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Triad of the Moon Presents Magic Knight Rayearth, First Series

If you haven't finished reading (or even started) the first three volumes of this story, you probably think its a sweet, fairly typical magical girls story. Three girls in a magic world, magic morphing armor, evil guys in spikey armor, cute fuzzies, rampaging nutcases, beautiful princess, etc, etc ad nauseum. Sorry folks.

That's not quite how it is. Magic Knight Rayearth has the veneer of a magical girls tale, but in fact it is not about mystical powers and furry creatures; it is a metaphor for war.
To use a specific event, Rayearth very closely follows the course taken by World War II. The beautiful princess Emeraude begs the aid of Hikaru, Fuu and Umi, three young, innocent girls from present day Tokyo. She tells them that if they do not help her, her world will be destroyed. The girls believe her. They have no reason not to do so, and in fact believe that they are doing the right thing. This can be seen as a parrallel to the soldiors of both Nazi Germany and Japan. These soldiers, like the magic knights, were trained under the impression that they were on the side of right, and that those that they killed were the monsters. So firm are they in their belief that they do not give anyone a chance to explain that it may be different. This can be most clearly noted when Umi battles Ascot and his creatures. Ascot and Umi both yell repeatedly that their friends are being killed. However, even though they come to terms with each other, in the larger scheme of things it has no effect on them, and the war contiues, much like the Allies fought against Germany repeatedly, even with small understandings along the way.
Throughout the story, the magic knights' armor goes through many changes, each one lending them a progressively less human appearance until they at last are merely machines of war like tanks. When they are called by the"spirits" of the armor, each girl takes on a possessed appearance, with her eyes glazed over, making them appear blind. They cannot percieve this in each other. They see themselves and each other as who they were, not what they have become. They have been caught within the crystal ball, blind to their actions and the consequences. In fact, the crystal ball is literal. They manage to physically break the crystal ball, but while their world is shattering, they cannot see it.
Up to this point, CLAMP has presented an increasingly saccharine world where everything comes from the heart and every villain can be vanquished by pure love and blinding camraderie. This is all set up to lull the reader into a sense of predictable peace. Yet as the crystal ball shatters, so does this comfortable illusion. Incomprehensable actions do not denote evil. Lord Zagato, we find is not the villain after all, but rather the real hero. The beautiful Princess turns out to be the real monster. She appears to be a beautiful child and is as petty and selfish as only a child can be. She uses the love of others to manipulate them. What she callss her first and last wish is in fact the wish to destroy her world. In this she succeeds.
The destructuib caused by Emeraude extends beyond Cephiro. Once Hikaru, Fuu and Umi realize what they have done, they are forced into an awareness of the harsher realities of life. The third volume ends with Hikaru's anquished scream of

"It's not fair!".