Magic Knight Rayearth Omnibus Review

Disappointing.

For CLAMP, Magic Knight Rayearth is definitely one of their higher profile properties, even if it has been somewhat overshadowed by the likes of CardCaptor Sakura, X, and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. As a property that helped birth the likes of Fushigi Yugi (Miaka’s panic over a lack of burgers in that story is taken directly from Umi’s own panic abt the lack of BOS Burgers in Cefiro) and Twelve Kingdoms, as well as CLAMP’s own mega-stardom (as X at this time had yet to take off like it eventually would), it’d be difficult for it to become forgotten, as some of the more obscure CLAMP works largely have (The Legend of Chung Hyang and Man of Many Faces spring readily to my own mind, but there are many others one could substitute in just as easily). So little surprise that Dark Horse came riding in to save the property when TokyoPop went bust.

Sadly, despite some decent elements, Magic Knight Rayearth just isn’t that good, a fact which primarily has to do with a pacing that would make an Olympic runner feel winded. Perhaps over the years that it was serialized it felt properly structured, but collected all together, Rayearth just feels rushed. Moments where the reader is supposed to truly feel for the characters ring hollow, because we simply don’t get the time to make a connection with our heroines. This is most strongly felt at the end of the story, which is supposed to be utterly tragic – and with good reason! – but left me cold. For me, Rayearth’s story was like being dragged around by a cheetah as someone shouted a story at me.

I actually felt kind of resentful at the end. Rayearth is supposed to be a seminal tale, and I felt like I’d been short-shrift. I was presented with these decent characters and an intriguing world, only for both of them to be barely fleshed out. The evolving swords and armor may’ve been a cool concept, and actually pretty cool in execution, but cool devices hardly a story makes. There are also startling moments of illustrative consistency, made all the more startling since the Dark Horse edition was apparently “re-mastered” prior to its release.

Speaking of the particular edition, Dark Horse does a decent enough job here, although like the Chobits omnibuses before it, the book suffers from a spine prone to creasing just from reading the volume. The price-point is difficult to argue with, as you get three volumes worth of material for $19.99 (I myself paid $14.95).

Having read this, I was suddenly hit with a question – is CLAMP actually good at pacing at all? CardCaptor Sakura feels fine, but it is the odd one out in my experience, as their shorter series feel rushed and their lengthier ones feel dragged past expiration date.

Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t recommend Magic Knight Rayearth. It looks rather pretty most of the time (although the battles are generally a muddled mess), it has an interesting approach to armor and weaponry, and the characters are fine, but the pacing is terrible and the characters remain archetypes throughout. There are much better fish in the sea, and if you want some CLAMP supernaturally-flavored shoujo, CardCaptor Sakura is a much more satisfying read.

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6 Responses to Magic Knight Rayearth Omnibus Review

  1. omo says:

    It’s pretty interesting to look at people’s reaction as a reflection of the nature of the medium. MKR was a pretty good example of how CLAMP’s adaptations were more popular than the original work themselves, not only versus the anime but also the video games. It’s just as you said, the manga suffers from packing issues, partly due to its serial nature but also it just wasn’t concerned with juicing out a lot of key elements from the overall story.

    As a proof of concept, I suppose the manga was more a parallel with the OVA. It certainly wasn’t the epic spanning fantasy story that some of its derivative works were.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      I suspect that were I to watch the first MKR TV series, I would be more pleased on the pacing front (I saw five episodes of it about, hmm, eleven years ago, but that was it). The matter of pacing is partly why I ultimately prefer the Sailor Moon anime, despite its faults, over the manga, as that is another property where the pace is borderline distracting.

      The OAV was quite pretty, but I never did get around to finishing it… admittedly, because it was too expensive to back then! $30 a pop for each 45 minute tape… too expensive for a middle schooler.

  2. shirofuji says:

    Rayearth is such a funny little relic… my husband always asks me why I collect so much Rayearth memorabilia when I consistently describe it as “not very good.” Rayearth was not very good, but it was important to us. It was colors and sparkles and fighting at just the right time for so many of us to need exactly that thing. I would probably never spend time rereading it, but for some reason I will always cherish it and the characters in a powerfully nostalgic way.

    A terrible story in the big scheme of media, but a powerful object in the history of shoujo.

    …aaaaaaaand that’s why I’m buying the omnibus anyway. *sighs*

    • A Day Without Me says:

      I would cite MKR as being similar to Sailor Moon in that regard – the need for “colors and sparkles and fighting” all together, and the fact that it was girls who were kicking ass and taking names. Sure, some men along the way in both who lent aid, but it was our girls who saved the days and were the heroes of the piece. Sailor Moon isn’t fantastic, either, but it sure is a hell of an important piece of the history.

  3. Dan says:

    Funny, I got both omnibi and had the same reaction, even though I adored the series when Mixx/Tokyopop first released it. While I was completely shocked at the end of the third book then, I have to agree it does ring hollow now. I still think it’s really interesting from a pulling-the-rug-out-from-under-you way, but beyond that…
    Related, the Rayearth gave the little me-of-the-past my first real fanrage when Eagle pulled a heroic sacrifice. Ah, fond, fond memories…

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Reading this, it turned out I had read actually two of the three volumes of MKR back when Tokyopop put it out; I thought I’d only read the first. But I never read the third volume, maybe because a friend didn’t own it, or maybe because I was reading other stuff I was more interested in at that point. I remembered it more fondly than I ended up feeling about it this time.

      As for fanrage… my strongest moment of fanrage that I can recall is the end of the first Victorian Romance Emma TV series. Oh, how I raged…

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