Ayashi no Ceres

Ceres: Celestial Legend
Also Known As: Ceres, AnC
Genre: Action/Drama/Romance
Format: 24 Episodes
Allegiance: Studio Pierrot
Director: Kamegaki Hajime
Vintage: 2000
Intelligence Agency Report by: Lady Sage
Japanese mythology speaks of a beautiful tennyo that was trapped by a man who stole her hagoromo so that she could not return to heaven. Instead, he forced her to marry him and bear his children. Millennia later, Mikage Aya and Aki are ordinary twins leading ordinary lives. But on their sixteenth birthday, they find that their destinies are closely entwined with this supposed fairy tale, and their lives will never be the same again.

Field Agent Report by: Lady Sage
Overall 8.00

I first started watching Ayashi no Ceres with a mix of excitement and apprehensiveness. I was excited because it was the second anime based on a manga by Watase Yuu, author of the long-running and phenomenally popular Fushigi Yuugi, a personal favorite of mine. I was apprehensive because unlike its lengthy predecessor, Ayashi no Ceres holds an average 24-episode run despite the fact that the manga was a full fourteen volumes. To cover everything would take some serious cramming, something that rarely benefits anime-to-manga conversions.

Animation-wise, the series was thoroughly mediocre. Made in 2000, the animation is rather sub-par for its time, looking more along the lines of mid-90s with translucent hair, rather dull colors, and frequent still frames. Fortunately, the art fares considerably better: Ayashi no Ceres does not skimp on the bishounen (and bishoujo) that its creator is famed for. Aurally, too, the series is well-off from the very beginning, with the hauntingly beautiful opening theme Scarlet sung by Iwao Junko. The voice work includes some true masters, with Iwao Junko as the title character Ceres, and Seki Tomokazu in an unfortunately small role as the otaku scientist Alec O. Howell.

In the plot and character aspects, Ayashi no Ceres is as much a mixed bag as it is technically. Many of the characters start out rather unlikable: the protagonist Aya is a typical silly teenage girl, and the male lead Touya is an archetypal (read: cliché) poker-faced bishounen. But every character grows and develops as pasts are revealed, truths come out, relationships grow, and promises are kept and broken. Ceres in particular is a fascinating character: beautiful, tragic, a little bit jaded, and completely consumed by rage and lust for revenge. Unfortunately, the plot cannot decide on what aspect to focus on: the search for her hagoromo, her quest for vengeance against the Mikage, the mysterious C-project, or the love story. As a result, the show wanders from subplot to subplot, resulting in an unfocused feel.

Ayashi no Ceres definitely could have been better. Considering its origins, it should have been better. Instead, it was plagued with problems the typically befall series that try to do too much in too little time. Perhaps it would have done better if it had chosen one plot and focused exclusively on that, or had been given more time to fully expand, it could have lived up to its potential. But as it is, Ayashi no Ceres is a flawed, but nevertheless enjoyable and touching series.