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Magic Knight Rayearth Vol.4
Softcover (208 pages)
Mixx Entertainment, Inc.
Tokyo Pop Press
Kodansha, Ltd.
Come on, this is CLAMP, you know you're going to buy it. It sports a great translation and excellent artwork and it's worth every penny.

ANIMEfringe Reviews:
Magic Knight Rayearth Vol.4
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold

"The world seemed like an RPG, but it was real. Things weren't just "good" or "evil" like in a game. It was a terrible battle. We followed our hearts... and that caused tragedy." - Fuu Hououji

Days after the Tokyo Tower trip, the three girls, Umi, Fuu, and Hikaru, are all reeling from a depression that stems from their actions in the other dimensional world of Cephiro. The three gather once again at Tokyo Tower to console themselves and try to salvage their unbreakable friendship that was formed in the midst of adversity. Talk leads to questions and soon leads to a desire to return once again to Cephiro. Suddenly, a bright light engulfs the three Magic Knights and they vanish from Japan a second time.

What they return to is a Cephiro that has lost what it needs to survive -- their pillar. The world is unstable. And in the midst of all the confusion, the world's most powerful sorcerers have formed a castle that serves as Cephiro's last ray of hope. But three outer space countries, Autozam, Chizeta, and Fahren, all seek to discover the secrets of the world that they were denied access to for so long. Now the four worlds are at war with one another and the Magic Knights have stepped into a war zone with no apparent way of ever returning home again.

The fourth volume in CLAMP's fan favorite series, Magic Knight Rayearth, takes the girls into uncharted territory with no clear goal in sight. Fans of the relationships built by the first Magic Knight's RPG-like trek are quickly given a lot of fan service as villains are reintroduced with new motivations and new relationships. What's more is the fact that the second storyline has a number of new characters who at first seem like villains, but turn out to be misunderstood -- but clearly have their own agendas.

The return trip to Cephiro also parallels with the second season of TV episodes which Anime Works is currently releasing as Magic Knight Rayearth 2. But, the series do differ considerably in their progression and pacing. The manga introduces the rival countries in a more timely fashion and has several more brutal duels. It also seeks to make more occur in the time span and holds off on revealing certain characters until key points. But you'll hardly have time to realize this, because like all CLAMP works, the story flows continuously as a long narrative. And yes, like the previous 3 Rayearth volumes, this volume also does not feature any title pages so the story can be read as a whole from the beginning to the cliffhanger.

The most striking aspect of Tokyopop's trade paper back collection of the serialized parts of Magic Knight Rayearth is the aspect ratio. When compared to the awkwardly-printed versions that appeared in Tokyo Pop Vol.3 #5 to #10, the pages not only appear in a form closer to the original Japanese version but they also appear larger and clearer than the magazine versions.

Taking advantage of the thicker paper stock, the Magic Knight Rayearth Mixx Manga are a more flexible reading experience that will not force you to break the book's spine, as many of Tokyopop Press's pocket-sized books do. This is always a plus for people who like to proudly display their books in pristine condition on a bookshelf.

RPG fans have a lot to like with Magic Knight Rayearth. It has constant action, anime-quality lines, and fun characters. And the second storyline is a great place to jump aboard even if you are not familiar with the first storyline. The plot of the original is recapped and the new story unfolds in a more in-depth fashion than the original. Rayearth is definitely a series that shouldn't be missed by any self-respecting Otaku.

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