By The Unsexy for Umi in particular.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Lafarga, by hypnotic tattoos, while Caldina uses magical music to brainwash Hikaru and Umi. Alcyone as well, in the second anime season. Ferio also falls victim to this in the Saturn game.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Hikaru turns toward the reader on the final page of the second manga series and asks "you who have watched over us from the beginning" to write in what Cephiro's new name will be.
- Broken Bird: Emeraude in Part 1. The Magic Knights themselves become this in Part 2 as a result of what Emeraude forced them to do. Sierra also is one thanks to being the Back Up Twin for her dead sister in the anime rendition of Part 2... and where do we start with anime!Alcyone's issues?
- Bullying a Dragon: Heroic instance: when The Creator takes away Hikaru and Eagle into the Pillar's Trial, Lantis flies up to it and shoves his sword up right at Its face, threatening to kill It if It doesn't bring them both back, unharmed, RIGHT NOW.
- Call Back:
- Umi's worry over missing a fencing tournament becomes a plot point in episode 9.
- Early in season 1, Hikaru saves a young girl but all the other villagers are too terrified to thank her. In season 2, Hikaru meets the little girl again—she finally thanks Hikaru for saving her and gushes over how strong and brave she is.
- Calling Your Attacks: For magic spells. The first time the girls use magic, they say that they can feel the words coming to them.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Cephiro's titles are non-Japanese, non-English words. In the English translations, Master Mage Clef is called "Guru", Ultimate Blacksmith Presea is the "Pharle", Master Swordsman Lafarga is "Dal", Summoner Ascot is "Palu", and High Priest Zagato's title is "Sol". The original Japanese has a consistent pattern of all Cephiran titles ending in "-ru", so "Pharle" is "Faru", "Dal" is "Daru", "Palu" is "Paru", and "Sol" is "Soru". Caldina also gives her title as "Raru" in the original Japanese.
- Captain's Log: The Saturn game has each girl write illustrated journal entries about the various towns and perils they encounter (with some in-universe Alternate Character Interpretation and Unreliable Narrator in some entries). Innouva gets in on it, too.
- Catch a Falling Star: Both parts start with the girls appearing a good few kilometers above the ground in Cephiro. Both times they're caught by Fyula, Clef's giant flying fish. At the end of Part II, they descend more sedately to earth after the Mashin disappear.
- Central Theme: No person, no matter how powerful, can do everything by themselves.
- Chekhov's Skill: All three of the main girls, when they pick out their initial weapons. Hikaru's parents run a kendo dojo (broadsword), Umi was on the fencing team at her school (saber), and Fuu was on the archery team at hers (longbow).
- Chekhov's Volcano: Averted. While they travel to the volcano, it doesn't actually erupt, though there is a battle there, so Hikaru can prove her worth to Rayearth. The fact that it's Rayearth's personal shrine is probably why.
- Chromatic Arrangement: Additive primary colors: Hikaru, Umi and Fuu have respectively red, blue and green uniforms and eyes. Their hair colors are subtractive primary colors with red, blue, and blonde.note
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: This is how the whole world of Cephiro works. Several battles involve a willpower-off. And it works both ways—if people are afraid and think that bad things are going to happen, bad things actually happen.
- Class Trip: Three separate schools are having a field trip to Tokyo Tower at the start of the manga, one public school (Hikaru's) and two very posh private ones (Fuu's and Umi's).
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: The anime resolves the Hikaru/Lantis/Eagle Love Triangle by having Debonair kill Eagle.
- Color-Coded Elements: Red for fire, blue for water, and green for wind.
- Combining Mecha: Rayearth, Celes, and Windam combine into one being to defeat Emeraude.
- Coming-of-Age Story: More so in the anime than the manga, especially for Hikaru.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Presea likes to threaten these against anyone who annoys her, particularly Mokona.
- Cool Big Sis: Presea. Caldina is one to Ascot in the anime and the Knights in the second half.
- Cool Ship: The invading countries in the second half each come with one.
- Autozam has the NSX, which is a standard space battleship with missiles and Humongous Mecha on board.
- Fahren has the Dreamchild, an enormous dragon-shaped vessel.
