I’ve been thinking lately about a little fantasy anime and manga called Magic Knight Rayearth. Created by an all female manga circle, Clamp, the series involves three Japanese junior high girls who are transported to a magical country on the verge of destruction. This seems like a fairly generic set-up taken on face value, after all stories with young children visiting fantastical worlds are a dime a dozen. Believe me when I say, however, that the series has hidden depths and one hell of a twist ending; it also seems to have some Oz inspiration, most notably in the character of Princess Emeraude.
Princess Emeraude (Also called Emeraude of Cephiro or the Pillar of Cephiro), is the sole source of Cephiro’s stability, and must continually pray for the well being and happiness of her people. Her design may pay homage to Ozma with her large circlet, containing an emerald rather than the Oz emblem, and flowing white dress. Her name is a corruption of the word Emerald, indeed she was mis-credited as Princess Emerald in the English release of the Sega Saturn game, and her overall emerald motif may be an Oz nod as well.
In the series so long as she acts as the Pillar of Cephiro her people are protected against monsters, sickness, famine and quite possibly old age. Like Oz it seems that people do not grow older unless they wish to; two characters demonstrate this: Clef and Ascot.
Master Mage Clef or Guru Clef is the character that the main characters, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, first encounter and it is he who sets them on their mission. Something has impeded the Princess’ ability to serve as Cephiro’s pillar and the land is crumbling. She has been abducted by her High Priest, Zagato, and they must fight their way through his minions to get to the Princess. Continuing the Oz anology he serves much the same purpose as the Witch of the North in that story. He is also over 700 years old despite his child-like appearance.
Th character of Ascot, a villain in the first season and an ally in the second, ages himself by force of will from childhood to young adulthood to pursue a relationship with the Magic Knight Umi. Because in Cephiro like all things age is something controlled by a person’s will, and it’s a simple mater for Clef to remain a child or Ascot to become a young adult.
I can not say for sure that Clamp was inspired by Oz, but given the popularity of both the Oz books and the Disney Return to Oz film in Japan I suspect they were. At the very least Princess Emeraude and the near immortality of the people of Cephiro (At least with a functional pillar), seems very Ozzy, but don’t take my word for it; if you’re interested in the series the first season is available to watch in it’s entirety on youtube (legally but only the English dub). The first episode is linked bellow.