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.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 Princess Emeraude. Their would-be guide, Guru Clef, explains that Emeraude maintains the land through the strength of her prayers but has been abducted by High Priest Zagato. Since then, the countryside has been overrun by monsters and natural disasters—normally unheard-of—have become frequent. Clef informs them that they are the Magic Knights prophesied to save Cephiro and 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.Over the course of their adventures, the three girls must unlock their magical gifts and hone them while fighting their way through monsters and Zagato's agents. They find 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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bishōnen: As per CLAMP's standard modus operandi for character designs.
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.
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.
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 fianlly 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.
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.
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. Their hair colors are subtractive primary colors with red, blue, and blonde.note But only in the manga; all adaptations make Fuu's hair light brown.
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 "Luce", "Marine", and "Anemone" were the suggested names long given by TMS for localized versions of the series. At least 13 episodes were dubbed in English with these names, but the project fell through due to the lack of network interest. Media Blasters eventually acquired the license for the series and went with retaining the original Japanese names.
Foreshadowing: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.'
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.
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 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.