- Chizeta has the Bravada, which is shaped like a genie's lamp and has gardens on its deck.
- Cosmic Keystone: The Pillar of Cephiro is a living one. The anime adds the Pillar's crown as an inanimate one—it's kept in a room that can only be entered by the person able to wear it due to a magical field, and Debonair tries to steal it in order to become the Pillar herself.
- Creator Cameo: Mokona is named after CLAMP artist Mokona Appapa.)
- Cross-Popping Veins: Umi and Clef. (Often caused by each other.)
- Cue the Sun: In the last episode of the anime, the black clouds that had covered Cephiro's sky since near the end of the first season finally part and let through glorious columns of sunlight.
- Cute Giant: Great Sanyun, one of Aska's illusion spells. (Everyone who sees it, however, is very weirded out.)
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Zagato, who sends out his most powerful warrior right off the bat to stop the girls.
- Darker and Edgier:
- The Saturn game kills off several characters. It also depicts only the first half, though the ending is somewhat different of the one from the first season of the anime series.
- The second half of the story, where Cephiro is mostly falling apart.
- The O.V.A. is also darker than both the manga and anime.
- Dark-Skinned Redhead: People from Chizeta have this phenotype.
- Deconstruction: Of the Rescue The Princess genre of Heroic Fantasy.
- Death by Adaptation: In the anime, Presea dies shortly into the first season as a Sacrificial Lamb, and the second season has Eagle killed by Debonair. In the Saturn game, every minor villain the girls face ends up dead, sometimes as a You Have Failed Me punishment from Innova.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Caldina, Ascot and Lafarga.
- Deflector Shields: Clef places a magic one around the castle in Part II, which gives him a Power Strain Blackout when they're attacked by the NSX. The NSX itself also has the typical technological kind.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: Happens in the anime's second season. Having defeated Nova and rescued Lantis, the Magic Knights and Eagle return to Cephiro. And then Debonair shows up out of nowhere to kill Eagle. This is also the first time that Debonair directly attacks anyone and marks the beginning of the final battle.
- Died Happily Ever After: At the end of part 1, Emeraude and Zagato are finally together after the Magic Knights have killed them both.
- Distant Finale: The final moments of the final episode are set one year later. In English translation of the manga it's clear that some time has passed, but it's not said how long. The original Japanese gives the year of the manga's epilogue as being 1996, which, if you assume that the series happened in the year the first chapter was published in (1994), would mean approximately two years have passed.
- Downer Ending: The end of Part I, both manga and anime.
- The Dragon: Alcyone (and in the anime, Innouva), for Zagato. Nova, for Debonair in the second half of the anime.
- Dub Name Change: In the Portuguese version: Hikaru to Lucy, Umi to Marina, and Fuu to Anne. Other international dubs (Italy, Latin America, Philippines) used these names or a variation on them, such as "Anemone" for Fuu in the Italian dub or "Anais" in the Latin American Spanish dub. "Luce" (still pronounced "Lucy") and "Marine" were variations for the other two that popped up in dubs. note
- The End of the World as We Know It: What will happen if Cephiro doesn't have a Pillar.
- "End of the World" Special: When Hikaru becomes the Pillar, she immediately divests the power to every individual in Cephiro so that the world is no longer dependent on a single person who can have no wishes for herself. This restores the world and prevents the tragedy of Emeraude and Zagato being repeated. On the last page of the manga, Hikaru turns to the reader and asks them to come up with a new name for the place.
- Elemental Powers: Check the character sheet for details.
- Evil Is Hammy: Debonair, nuff' said!
- Eviler Than Thou: Season 2 of the anime has the invading nations battling each other for control of Cephiro, Anti Villains though they may be, and they're all overshadowed by Debonair.
- Evil Minions: Zagato has a small troupe of them and sends them out one at a time. (In the anime, they team up a few times on their own.)
- Evolving Weapon: As the girls grow in skill and awake the Mashin, their weapons and armor also evolve.
- Expansion Pack World: Rayearth II not only deals with the fallout of Rayearth I, it also reveals that Cephiro is one of several planet-countries previously separated by the Pillar's barrier.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: The three girls.
