Magic Knights Rayearth TV Vol. 1 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2000



What They Say
Daybreak (Levels 1-4)
Step into a world where your willpower determines all and your beliefs turn into magic. Join three girls from Tokyo as they are meet with a mission unlike anything they have encountered in school ? to save an alternate world from doom! What will this strange journey hold in store for our heroines Hikaru, Umi and Fuu?

The Review!
With the relative dearth of fantasy anime available in the US, never mind on DVD, Magic Knights Rayearth will please a lot of people but probably not the hard core fantasy fans. My first impressions of it after seeing episodes 1 through 4 was reminiscent of how I felt after I originally saw Dungeons and Dragons here in the US when I was much much younger.

Presented in the original stereo mix, the Japanese language track is pretty decent, though it sounds a bit less full than the English track. Some people have mentioned that the sound seemed clipped in some of the higher range sounds, but we didn't notice anything out of the ordinary with this disc beyond maybe a slight crackle during a high pitched scene. The front soundstage seems minimally used, but dialogue was clear and understandable.

The video was also good, though with a few minor spots of pixellation. Some scenes looked to have a few hints of pixellation in the backgrounds, but the main animation itself looked solid. The color palette for these early episodes looks to be a bit on the dull side, so they look pretty decent but not the stand out bright colors that are associated with a lot more recent shows. From what I've read of those who have the import laserdiscs, the video quality overall for this DVD releases is definitely superior. Overall, we're pretty pleased with how this disc looked.

The packaging for the first disc, in its own keepcase, is excellent. The front cover contains a serious pose by Hikaru holding her sword at an angle with Mokona floating nearby. The back cover provides a solid amount of information about the series and the episodes included as well as several pictures from the series and artwork from it. The disc itself is a silk-screened close-up of the front cover. As with past Media Blasters releases, there are no inserts provided.

The main menu is pretty straightforward, giving you the option of playing one of the four episodes or going into the extras or setup submenus. The menus are laid out pretty well, but unfortunately the movement from one selection on the screen to the next on the same screen is agonizingly slow, much like the Pioneer release of Battle Athletes Victory.

There's also a solid amount of extras available on the disc. The art gallery has some good images and what I believe was the cover art for the first VHS release (DVD art is much better!). The character gallery and spell index looks interesting, but I didn't go too much into it as some of it looked like it would contain spoilers. There was also the inclusion of an omake ending with the characters telling you to look forward to next weeks episode. The only real downside to the extras was the interview with the English voice actress for Hikaru. Having enjoyed previous English VA interviews, I was looking forward to these as well, but the dialogue is so poorly recorded it's practically unintelligible, which is unfortunate.

Magic Knight Rayearth follows the adventures of three Eighth grade girls from Tokyo who get transported to the world of Cephiro by Princess Emeraude. She brings them to the world to help restore order to it. The world has become full of terrifying and powerful monsters since she became a prisoner of an aspiring villain. As foretold, only the Magic Knights Rayearth can help bring peace and order to the world.

The first part above is the most important; the main characters are in the eighth grade. The main characters aren't late teens or other typical female heroines you see in most series brought over. They're younger, they're definitely inexperienced, and they get pretty super deformed at times.

They do learn quickly though. With the relation to the Sega Saturn video game of the same name, the characters travel from one destination to the next, fighting monsters and gaining powers, weapons and experience along the way. Early on here, there isn't a lot of depth.

After being transported to Cephiro, they get a quick rundown on the situation from Master Mage Clef. It's quick indeed, as the big bad guy, Zagato, has sent Alcyon to eliminate the possible threat that these three kids represent. They separate from Clef pretty quickly and head off into the unknown. The unknown, as always, leads to something cute that doesn't have a big vocabulary.

Mokona is your typical "cute critter" that appears in series like this. She has uses along the way and so far feels like a deus ex machina kind of character, being able to provide whatever is necessary at the time. Not the best thing to introduce this early into a series, but there are lots of Mokona fans out there.

The opening episodes do a decent job of getting the setting explained and introducing both the Earth cast as well as the various inhabitants of Cephiro, such as the swordsman for hire Ferio and Clef's friend Presea. The various villains haven't gotten that much screen time or development yet, such as Zagato's serious sidekick or the other members behind the waterfall. Princess Emeraude gets a little bit more than these guys, but in a more enigmatic way.

Towards the end of the first disc things do start picking up overall. The battle between Hikaru and Alcyon was good and animated well. The acquisition of the Knight's weapons and their learning of magic is done pretty well, though some of it comes a bit too easily. There's a surprising amount of things going on here during the first four episodes and hopefully future episodes keep up the pace.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Hikaru Voice Actress Interview,Character Profiles,Spell Index,Omake Ending

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magic Knight Rayearth