Strength of Heart is a shrine dedicated to the fictional world Cephiro from the manga Magic Knight Rayearth by CLAMP, created as part of Amassment's Old School Challenge. The current layout was optimized for Chrome; fonts may not be displayed at their best in other browsers, namely Firefox and Internet Explorer.
To all the adventurers who have gone on classic RPG journeys and would love to go on similar adventures again - on a different medium. ♥
As one of the first series I read by CLAMP and one of my first manga experiences overall, Magic Knight Rayearth captured me immediately with the richness of its art and the inspiration it drew from old school JRPGs, where chosen ones form a group and embark on an epic quest to save the land. Hikaru, Umi and Fuu's journey is colourful, focused on strengthening their bond, gaining new powers and accepting the role they play as they explore the land, meet its inhabitants, learn about its history and overcome obstacles - be it antagonists, the environment or even themselves. Most of all, they gradually come to love the strange land that they have been called to, a development that occurs as they listen to the people they come across, friends and foes alike, each having their own reasons for their actions.
In just three volumes (the length of MKR's first story arc), CLAMP manages to paint a convincing and immensely colourful world founded on the belief that the strength of one's will is what ultimately shapes reality. Considering the usual length of fantasy manga series set in a different world that has yet to be introduced, three volumes is a very short time span - yet, on top of worldbuilding, the three girls' relationship progresses just as steadily and convincingly as the story itself; and though they don't meet any people on the way aside from key figures and antagonists (that further flesh out the three protagonists), the world feels populated, connected by everyone's desire to save it from impeding doom - something that then becomes the reader's desire. Then and now, MKR impresses me with its effective use of pacing specifically due to its brevity: The quest not only follows its own formula, but also the formula of JRPGs, and it never wastes time (but doesn't neglect characterization, relationship development and worldbuilding either!), thus creating a compelling story accompanied by a constant sense of urgency - which leads me to the last point.
The conclusion of its first story arc catches both the trio as well as the reader off-guard precisely because MKR fits right into the mold of JRPGs and epic fantasies and follows them so faithfully; it's a very well-delivered and memorable ending in my opinion, as the lead-up to it is well-done for several reasons (more on this in the Appendix). What's more, although the first arc could afford to stand on its own, CLAMP uses that momentum to allow the girls to grow: In three more volumes that form the second half of the story, they return to Cephiro, a now outwardly transformed land, to face the consequences of their actions and to do what they can as they struggle to think for themselves, to find answers and to create their own path rather than following one laid out for them. And as they do, Cephiro itself changes from the inside, growing into something more beautiful than it was.
What I aim to capture with this shrine are the love for Cephiro shared by its people and its transformation as it stays true to the conviction that one's heart determines everything. Thus, although Strength of Heart covers a significant and large part of MKR and can very well be considered a series shrine (though it omits the Magic Knights and does not tell MKR's story from their perspective for the most part!), it is conceptualized as a character shrine, as Cephiro is the central figure that goes through the most development to change the most by the end of the story. All the elements that drew me in as a child and continue to impress me as an adult - I dearly hope that I am able to convey some of it to you.
The Prologue offers an introduction into Magic Knight Rayearth and Cephiro. Act I describes what Cephiro is like, whereas Act II shows how it changes (and what it should and should not be); they'll both outline MKR's story arcs in their own way (Act I leaning towards static, Act II towards dynamic descriptions not unlike a synopsis) while keeping the chronology of events in mind so as not to confuse those new to the subject. For the sake of completion, Act I will include some minor elements not mentioned until the second story arc.
The Appendix explores the sources that the series as a whole draws from and evaluates it in the context of CLAMP's works, JRPGs and storytelling (this is where all the essays are). The Postface closes with reflections on my own relationship with the series and the shrine itself (in other words: shameless rambling).
Refer to the Table of Contents for an overview.
Note that there are unmarked spoilers all across the site. If you think MKR might be a series you'd consider reading yourself, reading Act I of this shrine up to Localisms makes for a good introduction. Avoid the last chapter, The Battle, due to major story spoilers.
This shrine is exclusively based on the manga. Its content draws from the German publication by Carlsen (1999), the first and not revised English translation by Tokyopop (1999-2003), Dark Horse Comic's new English translation (2011-2012) and the fan translation provided by fuu at Cephiro, at times mixing the four, as is the case with character and location names, spells and various other terms. See translation notes for more.
If there's anything you'd like to say about this dedication, I'd be delighted about any feedback in my guestbook! Thanks a lot for your visit. ♥
Strength of Heart is part of the Caged Songbird Network © 2015–2016 Lethe
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