Magic Knight Rayearth

August 7, 2011

CLAMP – Dark Horse – 2011 – 3 volumes
this is an omnibus containing all three volumes

So. I’ve got this omnibus now. It’s my second time around for this manga, because I also own the original Mixx editions. I did skip the fancy Tokyopop boxset re-release, but to make up for it, I own both artbooks. Also, the anime on both VHS and DVD. Also, the rare Sega Saturn game (the last US-released Saturn game!). And two sets of figures.

These are just things I do, though. I don’t actually like this series that much. I’ve probably seen the anime at least twenty times (it was the only anime I had for a long time) and read the manga at least ten times through (for the same reason), and I can recite the whole thing in my sleep. Reading it now wasn’t that much fun, because I still have the whole thing memorized almost line-for-line, and because the storyline in the manga is so incredibly condensed it makes watching what happens far less interesting than it should be.

It’s structured just like an RPG, something that Fuu comments on quite frequently, so it has a very rigid storyline it must follow. Orientation, weapons, reviving the mashin, then fighting the bad guy. Not much time is spent with characters that aren’t Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu. Nor is much time spent on climactic fights. Most last only a few pages, be it the first fight with Alcyione, the fights that determine whether the mashin will go with them… or even the final fight at the end of the book. The story is extremely economical, if nothing else.

It’s a shame, because the series does have interesting characters. One of the most interesting things about it is that the villains all have practical and very understandable reasons for working for Zagato and fighting the Magic Knights. Except these reasons are explained in a few panels, and the characters pause to re-affirm their friendship and “strength of heart,” then they move on to something else. The anime is slightly better about this, since each of the villains gets at least a few episodes to be themselves. It’s especially a shame because what we see of the villains shows us that they have really interesting personalities, too. A lot of work went into them, but it’s wasted when they only show up for one chapter, no matter how interesting they are.

It’s also… a little repetitive. The Magic Knights go through trial after trial as Cephiro tests them to make sure they have the “strength of heart” to earn their legendary weapons and each of the three legendary mashin. The girls talk a lot about what good friends they are, and get angry when one of them gets hurt. Then they overcome whatever trial by wishing hard enough, which is apparently enough “strength of heart” for anything that needs to happen in Cephiro.

It’s got a light touch, but sadly, the humor is very dated. There’s a lot of physical humor that falls flat, and a lot of punchlines that come from Umi yelling and over-reacting to something. This happens a lot. Especially early on. I had a hard time getting through that first conversation with Clef this time through because there was just too much humor, especially dealing with Cephiro culture shock.

Having said that, this is still a classic. I love and adore CLAMP’s older shoujo style, with all the detail and organic shapes and panels so full of stuff. It’s the epitome of girly artwork, and what I think of when I think of 90s shoujo manga. Their art in X is their best, in my opinion, but this was drawn at the same time as the early parts of X, so it looks very similar. Everything from the various armor and weapon designs, the character designs, and the environments is well-considered and excellently planned. There’s a ton of interesting stuff to look at on every page, and I never get tired of looking at Magic Knight Rayearth, at the very least.

It’s also a very classic story, condensed though it may be. It’s got one of the biggest twist endings in CLAMP’s repertoire, and this is a high compliment given the fact that CLAMP tends to faceplant when they end a series. Only Tokyo Babylon’s ending makes a bigger impact, in my opinion. I don’t want to spoil it if you don’t know about it, because it really did surprise me the first time through. It doesn’t make much sense, even after the logic behind it is explained, but it’s a terrible twist nonetheless.

And the ending is a cliffhanger, too, that picks up perfectly in Magic Knight Rayearth II.

Dark Horse’s omnibus is 100% worth the price of admission if you’d been thinking of giving this series a try. It’s so big it feels fragile, but I love having the whole thing in one book. Plus, they included a smattering of color pages at the end of each volume, including a color bonus comic every time.

I think the story hasn’t aged well, but it still has a classic feel to it, and the art is definitely timeless. Fans of CLAMP will want to give this a try, and I think it’s also good for kids. The twist is a bit traumatic, but I adored this when I was a teen, and it’s definitely a good first step for a future career as a fantasy/video game junkie.

