When I was a young girl, there were two shows I couldn't miss: Sailor Moon and Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders. I woke up early on school days to catch both of them, staring wide-eyed at the television each morning at the magical mischief going on in these beautifully animated, colorful worlds.
While Sailor Moon was my first taste of the anime realm, Princess Gwenevere was a delicious slice of girl power that ultimately colored my pop culture palette. It's an unsung hero of the early magical girl wave that would capture Western audiences' hearts, but it doesn't get near the kind of recognition it should. In fact, I'm not so sure anyone I know personally has ever heard of it. I'm forced to stan alone.
The series followed the adventures of a young princess named Gwenevere (or Starla, depending on where you watched the series) and the land of Avalon. Together with her friends and fellow Jewel Riders Fallon and Tamara, the trio worked to find and bring home enchanted jewels scattered throughout the country and rescue their mentor Merlin, who had previously been banished from the land by the malevolent Lady Kale. Kale had been eyeing a kingdom takeover for some time, and eventually faced the sorceress Morgana.
Taking cues from many of the story details from the tale of King Arthur, the story as perfect fodder for young girls like me looking for strong women and heroes to imitate. Avalon was portrayed as a land pulled straight from a fairy tale, with the young magical champions in the Jewel Riders and their animal companions able to ride through portals with their unique jewels. The portals lead them through alternate dimensions comprised of Wild Magic, and they often sought assistance from a trio of male Knights of Avalon known as the Pack.
It was the kind of adventure that practically screamed at viewers to find their favorite Jewel Rider, "Special Friend" animal, and tasks to emulate in real life. For me, I loved Tamara and zebracorn Shadowsong, mostly because of Tamara's heart-shaped jewel and her outfits' color scheme of light blues and pinks. Each episode found the girls learning important lessons, stopping Lady Kale and her goons at every turn, and demonstrating the power of love, justice, and friendship. I drank it up like sweet nectar. I collected the dolls and the trading cards and recorded the show on VHS to watch later when I'd get home from school.
Unfortunately, there were only ever 26 episodes that aired, and the show is nigh impossible to collect. There were several DVDs released of the show as Starla and the Jewel Riders, but there's never been an official DVD or Blu-ray compilation of all the episodes. A third season was supposedly planned for 1998, but was canceled. The series was apparently lost to obscurity, and aside from some dedicated fan shrines online, there's nothing left of it, really, to share with new viewers.
Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders was an important part of my formative years, and it's absolutely worth revisiting if there's ever a reliable way to go back and give it another watch. For now, it will unfortunately have to remain a pleasant and kitschy relic of the past. But the world still needs jewel power.