- Facial Markings: Lafarga has tattoos on his face. They're a tool of hypnotic control and gone in part two.
- Family Theme Naming: Hikaru and her brothers Satoru, Masaru and Kakeru; also Fuu and her sister Kuu.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Autozam is the United States of America, Chizeta is India (and/or the Middle East), Fahren is China.
- Feminist Fantasy: Mainly by way of having many female characters in powerful/important roles, like the protagonists themselves, their Ultimate Blacksmith, and Princess Emeraude.
- Fetch Quest: The search for Escudo.
- First Church of Mecha: It's unclear to what (if any) extend the Mashin/Rune Gods are regarded as such, but they occupy isolated shrines and figure prominently in the legends.
- Fisher King: The Pillar. The state of her heart is reflected in Cephiro.
- Floating Continent: Windam's shrine is a single airborne mountain.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Used as a disguise by one of Ascot's monsters.
- In the anime, an illusion of Princess Emeraude tries to kill the girls. Also, in Episode 20 of the second season, there's a scene that shifts between shots of Hikaru, Eagle, and the changing Proof of the Pillar several times.
- Bucketloads in the Rayearth II manga. Pay attention to Mokona's facial expression. And the paneling whenever Hikaru talks about the Pillar System.
- Forgot About Her Powers: Tends to happen a lot in the anime. The trio will wail on a monster ineffectively with either swords or magic for a while before remembering they can do both, or use only one of their multiple spells. In one instance, Umi is grabbed by a flying monster and Fuu stops Hikaru from using a fire spell, but doesn't even think about using the spell she created specifically to harmlessly restrain an enemy. Often done in combination with The Worf Effect.
- Frilly Upgrade: The girls' armor, which is magical in nature and evolves as they do.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Alcyone, in her first appearance in the second season.
- God in Human Form: The Pillar is basically a god thanks to the power s/he has over Cephiro.
- Go-Go Enslavement: In the second season of the anime, when the girls are captured by the invading countries, they're forced to dress up in their typical clothes. Fuu and Hikaru don't have a problem, but Umi (captured by Tarta and Tatra from Chizeta) has to wear an odalisque outfit and is not amused.
- Gratuitous English: Actually becomes a small but significant plot point in Rayearth II, where Fuu contrasts the English title "Magic Knight" against Dal, Pharle, etcetera. It's because Mokona, the Creator, made Earth before Cephiro and decided that the self-destruct mechanism for the Pillar would come from Earth.
- Grey and Gray Morality:
- In Part I, Alcyone and Innouva follow Zagato out of love, Ascot because Zagato promised his monsters would no longer be persecuted, and Caldina for money. Zagato himself is trying to prevent Emeraude's death at the hands of the Magic Knights, which is why he's trying to kill them despite their young age. Clef, while a good guy, obscures the truth about Emeraude's situation and the girls are left shattered when they're forced to kill her.
- In Part II, the invaders have understandable motives. Eagle wants to transplant the Pillar System to his polluted country and save Lantis from killing himself by trying to end the Pillar System. Tarta and Tatra want to colonize Cephiro because their country has no room. Aska is a capricious child who thinks Cephiro would be a great toy. None of them (barring Eagle) understand the full implications of becoming the Pillar, but they still do things that hurt each other and the Magic Knights. The only truly evil character is the anime-only Debonair, who is a personification of Cephiro's despair.
- Good Wings, Evil Wings:
- The Mashin have good wings—Seles has dragon wings, Windam has bird wings, and Rayearth has fire wings. Their combined form has bird and bat wings.
- The Mashin used by Emeraude has demonic wings, as does Nova's Regalia in the anime.
- Grand Finale: The ending of Part I, which was supposed to be the end until fan outcry resulted in the sequel. The second half ends with either a confrontation with God and the reshaping of the world, or a battle against Debonair to save the world from destruction... and reshape it.
- Happy Ending: The second half of the manga. Everybody Lives, the Pillar system has been altered so that Magic Knights won't be needed again, Cephiro has been restored to its former beauty, and the girls get to visit whenever they like.
