Magic Knight Rayearth is a Japanese manga series created by Clamp. Appearing as a serial in the manga magazine Nakayoshi from the November 1993 issue to the February 1995 issue, the chapters of Magic Knight Rayearth were collected into three bound volumes by Kodansha, and published from July 1994 to March 1995. A sequel was serialized in the same manga magazine from the March 1995 issue to the April 1996 issue, and was published by Kodansha in three bound volumes from to July 1995 to April 1996. The series follows three eighth-grade girls who find themselves transported from modern-day Japan into a magical world, where they are tasked with rescuing a princess.
Rayearth combines elements from the magical girl and mecha anime genres with parallel world fantasy.
In 1997, Tokyopop licensed Magic Knight Rayearth for an English-language translation in North America, and serialized it in its manga magazine MixxZine The English version of the manga was at first issued in a flipped left to right format, but was re-released in the original right to left format in later editions. The English version of the manga also at first continued the volume numbering through the two series, such that Magic Knight Rayearth II volumes #1-3 were numbered as volumes “#4-6” (i.e., the 2000/2001 release of Magic Knight Rayearth volume 4 has the same content as the 2003/2004 re-release’s Magic Knight Rayearth II volume 1).
It would appear that Tokyopop has lost their license for the series, as Dark Horse Comics announced at their San Diego Comic-Con International 2009 panel that they would be publishing the series in a new omnibus edition in honor of Clamp’s 20th anniversary. Dark Horse published the omnibus editions from July 6, 2011, to April 12, 2012.
The series is also licensed in French by Pika Édition.
Magic Knight Rayearth focuses on three eighth-grade girls: tomboyish and headstrong Hikaru Shidou; the quick-tempered and no-nonsense only child Umi Ryuuzaki; and intelligent and ladylike Fuu Hououji. While on a field trip to the Tokyo Tower with their respective schools, the girls find themselves drawn into another world, Cephiro. There they learn that Cephiro is influenced by one’s will and that the Pillar maintains Cephiro through prayer. The girls are then tasked with rescuing the current Pillar, Princess Emeraude, from her abductor, the high priest and antagonist Zagato, after which they will be returned to Tokyo.
Guided by the creature Mokona on their quest, the girls discover their respective element-based magic and awaken the three Rune-Gods (魔神? Mashin), who can take the form of giant robots that the girls must pilot. As the girls progress on their journey, they overcome their differences, learning how to work together and accept each other as friends. After the girls find and destroy Zagato, they finally reach Emeraude, but they learn that she had fallen in love with Zagato, which had hindered her ability to pray solely for Cephiro’s well-being, and imprisoned herself as a result. Feeling responsible for her actions, she summoned the Magic Knights to kill her, as no one from Cephiro could harm the Pillar. Her dark side then takes over, seeking to destroy the Magic Knights for killing her love. After a short defensive fight against Princess Emeraude, the Magic Knights have no choice but to kill her. They then find themselves transported back to Tokyo.
The second part of the series deals with the complications caused by Princess Emeraude’s death. Set a year later, it opens with the three protagonists struggling with their guilt and despair over their role in her death. Meeting again at Tokyo Tower, they find themselves transported mysteriously to Cephiro again, and discover that only a single piece of Cephiro remains, which holds a castle where the survivors gather to take refuge. With the Pillar gone, Cephiro is, for the most part, defenseless, and the girls are saddened to learn that a new Pillar must be chosen by the Pillar system before the whole planet is destroyed. Three warring planets begin their attempts to conquer Cephiro: Autozam, a technologically advanced world which intends to use the Pillar system to remove the pollution in its air; Fahren, whose childish ruler Lady Aska plans to turn it into a world of her whims; and Chizeta, an overpopulated world whose sibling rulers Tatra and Tarta see Cephiro as a potential colony.
As the Magic Knights help defend the castle, they each agree that the fate of the planet should not be the responsibility of only one person which, like Princess Emeraude, effectively prevents that person from ever being able to live and love freely. What’s more, they are certain that when a new Pillar in chosen, something may eventually hinder them from praying solely for Cephiro’s well-being, cause them to summon new Magic Knights to kill them, and bring Cephiro to near-destruction again until a new pillar is chosen, much like Emeraude, which would cause the cycle of events to continue endlessly. Some of the survivors believe this idea as well, particularly Lantis, a powerful magic swordsman and Zagato’s younger brother, who wishes to end the Pillar system for those reasons.
Eventually, Mokona narrows the candidates down to two: Hikaru and the sickly Eagle Vision of Autozam, who is friends with Lantis and, as such, wishes to end the Pillar system for him with his eternal sleep. As the two undergo the test to become the new Pillar in a recreation of Tokyo, Mokona reveals itself to be the creator of Cephiro and its laws, which it had created after sadly witnessing the violence and destructive nature of the people on its earlier creation, Earth. It was responsible for bringing the three girls back to Cephiro. In the end, Hikaru becomes the new Pillar of Cephiro, and brings Eagle Vision back to Cephiro with the help of Fuu and Umi, against Mokona’s insistence that only one may return. Hikaru then rebels against the Pillar system, decreeing once and for all that the fate of the planet should not be the responsibility of one person. Mokona accepts their decision and leaves with the three Mashin. The manga concludes with the three girls’ return to a new Cephiro to visit their loved ones, as they work with the rulers of the other planets to solve their planets’ problems, and contemplate Mokona’s wish to allow the three protagonists to bring change to Cephiro.