In "Magic Knight Rayearth", three Japanese high school girls are transported to the fantasy realm of Cephiro on a mission to save it and rescue Princess Emeraude from the grasp of the evil High Priest Zagato.
Except its not that easy, nor is it that cut-and-dried. Zagato has a host of followers to attack and divert the three girls on their mission to gain the power they need to complete their task; in addition, there's another story behind the one before them, one that will result in pain and suffering for all involved.
Description: "Magic Knight Rayearth" is a manga and anime series produced by the prolific CLAMP production company, one of the biggest anime and manga production companies in Japan. One of their best productions, I think, is Magic Knight Rayearth, for reasons that will be apparent soon.
Magic Knight Rayearth is the story of three Japanese high school girls, Umi Ryuuzaki, Fuu Hououji and Hikaru Shidou, who, on a class tour of Tokyo Tower, are swept away to the land of Cephiro to become Magic Knights and rescue Princess Emeraude from High Priest Zagato. (But anyone who has ever been inside Tokyo Tower as I have know there is little room for even one school tour of the observation deck, let alone three.) At first they are confused and reluctant to believe their predicament, but they rapidly start believing. And while they may be just schoolgirls, each does have some martial quality that enables them to survive on Cephiro: redhead Hikaru's family owns a kendo dojo so she is experienced wielding a sword, blue-haired Umi is the captain of the fencing squad and can wield a sabre or foil, and blonde Fuu is on the archery team. Together, they start on their quest to awaken the Manshin and gain the power of true Magic Knights.
'The Fearsome Illusionist Caldina'
Along the way, they encounter opposition from Zagato in the form of his minions, which includes Caldina the Charmer. Vain, self-centered and mercenary, and those are her positive qualities. As a Charmer, she can entrance people with her dancing, and she can cast some pretty effective illusions, as well. But her first assault, using only her illusions, was rendered ineffective when the Knights saw through the illusions. That's when she switches tactics and approaches them directly.
'The Most Valuable Thing in this World'
While Magic Knight Fuu was seeking the Manshin Windom, Caldina approaches the other two Magic Knights, lulling them off-guard with her charming Southern ways. (In the anime, she speaks with a Southern accent: Southern as in Osaka, Japan. In the English dub, she does speak like a Southern belle.) Then suddenly she turns on the other two Magic Knights, dancing them into a trance accompanied by the hypnotic chiming of the bells in her slippers, gloves and earrings. (Trances always in anime are represented by the iris becoming a flat colored disk, without pupil.)
When Fuu emerges, having been told by Windom that she must show the strength of her heart, she is attacked by Hikaru and Umi. Sweet, gentle Fuu (definitely the Superego of the three) is completely unwilling to do anything to harm her friends, so she reaches into her heart and casts a spell that immobilizes her friends in swirling whirlwinds. Then she turns on Caldina, who dances away. Because Fuu drew her own sword to attack Caldina, Caldina is able to enchant Fuu's arm to have her attack her friends. Fuu tries to resist, enough so that the wounds she inflicts are small, until Caldina tires of playing with her and commands her to strike. But what Caldina does not notice is the wind (Fuu's element, just as fire is Hikaru's and water is Umi's) rising and rushing. Just as Caldina orders Fuu to strike her friends, Fuu's heart and love for her friends gives her the strength to resist Caldina's magic, and she sends a tornado of wind against her. That breaks Caldina's hold over her forever.
Caldina is impressed, and asks how long the three have been friends, such that she has such love for them and when Fuu replies that it has only been only a few days, Caldina doesn't understand. Fuu replies that the heart does not understand time. Fuu also asks if Caldina would die for Zagato, as Fuu would for her friends: the self-centered Caldina would hardly do that. Fuu's speech causes Caldina to reconsider her actions and she decides to leave and leave the Magic Knights alone.
'A Powerful Foe! Lafarga the Swordmaster'
When it comes time for Hikaru's trial, she must overcome the swordsman Lafarga, who is under a spell of coercion from Zagato. A vastly superior swordsman, Lafarga is posed to defeat Hikaru, and her friends are forbidden to interfere, but when he grasps Hikaru's sword which bursts into flame. The shock and the pain break the spell he was under and Hikaru gains the power of the Manshin.
