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A Y A S H I   N O  C E R E S
Reviewed in April, 2001 by Mark Vallen, Jeannine Thorpe, and John Lentini . Screen shots generously provided by John Lentini.

(Comments by Jeannine Thorpe) This latest release by popular manga Artist Watase Yu presents us with all the wonderful storytelling, drama, fantasy, and romance that we have come to love her for. Mikage Aya and her twin brother Aki lead completely normal lives as Tokyo teenagers, until on their 16th birthday they learn of their family's dark secret that will change their lives forever. For within Aya sleeps the power of a Tennyo (Heavenly Maiden), the beautiful and extremely dangerous Ceres... whose only motivation is revenge against the Mikage family. Suddenly Aya is alone and has no idea who to trust, with even her own family out to destroy her. She is taken in by others who know of the Tennyo power, but Aya is constantly in conflict with her emotions.... the adventure completely envelopes you and leaves you begging for more!

It's no surprise to me that Watase Yu created Ayashi no Ceres after the popularity of her previous shoujo tale with heavy fantasy elements, Fushigi Yuugi.... but what is a surprise is how different and original it is. Aya is a more mature heroine by far than Miaka, and from the very beginning the series is darker and more realistically dramatic. Whereas Fushigi Yuugi was set in a fantasy world, Ayashi no Ceres is in modern Tokyo... sword fights are replaced with gunfights... so the drama seems that more real.

Yet the series is also very Japanese, with lead characters Suzumi and Yuuhi living in a beautiful Japanese style home, and Suzumi always wearing kimono. Thus Ceres presents a realistic view of the multiple dimensions of modern Japanese life, combined with a little mythology based fantasy.

The animation far surpasses that of the Fushigi Yuugi television or OAV series... computer animation perfectly melded with cel drawings to create wonderfully realistic effects, such as the rain in the image above. The animation is frequently composed of large, close up face shots of the characters, a trend started in the Fushigi Yuugi OAVs.... a wonderful technique that heightens the drama to a palpable level. The music is also first rate, combining a slow enka-inspired opening theme, a loud techno ending theme, and a great new age background soundtrack. I can't wait to see the entire series all the way to the end!
(Comments by Mark Vallen) The Ayashi no Ceres manga and anime series is a splendid mix of Science Fiction and Mysticism that is sure to have very wide appeal. One of the first things I noticed while watching the anime was how the quality of it's animation differed from that of Fushigi Yuugi (the other great work from Watase Yu). This latest anime combines traditional hand painted cel animation with computer generated imaging (CGI), and the results are quite impressive. While the CGI work was apparent and rarely masked, it never came off as being just a cheap effect, rather, it enhanced the overall quality of the anime.

The music to this anime is wonderful, and I encourage audiophiles to seek out the CD soundtrack. The opening song with vocals by Junko Iwao (the voice actress for Ceres) is an unforgettable, lilting, ballad that serves as the theme music for the series. The closing song is by Day Break, who offer a catchy, energetic bit of rockin J-Pop that I've had great difficulty getting out of my head. There is no current release of this anime in the West, but Viz Communications has purchased the rights to the series and is supposedly planning to release it in the Spring of 2001. I've only watched the first four episodes of Ayashi no Ceres... but that was enough to make me want to watch the show to it's conclusion!

(Comments by John Lentini) Fushigi Yuugi fans take note... here comes Ayashi no Ceres. If you are familiar with Watase Yu's character styles and storylines, then you should really check this one out. After you spend the first episode saying to yourself, 'Hey, that looks like (insert random Fushigi Yuugi character here)?' You can really sit down and enjoy this series, along with the strong character designs that Watase-san is known for. A very good visual story with a tremendous soundtrack behind the show, that may even remind you of the fine pages of a certain book from long ago. So to all the FY fans out there... and we know of quite a few, get the word out on this up and coming series before it hits the shelves!
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