The manga was adapted into two anime series in 1994 and an original video animation (OVA) in 1997.
Differences in the anime adaptation
The first season remains mostly faithful to the first arc of the manga aside from the inclusion of the original character Inouva and a multitude of subplots, but the second season shows a rapid departure. Most notable differences are the creation of two anime-only antagonists, Nova and Lady Debonair, who were born from the intense despair of Hikaru and the people of Cephiro respectively after the death of Princess Emeraude. It is also revealed by the Rune Gods that the girls were summoned back to Cephiro by their own will, most notably Hikaru’s as her strength of heart also allowed her to become the new Pillar, a position she rejects in a similar fashion to the manga.
The anime series aired first on Japan’s Yomiuri TV and on NNS in Tokyo on October 17, 1994, and ended on November 27, 1995. It was directed by Toshihiro Hirano and co-produced by Yomiuri TV and Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now TMS Entertainment). The anime had 2 seasons, lasting 49 episodes altogether. The TV series was licensed in the U.S. twice, first by The Ocean Group and second by Media Blasters and was dubbed by Bang Zoom! Entertainment. The anime series was also aired on the Philippine television network ABS-CBN in 1996, dubbing in Filipino language and aired every Sunday at 9:00 am at the first season and moved to 10:30 am in 1997 for the second season. At the time, it became popular to average Filipino female children and became one of the Philippines’ highest-rated anime television of the 20th century, and helping to revitalize Filipino interest in anime. It was later aired on GMA Network on November 26, 2001, but on a weekday basis and with a Tagalog dub produced by Telesuccess Productions. It was released on both VHS and DVD. On November 21, 2014, Discotek Media announced they have license the TV series and will re-release the series on DVD and Blu-ray.
A three-part OVA was released in Japan a few years after the end of the manga and the TV series (July 25, September 26, and December 10, 1997). The OVA was named simply Rayearth, and its story was quite different from the original. The characters are all the same, but the relationships, places and events changed radically.
In the OVA, Hikaru, Umi and Fuu are already friends who go to the same school and will soon be leaving for high school. Suddenly, a strange fairy (which turns out to be Mokona, the creature from the original series) appears in front of them. At the same time, strange monsters and wizards start to appear in the city of Tokyo. One of them is Clef, who tries to guide the three girls in order to let them become the Magic Knights, awaken their Mashin and fight against the evil wizards from Cephiro, who are trying to invade the human world. In this version, Ferio, who is a sorcerer under Princess Emeraude’s command, is not her brother. Eagle Vision fills that role instead, as well as being the main antagonist after he tricked Zagato to commit suicide in order to bring upon a false balance to Cephiro. His ties to Autozam are non-existent in this version, as he is a citizen of Cephiro from the start. He would put a spell on Emeraude to convince her that Zagato is still alive, so that the sorcerers of Cephiro can continue to exist on Earth as the two worlds would soon merge and each sorcerer would battle against the Magic Knights. Lantis is also introduced right away as being an ally to the Magic Knights and against Eagle’s plans. The only other characters that are in the OVA are Ascot and Alcyone, with none of the other characters are featured.
The OVA is licensed in the U.S. by Manga Entertainment, who opted to use a different New York-based voice cast for its English release, which was produced by Skypilot Entertainment.