Written by: Nicole Castro
Published on: February 3, 2022 at 16:51 PHT (GMT+8)
Yuu Watase is a Japanese manga artist who is most famous for the shojo manga series Fushigi Yûgi which is full of gorgeous men, mystical magic, and some of the earliest tropes for isekai anime.
But Fushigi Yûgi isn't the only award-winning work under Watase-san's name. Today, we're looking back at the 2000 anime Ayashi no Ceres (English: Ceres, Celestial Legend) which won the 43rd Shogakukan Manga Award in 1998 and forever raised our standards in men and women to a celestial height no one will ever reach (no regrets here).
Ayashi no Ceres (Japanese: 妖しのセレス, English: Ceres, Celestial Legend) is a fantasy shōjo manga series written by Yuu Watase. It was originally serialized in Shōjo Comic from May 1996 through March 2000 and later reprinted by Shogakukan in 14 collected volumes. The manga series is licensed for English language release in North America by Viz Media.
Studio Pierrot adapted the series into a 24-episode TV anime that premiered in Japan on WOWOW on Apr. 20, 2000 and ran until Sept. 28, 2000.
The series focuses on Aya Mikage, whose world is turned upside down on her 16th birthday when she learns she is the reincarnation of an ancient and supremely powerful celestial maiden or angel (tennyo) named Ceres. Meanwhile, her twin brother, Aki, is the reincarnation of Ceres' former husband, Mikagi, the progenitor of the Mikage family. Mikagi stole Ceres' robe (hagoromo) during the Jomon period; thus, preventing her from returning home to heaven and binding her to earth for him to marry. On Aya's 16th birthday, Ceres' spirit begins manifesting (while Mikagi begins manifesting in Aki), and Aya must find Ceres' robe as soon as possible or else Ceres will exterminate the entire Mikage family in retaliation.
The plot is based on the legend of the tennin Ceres and her stolen hagoromo, which has been adapted into numerous Japanese Noh plays under the title Hagoromo. It is considered as the Japanese version of the Swan Maiden legend.
In addition to the legend of the tennin Ceres which acts as the core of the plot, the story is further complicated by the modern-day Mikage family's witch hunt for those with celestial maiden blood in an attempt to counter Ceres (and abuse the power of the tennin overall); thus introducing a diverse cast of other celestial maiden characters and those with connections to the Mikage family, such as Toya, Aya's main love interest.
Ayashi no Ceres captured our shojo manga loving hearts in the early 2000s both for its compelling story and for the mature themes it took on in an era when romcoms with tsundere heroines were the norm. The show featured a variety of complex relationships such as the possessive love between Ceres and Mikagi, Yūhi Aogiri's unrequited love for Aya, and Yuki Urakawa's forbidden romance with her teacher Mr. Hayama (just to name a few. Yes, there are more).
Everything about this series was top-tier quality, and studio Pierrot did an excellent job with the art, music, and pacing for the anime. While 95% of the story revolves around Aya, the subplots for the supporting characters were still solid and equally tragic, so get ready for non-stop water works and bittersweet moments throughout.
Before you go re-watch the anime, here are three things to trigger your nostalgia feels one last time:
1. The hauntingly romantic and iconic opening theme Scarlet by Junko Iwao
The color scarlet symbolizes passion, something the entire cast of Ayashi no Ceres has in spades. They make romance complicated with a capital C.
Meanwhile, the ending theme One ~ Kono Yo ga Hatete mo Hanarenai by Day-break gives a more masculine, action vibe which honestly has us looking forward to the next episode right away.
2. Okay, just look at our leading men. BISHOUNEN
Excellent visuals, equally excellent characters with complex motivations. Toya and Yuuhi get a lot of screen time as their stories are strongly linked to Aya's. While Aki himself is largely possessed by Mikagi for most of the series, his existence remains at the forefront of Aya's consciousness and acts as a strong driver of the plot. The ups and downs of their respective relationships with Aya still has fans debating if they're Team Aki, Toya, or Yuuhi. We say, pick them all!
3. The leading women of Ayashi no Ceres, an anime about celestial maidens
This is an anime focusing on women with celestial powers, so we get god-tier visuals, cool powers, and a variety of personalities that go beyond the traditional stereotypes of tsundere and yamato nadeshiko. In Ayashi no Ceres, the women are here to fight for and protect the ones they love, and we're here to support.
This anime is chef's kiss. That's the summary. It's certainly not for young audiences, but we feel like you figured that out from episode one alone.
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