Synopsis: Aya and Aki Mikage are twin siblings who've finally reached their sixteenth birthday. As the twins excitedly go off to their grandpa's house for a celebration, something else greets them -- a longstanding family curse that would change their lives forever. In every generation of the Mikage family, a female member awakens as a powerful tennyo (celestial maiden) called Ceres when she turns sixteen. Ceres has a score to settle with the Mikage patriarch, and so she does everything in her power to wreak havoc for the family. As a result, the Mikages have been killing all their female descendants who've turned into Ceres. This time, Aya is Ceres. Aya escapes... but she'll have to get to the bottom of things and make things right if she wants to get her life back.
Review: I've always considered Yuu Watase's "Fushigi Yuugi" as one of the best anime series ever released, and so naturally I was really looking forward to Ayashi no Ceres -- her second animated series.
Like Fushigi Yuugi, Ayashi no Ceres paints a fantastic portrait. If Fushigi Yuugi is based on the legend of the four gods, Ayashi no Ceres is based on the legend of the tennyo. Many years ago, a lone fisherman witnessed a beautiful tennyo bathing in a stream. He hid her celestial robe, without which she could not return to the heavens. He then tricked her into marrying him, eventually spawning the Mikage clan with their union. But Ceres' soul can never be at peace because she still wants her robe back... and she's not going to stop tormenting the Mikages until she gets it. It's just Aya's luck that in this generation, she's the one who's inheriting Ceres' legacy.
As it goes, Aya has to find the robe in order to appease Ceres and get things back to the way they were. In the midst of all the challenges however, Aya still finds the time to fall in love. She becomes involved with Touya, an agent working for one of her relatives. But is Touya a friend or a foe? What's more, Aya's twin brother Aki is slowly being possessed by the spirit of the Mikage patriarch. Ayashi no Ceres is so intriguing and involving that I can almost guarantee that you won't be able to stop watching once you finish the first volume. If it were a book, it would definitely be a page-turner because you can't help but want to find out what happens next right away.
The art and animation are beautifully done. Character designs are attractive and quite similar to Fushigi Yuugi. Aya resembles Miaka to a certain extent, Touya is a dead-ringer for Tamahome, and Yuuhi looks like Amiboshi / Suboshi. I especially loved the way Ceres was drawn because she really stands out amongst all the characters, plus she's unique in the sense that she doesn't have an FY counterpart. Seiyuu Junko Iwao (Key in "Key the Metal Idol", Tomoyo in "Cardcaptor Sakura") turns in a superb performance as Ceres. She also sings Ayashi no Ceres' lovely OP theme "Scarlet", a soft ballad that's so captivating and dreamy that even my 2-year old son would sit up and listen to it every time the intro would play.
Overall, I enjoyed Ayashi no Ceres. Yuu Watase's knack for a good story has not waned, and even if a lot of things about Ceres (such as the Aya-Touya-Yuuhi love triangle) reminded me of Fushigi Yuugi, it's still undoubtedly an excellent series on its own merits.
Miscellanies: Ayashi no Ceres is 26 episodes long.