This Shōjo (Demographic) series is one of the most popular creations of the creative collective known as CLAMP, blending Magical Girl, Humongous Mecha and High Fantasy into a unique and entertaining mix.Schoolgirls Shidou Hikaru, Ryuuzaki Umi and Hououji Fuu are visiting Tokyo Tower with their respective middle-school classes when a mysterious force addresses them as "Magic Knights", begs for their help, and then transports them to another world. The three fourteen-year-olds find themselves in the magical world of Cephiro, brought there by a wizard named Clef. Cephiro, he explains, is held stable and safe by the constant attention of the Pillar, a princess named Emeraude. But Emeraude is now the prisoner of her former high priest, Zagato, and monsters have begun to overrun the countryside. Clef informs them that they are the Magic Knights of prophecy, who will save Cephiro from its impending doom. He gives them mystic armor and magical powers to use in their quest. But before he can explain how to use them, agents of Zagato appear on the scene, and the girls are dispatched on their mission with only the faintest idea of what they have to do.In the course of their adventures, the three girls must discover their magical gifts and hone them while fighting their way across the countryside through hordes of monsters. They encounter Presea, the Master Smith, who sends them on a quest to find the materials for their magic weapons. And they learn that to accomplish the prophecy they embody, they must find and awaken the great Mashin, the elemental god-creatures who sleep and waken only to protect Cephiro. In the process the girls, initially strangers, must learn about each other, and how to trust and depend on their teammates; they soon become fast friends. Dodging, defeating and even subverting the deadly agents of Zagato, they finally come to the point of fulfilling the ancient prophecy — only to discover that what they must do is nothing at all like what they expected.Magic Knight Rayearth, despite its deceptively simple "schoolgirls on a quest" appearance, is a surprisingly complex 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 complex, 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".One of the story's greatest strengths is characterization. The girls are unique and clearly drawn — Genki Girl Hikaru, snobby Rich Bitch Umi and the bookish, excessively-polite Fuu (who addresses every creature they kill as "monster-san") are about as disparate a trio as can be found; how they work through their differences and forge a determined and skilled team of fighters is one of the show's triumphs of character development. But even the villains are surprisingly complex and even sympathetic on some levels.Although ultimately a drama, Magic Knight Rayearth leavens its serious storylines with occasional mild doses of slapstick and Super-Deformed action. Much like the gravedigger scene in Hamlet, this comedy doesn't detract from the story but instead throws its more serious aspect into sharper relief. Although supposedly targeted at young teen girls, it is easily watchable by adults of all ages.The manga has a sequel. The second season of the anime was adapted from the manga sequel, which primarily dealt with the aftermath of the Magic Knights' actions in the first season.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.
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.
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.
Also one of the first shots in the third opening (second opening on the old R1 DVD releases), is of Hikaru naked with fire burning in the background, and sh is portrayed with no nipples or genitalia whatsoever.
Anti-Villain: Basically every single one of them aside from Lady Debonair. Zagato, Emeraude and Eagle especially.
The Atoner: Several in Part 2, but especially the Magic Knights themselves for killing Emeraude and Zagato. Hikaru is the most affected.
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.
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.
BFS: Fuu's sword, especially near the end of the first season, is longer then she is tall. Her wind powers make it light enough for her to carry; no one else can even lift it.
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.
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.
Bodyguard Crush: One of the most heartwarming 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.
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.
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.
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 missing a fencing tournament becomes a plot point in episode 9.
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).
Chromatic Arrangement: Additive primary colors: Hikaru, Umi and Fuu have respectively red, blue and green uniforms and eyes. Hair colors almost fit, but Fuu is blonde.
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. note It's been claimed "Lucy", "Marina", and "Anne" were the suggested names given by TMS for localized versions prior to Media Blasters licensing the series for the US and opting to retain the original names.
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.
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....
Hermetic Magic: Clef, Zagato, and Ascot's magic often takes this form.
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.
Honey Trap: Seen in episode 15 with Sarah, who turns out to be a disguised Inouva.
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.
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 this can be seen as the lava/magma which lies beneath the earth.
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.
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.
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.
No Export for You: Well partially...for the longest time the R1 DVD releases were missing the second opening "Kirai ni Narenai" and the third ending "Itsuka Kagayaku" due to only openings 1 and 3 and endings 1 and 2 being dubbed, though they were included as extras on the old R1 DVD's, eventually this was fixed in the remastered R1 DVD's and the Hulu streams, so after so many years we finally got all 3 openings and all 3 endings in Region 1 land with the original Japanese credits, episode titles and next episode previews intact
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.
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.
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.
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 India and the Middle East. Because they're totally alike.
Possibly justified in Chizeta's case, due to its small size.
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.
Rayearth pulls one on Hikaru by telling her to abandon her friends and save herself. (The other Mashin just tell their chosen to show strength of heart, although the circumstances of Hikaru's battle were unique).
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....
Skyward Scream: Courtesy of Ascot after one of his summoned monsters is killed.
Spell My Name with an S: Between the two manga translations and the anime... hell, the first Tokyopop release would change name spellings from one page to the next!
Seres/Celes/Selese/Ceres and more for Umi's Mashin.
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).
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.
Wham Episode: The end of the first half, when the Magic Knights find out what their duty fully entails.
Wham Line: 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.
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.
Work Off The Debt: Fuu was afraid she and her friends would have to do this for the weapons Presea made for them.
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.