They continue on, eventually discovering the ultimate reason for them being summoned: I won't explain, but its a trial that no adult should be put through, let alone 14-year old girls. But they finish their mission and return to Tokyo Tower in a flash of light, friends forever, bound by a shared sorrow that is so great that three hearts are needed to hold it.
But that is not the end of the story, nor the last we see of Caldina.
The three girls are in a serious funk, and there is no one they can tell about it. They find solace with each other, meeting at the same spot where they first went to Cephiro. Knowing they left a world needing them and wanting to return, they are surrounded by another flash of light and suddenly they are back in Cephiro.
But a very changed Cephiro.
Cephiro is rapidly succumbing to chaos. There is no Pillar, which was Princess Emeraude, the one person who maintained the balance and stability of the world. Without her, the world is falling apart, literally into the void. One place remains stable, the result of the willpower of the remaining magicians. When Hikaru, Umi and Fuu arrive, they are met by some old friends, including Caldina, who is now paired with Lafarga, as well as Guru Clef, Ascot and Ferio.
There is hope: the prophecy says that another Pillar would be found to restore Cephiro, which has brought others seeking that power, and then the Magic Knights arrive, although only the power of the Pillar could have caused it.
In addition, three other kingdoms are vying to conquer Cephiro and become the Pillar: mechanistic Autozam, Chinese Imperial Chizeten and Arabian arabesque Fahren, and (in the anime version) a darker threat is also unleased against Cephiro, one born from the darkness of the heart of one of the Magic Knights. The Magic Knights must don the Manshin once again to defend Cephiro until the one destined to be the new Pillar is found.
'Autozam's Invasion and Lantis'
In the first such battle, Ascot tries to follow Umi out into battle, as he has a tremendous crush on her, so much that he used his own magic to make himself older. However, such a move would only distract the Magic Knights and also be fruitless for him, as well. In order to prevent him, Caldina leaps before him and entrances him into a deep sleep.
With more foes, the second season of the series is twice as long as the first. Umi, Fuu and Hikaru take comfort and assistance from their old friends and in true fashion, turn their enemies into friends as well. But all of the battles are nothing compared to the trial that will determine the fate of the Pillar, one that one of the Magic Knights alone will pass. But that also means their loss, as they will irrevocably the lost as the Pillar as Princess Emeraude was, and the other two Magic Knights add their own will to free their comrade. In the end, the Pillar revokes the power of the Pillar, saying that the world is too big to be the responsibility for just one person, that all should share that responsibility so that no one should have to forego love as had the Princess.
With Cephiro safe, the three girls return to Earth, either never to return (as in the anime) or able to return whenver they wish (as in the manga). Either way, the wounds on their hearts were healed knowing that even though their actions caused them grief, Cephiro benefited: even Emeraude, in her last words unheard by the Magic Knights, thanked them and wished they would not grieve for what they did. And with their second trip to Cephiro they were able to heal both their wounds and the world of Cephiro.
Commentary: Umi, Fuu and Hikaru are a typical fictional threesome, exemplifying the Freudian Ego, Superego and Id: Fuu is the compassionate one, the Ego; Umi is the proud one, the Superego and Hikaru is the passionate one, the Id. Each draws upon that in growing as an individual.
The series should not be confused with the three-part OVA release with the same name. The OVA story has the three girls defending Earth from an invasion by magicians from Cephiro and aided by Guru Clef in acquiring the Manshin with which they defeat the invaders. Caldina does not make an appearance although other of Zagato's minions do.
The series proved popular enough that several versions of computer RP games were produced based on the series.
- Fuu Hououji literally means "Wind of Phoenix Temple"
- Umi Ryuuzaki literally means "Sea of Dragon Blossom"
- Caldina's name comes from the Toyota Caldina.
Recommendation: "Magic Knight Rayearth" is one of my favorite anime series, and Caldina is one of my favorite anime characters, so it should come as no surprise that I recommend the series highly.