- The Heartless: Most monsters in Cephiro are created from negative emotions. So is the Big Bad of the second season.
- This causes a nasty positive feedback loop in one episode: people are frightened, so monsters appear in the castle, so people get more frightened, and even more monsters show up....
- Hellish Horse: Alcyone and Lantis can both summon these.
- Hermetic Magic: Clef, Zagato, and Ascot's magic often takes this form—powerful, time-consuming, and with big magic symbols.
- Heroic Spirit: The more of this you have, the more powerful you will literally be in Cephiro. The Mashin also consider it a prerequisite for the worthy.
- History Repeats: High Priest Zagato fell in love with Emeraude, Pillar of Cephiro. Tragedy ensued. In the second season, Zagato's younger (but identical) brother Lantis falls in love with the girl who would become Pillar, Hikaru. The irony was not lost on either.
- Holding Hands: Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu hold hands with each other a lot, usually after something big (like when they emerge from the Spring of Eterna), after having survived some danger, or expressing worry.
- Honey Trap: Seen in episode 15 with Sarah, who turns out to be a disguised Inouva.
- Hope Spot:
- In the first part, it's after the girls kill Zagato. They fly on to the dungeon, assuming that the only thing left to do is rescue the princess. It's not.
- In the anime's second season, rescuing Lantis and defeating Nova. Things are looking up, right? No, now Eagle is dead and Debonair is ready to claim Cephiro as her own.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Lafarga and Caldina, Hikaru and either Lantis or Eagle, Ascot and Umi (though Umi is quite tall, Ascot towers over her.) Genderflipped (and the romance/platonic nature a bit more debatable) with Clef and either Umi and Presea or Sierra.
- Humongous Mecha: The Rune Gods/Mashin. Autozam also uses conventional, mechanical mecha.
- I Know You Are In There Somewhere Fight:
- Fuu tries to reach Hikaru and Umi when Caldina hypnotizes them into attacking her and implores them to dodge when Caldina starts puppetmastering Fuu. It doesn't work, but she manages to break it by attacking Caldina herself.
- The Final Battle against Princess Emeraude is like this. Emeraude is in there, somewhere, but she implores the girls to finish it now before that part of her vanishes into her grief for Zagato.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: Well, it's CLAMP.
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: The swords, and the way they ensure only their users can wield them.
- Innocuously Important Episode: The battle with Caldina (or the last battle with Caldina in the anime). She tells Fuu that at least the Magic Knights have a goal—compared to Zagato, whose reason for this hullabaloo is basically unknown. Until then, the three girls had genuinely thought that Zagato was simply out to take over Cephiro. This doesn't come back until the Wham Episode.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: The Rune Gods could have just bestowed powers to the girls, but making them mecha was just cooler.
- Joshikousei: Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are all eighth-graders from different schools. Most iterations of their armor preserves the appearance of their school uniforms.
- Kansai Regional Accent: People from Chizeta speak with this. Lamp Shaded in the anime.
- Kissing Discretion Shot: Caldina holds a sash in front of the camera just before she and Lafarga kiss in the anime.
- Land, Sea, Sky: The main characters and their Mashin: Hikaru/Rayearth (Land), Umi/Selece (Sea), Fuu/Windam (sky). Note that Hikaru's attacks use fire, but as Rayearth's shrine is a volcano, it's derived from the earth's magma.
- Laser-Guided Tykebomb: When you get down to it, the Magic Knights are middle schoolers who've been summoned to kill someone, even if he does look like the final boss of a video game. But it really comes into play when they realize that they have to kill Princess Emeraude.
- Lady of War: Umi, Fuu, and Princess Emeraude.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Clef gives an incomplete (or false, depending on translation) version of the legend of the Magic Knights to the girls, as well as to their Ultimate Blacksmith Presea, so that they won't hesitate to fulfill it. He's sincerely regretful, so they don't hold it against him.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Umi enters one in Episode 9 that she accidentally created; she's able to leave by realizing she can't abandon her friends and Cephiro.
- Love Makes You Evil: Princess Emeraude and Alcyone, both for the same person.