Magic Knight Rayearth 3

September 7, 2004

Please, for God’s sake, if you don’t know how this series ends, don’t read this review, and don’t spoil yourself. It’s completely worth it to get the series for the ending alone. Just do it. Really.

The thing about no one being particularly evil didn’t really hit me until I got to the end of the series and reflected. The Magic Knights have to go up against a ton of resistance to achieve their goal, and even Princess Emeraude turns on them in the end. But really… she just wanted a way out, and Zagato wanted to protect her from this. The Magic Knights are put in one of the most difficult situations I had seen up to that point, and it always got to me a little. Zagato turns out not to be a bad guy, none of his minions are acting out of hate, and in the end… the Magic Knights were kind of lied to all along. Perhaps they WERE the evil ones when it comes down to it, since they were the ones that killed the beloved Pillar of Cephiro.

I think the ending and final battles move too quickly in the manga, and I think a slower pace would have increased the impact they carried. But overall I give the series a great deal of credit for its ending. As kiddy and girly as it comes off… it’s really quite amazing, one of my favorites essentially. I don’t like its repetition, I don’t like the giant robots, and I hate the shallow characters, but the story’s excellent. Completely and entirely worth it.

Magic Knight Rayearth 2

September 7, 2004

Magic Knight Rayearth continues to be a really good and endearing series. As I said, the anime really put me off the series and kind of tainted the manga when I first read it, but after not having watched it for a couple years, it’s good again.

This volume brings us Ferio, the Spring of Eterna, and some more of the villains. The thing I always liked about this series is that there really is no “evil.” It’s more apparent in the manga that everyone has their motives, and while they may be beating up on the Magic Knights, everyone has their reasons. I always really respected it for that, and also for the surprise ending, because I still feel it’s one of the biggest slaps in the face all these years later. But this isn’t the ending, so I’ll talk about that next volume.

One of the things that becomes apparent at this point in the series (either at the very end of this volume or the very beginning of the next) is that this is, in fact, a giant robot series, reinforcing the fact that everything that comes from Japan must involve a mech of some sort. I hate it for that, but the fact that it overcomes its mech-ness and still manages to be awesome means that it’s a really great series, especially considering the fact I HATE giant robots.

The only thing done really poorly in this series is the character development. They try, really hard. Things ARE revealed about the main characters here… but it doesn’t really add to their personality or who they are. They always keep repeating the same lines about friendship and being themselves and getting back to Tokyo over and over again in any situation, which I think is supposed to be character development, but isn’t.

The series is only three volumes long, and is a classic. Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet, please do. The ending is completely, 100% worth it. Don’t read the volume 3 review if you are unaware of it.

Magic Knight Rayearth 1

August 22, 2004

This was literally one of the first “Mixx” manga ever published. Thus, it really hurts to read, as ancient titles from any company are (see also: Urusei Yatsura Perfect Collection, 1-555-Goddess, Futaba-kun Change 1). For me, this series really HURTS. I saw the anime before the manga, and it’s so repetitive. Yes, it’s got a good story, but it’s buried under all the crap. Having been clean of both the manga and anime version for two years, I went back to read the manga.

Oh, SO MUCH BETTER without all the anime associations! I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the anime, but it doesn’t haunt the story like it used to, and thus you have a wonderful volume of manga. There are so many cute scenes that I can’t believe I forgot. Not even anything in particular, just cute faces or poses Fuu and Hikaru strike from time to time. It ran in Nakayoshi, which means it’s got the cuteness overload for all the younger girls. If done right, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. It’s still a little repetitive, as characters tend to mimic each other from time to time, but nothing like the anime. My favorite part is Mokona’s first appearance, as I was always a sucker for the little thing. At the end of MKRII, it did something that caused me nightmares for a long time afterward, an element that’s carried over in Tsubasa, and it makes Mokona one of my favorite characters EVER.

They reprinted this, and for all intents and purposes, the first editions should probably be burned. You learn by trial and error. I love Tokyopop sure enough, but the slang, the pop culture references, the spelling and grammar errors, incorrect character and place names… ugh. The new edition is, I assume, free of all this since they went back through it, and is also cheaper. By all means get it, because this is a wonderful story.