Written and Illustrated by Yu Watase
Character Design by Hideyuki Motohashi
Directed by Hajime Kamegaki
- Interviews with Yu Watase
- Video of Watase drawing a character from a different series
- Character profiles
- Stills gallery
- Japanese trailer
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Brief nudity
- Existential angst
Released by: Viz.
Rating: NR, suggested for 16+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Own it.
Aya Mikage and her twin brother Aki seem like ordinary high school students, and today is their sixteenth birthday. But what they don’t know, and are about to find out, is that their family is straight out of Japanese myth: it seems that long ago, one of the Mikage ancestors stole the feather cloak, or hagoromo, of a Celestial Maiden named Ceres. Without it, she was unable to return to Heaven and was essentially tricked and forced into marrying that Mikage male. Ever since, when the magic runs strong in a Mikage female descendant, Ceres is able to possess that girl on her sixteenth birthday. To avoid the inevitable bloodiness of this revenge, the Mikage clan tests each girl and those who are found to bear the mark of Ceres are put to death. And what of Aya’s brother, Aki? Well, it seems that he, too, is marked to be the vessel of a Mikage ancestor…
And if all this weren’t complicated and bad enough, the Mikage clan has elements within it that are more interested in exploiting the Celestial Maiden’s blood than actually killing Aya; what is the “C-Project” and what do they want with Aki and Aya? Who can she trust? Luckily, some “friends” come forward, also descended of a Celestial Maiden, though under different circumstances and not as powerful as Aya will be, but willing to help Aya adjust to the truth and perhaps avoid her death sentence. And not to forget the mysterious Toya… The first four DVDs in the Ceres story introduce the characters and the world, and carry the story up through the revelation of Aki’s part in the Celestial Maiden myth. Aya has some decisions to make, and in true Watase style, they won’t be easy.
While some of the themes of Ceres could be disturbing, the talent and vision of Yu Watase is such that the viewer is never horrified without a distinct reason, and the sheer beauty of her art serves to make the terror of Aya’s situation even more poignant. Readers of the manga version will not be disappointed, though fans of Fushigi Yugi should be reminded that this series lacks much of the comic relief of that previous work.
The sound transfer of the DVDs is top notch, as is the image transfer. The light effects and saturated colors that Watase prefers (as seen in her best-known work, the aforementioned Fushigi Yugi) come through brilliantly and will dazzle the viewer, while also making the darkness of some scenes even more effective and emotionally charged.
The extras are also quite enjoyable. I love seeing the art galleries with line drawings and character concept art, as well as the brief character profiles, which serve to introduce the myriad characters to new viewers. And finally! An interview with the manga artist herself! The subtitled address from Watase is touching and fun; comments from the artists themselves are always a splendid and welcome inclusion to any anime title. Even the animation when a viewer selects a scene to view is simple, yet hauntingly beautiful–rain falling on water erases the menu and resolves to the new screen. Lovely.
The DVDs themselves are rather attractive–they are silver with a frosted emboss of the Celestial symbol. The cases are sturdy, decorated tastefully and effectively with color art from the series. Disks are easily removed from the case–no feeling like you’re about to break your investment.
Long-time fans of anime will appreciate this fresh spin on Japanese myth, as well as the gorgeous art and interesting storylines created by Watase. But there’s much here to attract and interest those of you new to anime, as well: Ceres successfully combines many of the most popular genres, including Magical Girl, suspense, government conspiracy, myth & legend, Noh drama, even a bit of romance, though as always, Watase presents what she does with a twist. In short, this show is beautiful, deep, and enjoyable–a top notch supernatural work of art.