- Zagato too, for that matter. Sending vicious assassins after teenagers isn't going to win the Good Guy of the Year award.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Ferio, Princess Emeraude is your older sister.
- Magic Knight: The Trope Namer - it's even in the title!
- Magic Skirt: Although the edge of a slip can occasionally be seen during dramatic winds.
- Magical Girl: Magical girls with giant robots. Also borrows a lot from Heroic Fantasy quest stories.
- Magitek: Autozam is a technological world run on "mental energy". This caused a pollution crisis and overuse can also kill the people operating it.
- The Maker: In Part II, manga only. It's Mokona. Turns out that It created the Pillar System for Cephiro because It was displeased with the strife on Earth and wanted a land that would remain peaceful.
- Marry Them All: Hikaru decides she's going to marry Lantis and Eagle in the manga.
- Meaningful Name: Hikaru = Light, although she has flame magic; Umi = Sea, Fuu = Wind.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Played straight in the first half with Cephiro. The invading countries in the second have real-world counterparts (see above).
- Memento MacGuffin: Lantis' necklace in the anime, a gift from his mother which he later gave to Hikaru. It even plays a role in the final battle.
- Mind-Control Eyes: Hikaru and Umi's eyes go blank when Caldina hypnotonizes them to kill Fuu.
- Mirror Monster: In episode 45, as Hikaru looks into her mirror, the thoughtful expression on her reflection changes into a Slasher Smile, and her reflection emerges as none other than Nova, who then remains in the castle; after being repelled by Hikaru's amulet, Nova decides to seek out Lantis, leaving Hikaru with one of her minions.
- Mordor: The Cephiro of Rayearth II is bleak, lifeless, and inhospitable.
- Motion Capture Mecha: All Rune Gods/Mashin, plus the Djinn from Chizeta.
- Mukokuseki: A CLAMP staple, though it's a bit oddly used here. Despite the "big eyes", all of the girls do have a characteristic "slant" to their eyes that many of the Cephirans don't, marking their ethnicity, and Hikaru's complexion is typically depicted as pretty standardly Japanese. However, none of the girls dye their hair, so they are, apparently, a natural fire red, a natural blue and a strawberry blonde, and both Umi and Fuu have skin lighter than most caucasians... yet they're still meant to be totally Japanese with no ancestry oddness. Obviously doesn't apply to any of the Cephirans, since they're technically aliens.
- My Enemies and Zoidberg: Near the end of the first season as the Magic Knights reflect on the foes they have faced, none of them mention Innouva even once, despite his defeat in the previous episode.
- Nightmare Face: Vigor (one of Ascot's monsters that can take on a cuter, smaller form) gets a very creepy face when he starts turning back into a monster, with his eyes glowing, his head slowly tilting, and his fur all wild.
- Noblewoman's Laugh: Done by Presea and Fuu (believe it or not) in the anime.
- No Name Given: The combined form of Rayearth, Seles, and Windam is not actually named—Big Rayearth and Great Rayearth are fan names.
- Noodle People: Especially evident when Eagle or Lantis shed their armor and stand around in standard uniforms. Hey, it's CLAMP, what did you expect?
- No One Gets Left Behind: Hikaru risks her life to bring Eagle back from the Pillar's Trial, even though Mokona states that only one may leave and Eagle says that he's dying anyway. The other two Magic Knights risk the same when they reach in to pull them both out.
- Not Drawn to Scale: Hikaru is precisely 1.5m (five feet) tall. Judging by that, Lantis is 3m—about nine feet.
- Off Model: Few bits here and there in the anime, but the quality really decreases in episode 17.
- Made intentionally funny when recycled animation appears and the difference is night and day.
- Older Than They Look: Anyone in Cephiro can invoke this trope. But poor Hikaru is mistaken for a grade schooler, both by her schoolmates as well as Umi and Fuu when they first meet her, because she's so short and innocent.
- Lampshaded in Rayearth II, when Eagle reminds Zazu that just because Hikaru looks his age doesn't mean she really is.
- Omake: Generally covering the quieter aspects of the girls' journey, like the "tent" that Mokona generates and discussing their families. Most of this was integrated into the episodes of the anime.
