As a newbie anime fan, one of the earliest series I ever watched was Ceres, Celestial Legend. Fuelled by a desire to expand my experience with Yuu Watase beyond Fushigi Yuugi, I watched all 24 episodes of the anime in the course of about three evenings, and at the time, it seemed a worthy endeavour. Thus it was that in more recent times, I decided to revisit the series by way of the original manga and a rewatching of the anime- and it was only then that I could see how bad the animated version actually is.
Before I get into the anime, however, I should admit that when it comes to the manga, at least, Ceres is actually quite an enjoyable series. A mix of romance and horror, Ceres tells the story of Aya Mikage, a girl who learns on her sixteenth birthday that she is possessed by the reincarnation of her ancestor, a celestial maiden named Ceres. From then on, Aya’s life is turned upside down as her own family turns against her, separating her from twin brother Aki and placing her at the centre of an endgame involving science, magic and a generations-old desire for vengeance.
Of course, it would be foolish not to admit that Ceres has the same shoujo trappings that appear in any Yuu Watase title- there’s the plucky and determined lead who won’t let anything stop her, the Nice Guy bishounen who falls in love with the lead even though he’ll always be second husband and the Mysterious Sexy Bishounen who forms the main love interest of the series. Even so, the series is different enough from the usual fare to be worth a look, weaving in as it does darker elements about incest, rape and everything that forms the ‘flip side’ of the usually bright and cheery shoujo world. It may not be perfect, but between its interestingly different story and beautiful artwork, Ceres is at least a solid series in manga form, and one that is worth looking into. The anime, unfortunately, is a different story.
Where the manga ran for fourteen volumes, the anime somehow compresses the entire story into a mere twenty-four episodes, and as you might imagine, there are lot of sacrifices made along the way. Entire arcs and characters have been chopped out, whilst the remaining content has been compressed to such an extent that the story is too fast paced for its own good. Without the time for proper development or explanation, events happen for what often seems like no reason, with jarring shifts such as the leads suddenly being deeply in love despite have only briefly met. Matters only become worse towards the end, where a lack of clear explanation and some changes from the manga version lead to what is essentially a series of confusingly inconsistent explanations as to what is going on.
The worst example of this centres on a character named Shuro; in the manga, she is an important character who appears as a fellow celestial maiden and eventual friend from volume six onwards, however in the anime, her role is cut to but a single episode towards the end of the series. If this was to be case, then arguably she shouldn’t have been in the anime at all, but as her abilities also play a key plot role in initiating the final boss confrontation, it was deemed necessary that she appear. Even discounting how strange it is to place a standalone episode at a point in the series when the main plot is fully rolling, Shuro’s one shot appearance in the anime is utterly jarring- those who have read the manga can at least appreciate the cameo, but those who have no idea who she is must surely wonder why there is such a focus on this randomly introduced character, let alone how the writers could possibly expect anyone to care about her hastily explained back story and motivations.
So, then, can anyone expect to enjoy such a poorly paced anime? Well, obvious Watase fans will no doubt jump at the chance to see it, and anime newcomers such as I was when I first watched it will probably not be overly critical of its flaws. Other than that, however, it remains more of a curiosity for fans of the manga who want to see some of their favourite scenes in animated form; since whilst the anime complements the ‘real story’, it cannot possibly hope to stand on its own.
As a manga, Ceres quite possible ranks as Watase’s best series, and it is certainly something worth recommending, but unfortunately, the anime is nowhere near in the same league. By all means try it if you wish, but always be aware that the rushed storyline and shallow characterisation marks it as only a pale reflection of the original work.