Reviewby Bamboo Dong
Ayashi no Ceres
To many fans, the name Watase Yuu is very familiar, bringing images of romance, adventure, and the entire genre of shoujo swirling into their head. Known for her manga series Fushigi Yuugi, which was released in the United States as the Mysterious Play, her newest series is the source of anticipation for numerous fans, and it lives well up to the expectations. Ayashi no Ceres was published by Shogakukan, spanning fourteen volumes of tankouban, also known as the graphic novel. Due to its popularity, it was soon adapted into an animated series. In April 2000, it started airing on the WOWOW satellite channel, running for 26 episodes.
Ayashi no Ceres is based loosely on the Japanese legend of the “Tennyo no Hagoromo.” In the legend, a young man is returning home from work and spies a few women bathing nearby. On closer inspection, he discovers that every woman is actually a tennyo (celestial maiden). He is about to leave when he spots a hagoromo (robe worn by the tennyo) lying nearby, so he foolishly takes it home with him. Soon after he leaves, the tennyo comes for her hagoromo, finding that it is missing. Upon her discovery, the tennyo is distraught, knowing that she is unable to return to heaven without her robe. Instead, she is forced to stay on Earth and marry the man, and bear his children. Many years later, she is finally able to discover where the man hid her hagoromo, and as she leaves for heaven, she swears vengeance against her husband for enchaining her on Earth.
The first two episodes of the anime series set up the drama in the story, providing the base for the plot to revolve upon. The main protagonist is a girl named Mikage Aya, who loves singing at karaoke bars with her friends. Before her sixteenth birthday, a fortune teller prophesizes that on her birthday, darkness will fall over her. Passing the warning off as just a joke, Aya and her twin brother Aki eagerly await their birthday, planning to have a party with their friends. To their surprise, their parents demand that they instead go to their grandfather's house for a celebration. While there, Aya is given a gift, but when she opens it, she is confronted with an ancient relic. As she stares at it in confusion, an eerie light is emitted from it. Watching in horror, her brother suddenly screams in agony, clutching to stop the blood spurting from his body. In a whir of events, she is terrified to find that all her family members are trying to kill her. She is soon first rescued by a mysterious man named Tooya, and later on by two siblings named Suzumi and Yuuhi Aohiri, who reveal to her that she carries the soul of the tennyo, while her brother harbors the soul of the man who stole the tennyo's hagoromo. The series is a maelstrom of adventure and fantasy, as Aya struggles to keep the tennyo, Ceres, from surfacing inside of her while wishing that the things in her life could return to what it used to be; happiness, a loving family, everyday life at school, and especially the companionship of her brother Aki.
The anime series is beautifully animated by Studio Pierrot, a studio well known for its shoujo series, including Yuu Watase's Fushigi Yuugi. Backed by a talented staff, Ayashi no Ceres combines smooth animation and pleasant character designs, making it gentle and pleasing to the eye. The music in the series is beautiful, with gorgeous, haunting melodies and lively tunes filled with spark and energy. Especially brilliant is the Japanese voice acting for the characters. They portray their emotions convincingly and deliver their lines with the power and originality that loses itself in the dubbing process. A quality performance is given by Kakazu Yumi, who plays the part of Mikage Aya. She is revered for some of her other roles in anime, such as Mima in Perfect Blue. Adding her lovely singing voice to the series, she also performs the opening song, “Scarlet,” which is guaranteed to become a personal favorite of all viewers and music lovers.
For the fans that are anxious to see the series or read the manga, they don't have long to wait. Both the manga and anime series have already been licensed by Viz, who plans to release them sometime this year under the name of Ceres: Celestial Legend. When the series comes out, I strongly urge everyone to pick it up and try it out. While some fans may believe they're too macho for a shoujo series, Ayashi no Ceres has an element in it that will appeal to almost everyone. Whether a fan of Fushigi Yuugi, Yuu Watase, or shoujo anime in general, the series is a breathtaking experience. The mystical aura surrounding the series is apparent as the tennyo releases her spells over the viewer, fusing both the past and present in a flurry of mystery. The series is something that everyone should put on their list to watch, pulling the viewer into the ominous ceres of fantasy and vengeance.
Overall : A
Overall (sub) : A
+ Beautiful character design, lovely music, and a magnificent cast
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