In the world of Cephiro, Princess Emeraude calls out to the legendary Magic Knights for help. In Japan, Hikaru Shidou is visiting Tokyo Tower for a school trip. While her classmates find it childish, Hikaru thoroughly enjoys herself. When she runs out of money for the binoculars, Fuu Hououji offers her some change. Hikaru chases after Fuu to thank her, but almost runs into Umi Ryuuzaki. A bright light suddenly appears and Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu find themselves falling from the sky. They land on a giant flying fish and wonder where they are. High Priest Zagato and his vice-commander Inouva watch on. Inouva is surprised the legend was true, but Zagato assures him that a legend is just a legend. He doubts they can save Emeraude but thinks it’s foolish just to dismiss them. The fish drops the girls off on a cliff and they realize they aren’t in Tokyo anymore. Umi is upset so Hikaru suggests they introduce themselves. Umi reluctantly agrees and they introduce themselves; Umi and Fuu being shocked to learn Hikaru is 14 like they are. The fish returns and Umi asks it if it can return them to Tokyo, but it’s recalled by Master Mage Clef. Clef says they can’t return until they save Cephiro. Zagato informs his subordinates about the arrival of the Magic Knights, assuring them the Knights are mere children and won’t be able to revive the Rune-Gods. Zagato instructs the sorceress Alcyone to take care of them. Clef tries to explain the situation to the girls, but Umi takes issue to how young he looks. Clef wonders what Emeraude was thinking summoning children and a monster suddenly attacks. Clef easily destroys it and explains that Cephiro didn’t use to be like that. Before everything lived in peace until Zagato imprisoned Emeraude, allowing monsters to roam free. He says only the Magic Knights can save them, but Umi says it has nothing to do with them. Clef says that many had tried and failed to fight Zagato. Hikaru says she’ll help but Umi scolds her. Clef says the girls have no choice because they can only go home after saving Cephiro. Clef explains that Emeraude is the Pillar who supports Cephiro with her prayers because in Cephiro one’s will rules all. He asks if they can use magic, but they answer no, so he casts a spell on them.
The spell gives the girls armor and Clef says magic has chosen them as well. Clef unlocks Hikaru’s magic before sensing that one of Zagato’s minions is near. Clef summons a griffin and tells the girls to run while he holds them off. He tells them to search out someone named Presea to get weapons and something called Mokona. The griffin leaves and Alcyone arrives. Clef is disappointed in his pupil and she attacks him with a barrage of icicles, which he blocks. Alcyone summons a two-headed dog of fire to deal with Clef while she goes after the Magic Knights. Clef easily takes out the beast and fears what will happen if the girls lose to Alcyone. Zagato attacks Clef from behind and turns him to stone. Alcyone catches up with the griffin and attacks. Hikaru wants to turn back to help Clef, but Fuu talks her out of it. Alcyone prepares to finish them off, but Hikaru manages to cast her Flame Arrow attack and destroys Alcyone’s flying horse. Hikaru collapses afterward and Umi suggests using the griffin to go back to Tokyo. Hikaru and Fuu are against it, with Fuu saying that Alcyone pretty much confirmed Clef’s story. Umi suggests it’s a lie but Fuu thinks it’s better to follow something even if it’s a lie. Umi eventually agrees to go with them. Emeraude laments about Clef and Zagato appears and tells her the legend won’t come to pass. She asks why he’s doing this and he answers he doesn’t care about what happens to Cephiro.
You’ll be excused for thinking you’ve come to the wrong website, as this opening episode plays out like a fantasy JRPG rather than a mecha show (incidentally my first exposure to Rayearth was the Super NES game). We’ve got a captured princess, a country facing destruction, monsters, mages, ancient legends and three middle school girls from our world thrown into it all. It wastes no time in introducing us to the characters, laying out the situation, and sending our heroes on their quest. Hikaru is childlike and energetic, Fuu is calm and intelligent and Umi is elegant but a bit of a brat. They all react to their situation with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but they don’t have much choice in the matter and are going to have to work together. This episode is a simple and concise way to start things off.