- One-Gender School: Hikaru, Umi and Fuu all attend all-girls schools.
- One-Woman Wail: Happens during the girls' discussion about their reasons for fighting for Cephiro in Episode 6 of the second season.
- Personality Blood Types: Lampshaded when Fuu introduces herself to Hikaru and Umi—she says it's in case they need first aid.
- Pet the Dog: Umi thanks Mokona for helping them reach the Rune Gods, and says he did a great job helping them.
- Planet of Hats: Cephiro has a relatively varied environment and culture for a fantasy-RPG world, but the Invading Countries...
- Autozam: Dedicated to high-technology based on mental power. Its primary exports are Humongous Mecha, interstellar warships, and ultra-advanced weaponry. Stands for the USA.
- Fahren: An entire world dedicated to Chinese motifs and mythology, with a few concessions to Japanese Onmyodo. Makes abundant use of the Asia Rune Chant, magic circles, and paper doll summoning. And, for some reason, ninja. Stands for China.
- Chizeta: An oddly-shaped world with a teeny-tiny habitable biosphere, inspired by Arabian Nights motifs. Even the Princessess' starship is shaped like an oil lamp, and, true to form, two muscular and unsettling djinn burst from its spout at their masters' command. Stands for the Middle East.
- Poor Communication Kills: If anyone had told the girls the truth about Emeraude and Zagato, they might have been able to figure out another course of action. In Rayearth II, they do their best to stop a repeat of this trope by finding out what the invaders want and telling them what the Pillar System really means.
- The Power of Friendship: Pretty much the point of the series. This is what saved Hikaru from being dissolved when she insisted on saving Eagle from the Pillar's Trial in the manga.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Magic Knights and Cephiran characters come to regard the Pillar System as this.
- Power Gives You Wings: All Rune Gods change into Humongous Mecha forms with themed wings. The Knights, who had traversed the whole of Cephiro on foot, even comment on how this allows them to reach the Very Definitely Final Dungeon at the end of the first season.
- The Power of Friendship: The whole story is built on this. It's how the girls manifest their most powerful spells, defeat their enemies, and convince their enemies to quit fighting.
- Power Trio: The girls.
- Promotional Art Always Spoils: If you haven't finished the first half, don't look at the art of Emeraude and Zagato.
- Punny Name: Eagle Vision.
- Reasoning with God: In the manga, this is how Fuu and Umi convince Mokona to let them and Hikaru bring Eagle back alive from the Road of the Pillar. They appeal to the evidence that he had some real affection for them in their travels, rather than an unsympathetic God figure. It works.
- Rescue Arc: Anime second season. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu get captured by Autozam, Chizeta, and Fahren, respectively. Two or three episodes are devoted to them getting to know the invaders while their Love Interests back home prepare to bail them out.
- Rescue Romance: Ferio does this in season two of the anime when Fuu is held captive by Fahren. Even though she was overcoming all of Aska's obstacles on her own. (He even defies the Battle Couple trope by stopping her from casting a spell and then giving her a Bridal Carry out.)
- Samurai: Loosely speaking; all three girls are accomplished swordswomen by the end of the show.
- Scenery Porn: The girls sometimes stop and admire Cephiro's beautiful landscapes... which becomes Scenery Gorn in Rayearth II, as it falls apart more and more.
- Secret Test of Character: In the manga, Rayearth tells Hikaru to abandon her friends and save herself from Lafarga, who she can't beat. Her refusal proves that she's worthy of being a Magic Knight.
- Send Me Back: Anime-only. After wondering how they got back to Cephiro, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu eventually figure out that they willed themselves back there, wanting to fix what they did in the first season. In the manga, Mokona summoned them.
- Schrödinger's Cast: Some characters who the anime killed off but were alive and well in the manga had to be "brought back" in the second season because they were needed for the plot. There's just one problem... it goes against CLAMP rules, you know.
- Shoot the Dog: Played completely straight with the Magic Knights themselves. They aren't here to save the Princess, they were summoned to destroy her because since she had found love, she could no longer function as the Pillar.
