Magic Knight Rayearth is currently available on Hulu and ConTV with subscriptions. Each episode runs 25 minutes in length and lasted for 49 episodes between October of 1994 and November of 1995.
For years, anytime I mentioned watching Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, I would always be asked by rabid CLAMP fans if I had seen Magic Knight Rayearth, arguably one of their most popular titles besides Cardcaptor Sakura. In the 1990's, my mother had a few single-print issues from the manga in her collection, but outside of finding a bootlegged VHS tape here or there, I never really had the chance to sit down and watch more than two episodes until recently.
And now, after all these years, I can understand why this was routinely recommended to me.
Magic Knight Rayearth is a swashbuckling story, surrounding three Middle School girls, who get abducted one day on a trip to Tokyo Tower. With almost no explanation, the girls are entrusted with the future of the magical, rural, parallel world of Cephiro, which we learn very late in the series is actually a younger-sister to Earth, by a centuries old but very boyish looking sorcerer named Clef. Clef also entrusts them with the task of saving - but later killing - the Pillar and Princess Emeraude.
What is a Pillar you ask? Well it's a title for a person whose job it is to pray for and think only of the planet Cephiro. All day. Every day. 24/7. Non-stop. Literally, you can't even fall in love, or have another thought other than the well-being of Cephiro. You get distracted by a so much as ONE cat video on Facebook and guess what? Ka-BOOM. Planet dead. Seriously, this may be the single most annoying job anybody will ever have in this series. The first season is all about finding the current Pillar, because Cephiro is starting to crumble, while the second season is about replacing the Pillar, because the damn planet is blowing up. That's just terrifying to think that if one person has a brain fart, you're screwed.
Aside from the nonsense of the Pillar, we find the girls also having to fight deadly monsters and acquire new weapons in order to do their job effectively.
Hikaru is the most popular character of the trio, and is a pink and red haired tomboy of sorts. While she's 14 at the start of the show, she's still oh so very much a little girl in certain aspects, but it's that innocence that helps her to make friends easily, and eventually sort out this Pillar business.
Umi is a pretty and rich girl with blue hair and a bit of a selfish streak. She freaks out easily and has a temper, but is often the comic relief.
Fuu is the typical "smart kid" stereotype, complete with glasses. She's also the most normal looking character in the series, with blonde hair and green eyes. She serves as the voice of reason for Umi, but similar to Umi does have a slight ego, as we see in episode five, where she explains that she holds herself more dear than anyone else.
The girls are soon joined by a little rabbit creature named Mokona, who is so popular, he's appeared in dozens of ads on his own, other CLAMP productions and in the 1990's, was the single most popular mascot character for anime websites, at least until Pokemon debuted. But despite being adorable, Mokona is hiding a darker secret. Kinda sorta... he's God. But not. But kinda yeah. It makes more sense later on in the series. The red gem on his forehead can produce items and all sorts of useful things for the girls, or transmit messages from Clef.
The series has plenty of sword fighting and stock-magic attacks for those who like the Magical Girl genre. The pacing of the fights is action packed, and the animation is very fluid and smooth for a 1990's TV series.
The first few episodes, the writing is hyper, and you just want to hand the girls a cup of decaf, but around five or six episode sin, the girls begin to settle into their new roles, and it doesn't feel as jumbled anymore.
One of the show's stronger points is that the girls behave like regular 14 year old girls. As I mentioned earlier about Hikaru, the girls are still caught between childhood and the teen years. Sure they fall in love and have adult emotions, but those are balanced by segments where the girls are still learning about the world and sorting through these new feelings and growing up.
It's also nice to see that the girls are not being overtly sexualized, though the opening is a tad too revealing during the transformation segment. The girls are fully clothed, I'm very grateful for that.
Magic Knight Rayearth starts off girly, but then becomes very heavy in magic and action. If you haven't seen anything of CLAMP before, this is a good place to start.
Codename Sailor earth
Codename Sailor Earth is a lifelong anime and wrestling fan. IRL she is cartoonist Koriander Bullard, formerly Koriander Ake, a happily married Chicagoan. Her favorite anime is Sailor Moon. A baby in the late 80's, the first anime titles she ever saw were Speed Racer, Voltron and Robotech.