Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Magic Knight Rayearth Seasons 1 & 2

Title: Magic Knight Rayearth
Language: English & Japanese
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Magic, Mecha, Romance, Shoujo
Episodes: 49 (20 + 29)

When I was introduced to anime by one of my best friends, she exposed me and another best friend to a handful of shoujo series. One I've already reviewed, DiGi Charat which I might review later, Revolutionary Girl Utena which I'll be starting in place of this series, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Magic Knight Rayearth and DiGi Charat kinda became a foundation in the next level of our friendship. We were a trio of girls and they were also a trio of girls. To this day, I still remember our characters; I had Puchiko/Petit Charat and Fuu. As of last year, I picked up the series again, oblivious that I completed the first season so many years ago. I didn't realize it until I reached the final episode, but I've never seen the follow up season. Without further ado, seasons one and two of Magic Knight Rayearth!

Our story begins with Shidou Hikaru, Ryuuzaki Umi, and Hououji Fuu together at Tokyo Tower, during a field trip. These three girls come from different schools and possess somewhat opposing personalities. Suddenly, a mysterious light captures their attention and brings them to another world called Cephiro. They soon learn from the wise and powerful Master Mage Clef that Princess Emeraude has summoned them to become Magic Knights and rid Cephiro of the monsters that have inhabited the land.

The first season is definitely an emotional rollercoaster and it's hard not to feel and experience these ups and downs with our main characters. No matter how much pain and joy they go through, it strengthens and cultivates their hearts and friendship. Throughout the series, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu struggle to find and build pure love in their hearts worthy enough to work together with the Rune Gods of Cephiro.

Aside from promoting a message of selfless love, this series has a great variety of characters. The truly remarkable, the intimidating, the angered, and the innocent. Our main characters are easily very likeable and watching their development unfold is very rewarding and uplifting. The support characters that help them also manage to steal a small part in your heart such as Master Mage Clef, Presea, and Ferio. The series of villains present plenty of unique challenges to keep the story interesting and entertaining through magic, trickery, beasts, and other forms of clever manipulation. Even though they are briefly shown through each episode until the finale, the show effortlessly develops a gateway for viewers to develop emotions toward Princess Emeraude and High Priest Zagato.

Even though I didn't grow up strictly on 90's anime, I still feel a sense of nostalgia with Clamps' animation style. Even the music and signature "ohohoho" laughter makes me drift into memory lane. I believe if you love magical girls, you should at least watch the first season. But, what about season 2, you say? I will try my best to avoid spoilers, but there is no guarantee. So, if you are planning on watching the first season, I would suggest you skip ahead to the final verdict in the last paragraph.

The story begins back in the real world with Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu reminiscencing on their time in Cephiro. The girls haven't seen each other since returning to the real world and their hearts weigh heavy after the events that occurred in Cephiro. So, they all coincidentally meet back at Tokyo Tower where it all started and wish to return to the wonderful land of Cephiro. Suddenly, the girls are teleported back, but things aren't as beautiful as they left it. Since losing the Pillar, Princess Emeraude, Cephiro has become unstable and other countries are fighting to take over the Pillar system. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu unite with Mage Clef and previous characters to help defend Cephiro and search for a new Pillar.

While the first season focused on selfless love, this season focuses more on self love, especially for Hikaru. The main characters are more mature and willing to fight as Cephiro is like a second home and the people they've encountered are like a family to them. Some characters return such as Mage Clef, Ferio, Caldina, and Ascot. We also gain some backstory on Princess Emeraude and High Priest Zagato's relationship with the introduction of Zagato's brother Lantis. As the first season delves into development of the characters and selfless love, the action is somewhat secondary, this season delivers more action as the Magic Knights defend Cephiro from Autozam, Chizeta, Fahren, and the mysterious Debonair. Even though there is plenty of action, the second season explores a different kind of love as the story shifts from friendship to a more romantic bond for the girls. There was already an establishment between Fuu and Ferio in the first season, but Umi and Hikaru get a chance to experience romantic feelings. Of course, more of the focus is on Hikaru, which makes certain plot points pretty obvious on the resolution.

For those who were wanting more action from the first season, this one definitely delivers that with a good mixture of mecha battles and personal battles on various terrains. My only gripe is that the mecha battles can be a little repetitive at times, even though they try to mix it up a little by involving the newer characters to assist. Either way the fights are entertaining, despite my disinterest with mecha anime. The shift on friendship to romantic love was a reasonable and believable choice for this season, but at times I did get a little annoyed with Hikaru's lack of self confidence. Her struggle with Nova is compelling, but sometimes I want to shake Hikaru to snap out of it every time she regresses. Perhaps they should've shorten the season and kept it to 20 episodes or something.

Overall, Magic Knight Rayearth is a fairly enjoyable shoujo anime that mixes the joys of friendships, the ups and downs of love, the pride of a country, and the excitement of battle. The story is very solid and cohesive among the two seasons and the battle elements are engaging for the most part. As I mentioned in the beginning, if you enjoy magical girl animes, I recommend this nostalgic treat.

Rating: 3.5/5

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