- Shoulders of Doom: Zagato, Lafarga, Lantis, evil Emeraude, Debonair, Nova, the three Rune Gods....
- Sic 'em: Zagato has a big, dramatic chamber he uses to summon his servants and send them out, one after the other, to crush the Magic Knights, in order of Alcyone, Ascot, Caldina, and Lafarga. (And Innouva, in the anime.)
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Umi is embarrassed by her parents' "eternal honeymoon" even when they're at home.
- Skyward Scream: Courtesy of Ascot after one of his summoned monsters is killed.
- Slow Motion Fall: When Alcyone ambushes them outside the Forest of Silence, the camera goes almost still when Umi is slashed in multiple places by the ice beams.
- Sneeze Cut: In the anime, Tatra sneezes when Aska starts talking about Chizeta, which Tarta immediately comments on. Tatra sneezes again, and Tarta (correctly) takes the meaning that someone is saying bad things.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Zigzagged with Zagato and more pronounced in the anime. Alcyone is a high-powered opponent (which Fuu directly lampshades by saying they haven't leveled up enough) and she nearly kills Umi on the second encounter, but the girls still manage to dispatch her. The next one is Ascot. In the manga he summons monster after monster during their single battle. In the anime he attacks them on their travels with powerful monsters that have one easily-exploitable weakness, then monsters that can go toe-to-toe with the Mashin. Caldina is strictly a hypnotist whose control was broken as soon as she tried to puppetmaster a conscious foe. Zagato is unquestionably the most powerful of all, but he doesn't properly fight the heroes until the Final Battle. He seems to be spending most of that time trying to somehow demonstrate to Emeraude why she should give up on the Magic Knight suicide instead of just squashing them from the off.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Between the two manga translations, the video games, and the anime, there's quite a lot of this.
- Seres/Celes/Selese/Ceres and more for Umi's Mashin. Its official name is Selece.
- The manga calls the Humongous Mecha "Mashin", but it's rendered as "Rune God" in the anime (despite the Japanese dialogue clearly using the word Mashin).
- The Sega Saturn game called Emeraude 'Emerald' and Zagato 'Zagat', and renamed Hikaru's dog from Hikari to Flash.
- Spoiler Opening: The first opening combines this with Bait-and-Switch Credits, as it briefly but prominently features the first season's Humongous Mecha showdown with Zagato, and the first indication that there are any mechs only happens when Umi meets hers.
- Standard Bleeding Spots: Typically, the girls get wounded on the cheek first, and maybe on the arms so they can clutch them. (They do get more serious wounds, but it always starts there.)
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Emeraude and Zagato.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: The three protagonists have some complex name meanings:
- Hikaru Shidou: Light of the Lion Shrine.
- Umi Ryuuzaki: Sea of the Dragon Blossom.
- Fuu Hououji: Wind of the Phoenix Temple.
- Suicide by Cop: The real reason that Emeraude summoned the Magic Knights.
- Summon Everyman Hero: Someone needs to battle Cephiro's most powerful sorceror and Pillar—quick, find some schoolgirls!
- Super-Deformed: The main characters sometimes take this gag farther.
- Fuu's battle in the Spring of Eterna involves this, since her opponent is a doppleganger—the injuries it inflicts on her are reflected on itself, and vice-versa.
- The Mashin reflect the movements of their Knights. Any damage the Mashin incurs will be reflected on the girl inside—and if the Mashin's giant version of the Escudo sword is broken, so is the normal-sized one.
- Talking To Herself: Umi and Princess Emeraude in the English dub have the same voice actress Wendee Lee.
- Teens Are Short: The girls don't even come up to the chests of the adult male cast (barring Clef and Ferio, who appear younger than they are) and just barely do for the women.
- Theme Naming: Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are named after their respective elements. Virtually everyone else in the series is named after a car.
- The Thing That Goes Doink: Hikaru's home, a kendo dojo, has one of these.
- This Is Reality: By the end of the first season, the girls learn the hard way that Cephiro isn't exactly like an RPG.
- Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Subverted; it's only a jumping-off point.
- Tokyo Tower: It's CLAMP, dammit.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy Tarta and Girly Girl Tatra.
- Took a Level in Badass: After Hikaru's sword —and confidence— is shattered by Nova, she undergoes a Journey to the Center of the Mind to recover. Her willpower shoots through the stratosphere... with all that it implies in a world shaped by one's will.
- Trapped in Another World: The premise. They can't get back until they fulfill the conditions of the quest.
- Trailers Always Lie: Promo art for the second half of the story frequently puts Lantis with the antagonists. It's even worse with the anime, where he's included with Debonair and Nova. (It shows all the new characters together, but everyone but Lantis and Primera are villains—and Lantis' allegiance is initially ambiguous.)
- Transfer Student Uniforms: Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu continue to wear their school uniforms throughout the story, even though Mokona could conceivably create new clothes for them.
- Transformation Sequence: Downplayed. There's a big deal when Clef first gives them magic (and the sequence is used in the anime's opening), but the armor evolutions don't take up a huge amount of pages or screentime. Similarly, a big deal is made when they first enter the Mashin, but after that it's just a beam of light.
- Triang Relations: Type 8 with maybe a hint of 9, between Hikaru, Lantis, and Eagle. There might be some Love You and Everybody on Hikaru's end, too, though she says the ones she wants to marry are the other two.
- Troperiffic: A lot of the first season is full of RPG tropes and cliches—the evil overlord, the imprisoned princess, fetch quests and the like. This makes the twist ending hit even harder.
- True Companions: Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu start calling each other sisters almost immediately. Lampshaded when Caldina assumes that they must have known each other for ages for Fuu to be so protective, only to be corrected.
"Time means nothing to the heart."
- Twist Ending: The end of Part I.
- Visible Sigh: Done by multiple characters.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Zagato, and the invading countries from the second half.
- Wham Episode: The end of the first half, when the Magic Knights find out what their duty fully entails.
Hikaru: Then tell us why you summoned us to Cephiro!
Emeraude: I summoned the Magic Knights to Cephiro...so that you could kill me.
- What You Are in the Dark: In order to gain escudo, the girls must face visions of their loved ones attacking them; who they see reflects who they are as people.
- White and Grey Morality: The Magic Knights themselves are definete good guys, but Season 1 Big Bad Zagato is an Anti-Villain. Plus, the Autozam, Chizeta, and Fahren factions are Anti Villains as well. And in anime season 2, Nova is also a more sympathetic character. The only completely villainous villain is the anime-only Debonair.
- The Worf Barrage: Autozam's NSX launches everything they've got against Great San Yung in episode 42—Macross Missile Massacre, More Dakka, Beam Spam, and its two Wave Motion Guns. None of it works.
- Worf Effect: Whenever one of the knights is conversing with a Mashin, the other two are always one-shotted by the villain sent to stop them that time.
- Worf Had the Flu: With the Ascot battle at the Water Shrine. While Umi is entranced, he summons a fire-based monster against Hikaru and Fuu. Naturally it absorbs her fire magic, and Fuu notes that her magic would also make it worse since it would add oxygen to the mix. It's only when Umi comes out of it and can use her water magic that it can be fought, and by that time the other two are down.
- World of Badass: Particularly in the manga, where they meet no "civilian" citizens. Everyone they meet is a swordmaster, a wizard of some kid, or an Ace Pilot, and their opponents in the sequel are mainly Warrior Princes (or First Children).
- Work Off the Debt: Fuu was afraid she and her friends would have to do this for the weapons Presea made for them.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The English Dub is usually not filled with this but when the Rune Gods themselves speak, they use the words "thee", "thou", and "thine".
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: The girls are whisked away by Emeraude's prayer in a flash of light. They have adventures spanning several weeks, probably months, then they return to Earth at the exact same moment they left. Even their schoolmates are still blinded by the light.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Umi with blue hair, Ferio with green hair, Caldina with pink hair.
- You Shall Not Pass: Hikaru does this once in the manga, twice in the anime. In both instances, she stands directly between the enemy (Lafarga and Zagato, respectively) and her incapacitated friends, despite being severely outmatched and injured by their repeated attacks. This proves to Rayearth that her heart is strong enough to be a Magic Knight.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Umi.