Ceres: Celestial Legend

Ceres: Celestial Legend

9781421563503_cover.480x480-75Once upon a time, a maiden came from the heavens to bathe in a stream. Her robe, which enabled her to return to her home, was stolen by a young man who forced her to marry him, beginning a long line of half-human, half-celestials. But just as her blood flowed through the veins of mortals, so did the maiden, Ceres, plot her revenge. She cursed his descendants, her own descendants, for this, and vowed that through her blood she would be resurrected in the body of one of her descendants and exact revenge upon the fisherman’s descendants, as well as find her robe and return to the heavens.

To teenage Mikage Aya, something like this would sound like a grim fairy tale, and nothing could be further from her mind as she hangs out with her friends and her twin brother Aki on her sixteenth birthday. But her family’s deep secret is about to emerge, and in a moment, everything Aya knows is shattered for the lie it is. It would seem that Aya is the re-incarnation of the celestial Nymph, Ceres. Will Aya kill her family, or will they kill her first? Or will she be able to resist Ceres and survive her family’s assassination attempts?

This is another epic shoujo fantasy by Yuu Watase, the creator of Fushigi Yuugi, and was written four years later.

Other main characters featuring in this classic shoujo manga is Aya’s bishounen twin brother Aki, who also holds an important part in this celestial fairy tale. Aya and Aki have been best friends their entire lives, but following the events of their sixteenth birthday, it is revealed that Aki is the reincarnation of Ceres’ husband. There is also Toya, Aya’s mysterious protector who has no recollection of his past, yet seems inexplicably linked to Ceres. Despite saving Aya on numerous occasions, Toya is pledged to the Mikages and may be her most potent enemy.

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Suzumi Aogiri is drawn to Aya because she has also inherited the blood of a nymph, although Aya’s is much more potent. When Aya is forced to flee from her family, Suzumi brings Aya into her home and appoints her younger brother, Yuhi Aogiri, to be Aya’s bodyguard. Although young Yuhi is a formidable fighter, he wants nothing to do with this story of nymphs and would rather be in the kitchen cooking up a ménage of wonderful foods for his family. Fortunately for Aya, although much to her own disliking at times, Suzumi is a very persuasive woman, leaving Yuhi with little choice but to protect Aya.

As the story progresses, new relationships are formed, enemies become lovers and friends become enemies, throughout this emotionally-charged storytelling. Aya is torn between her own desires and those of Ceres. As a young woman, she sympathises with the angels plight, but also knows that Ceres is vengeful and deadly and wants to kills her entire family – in particular her twin brother, whom Aya was so close to until recently.

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Usually, this type of storyline takes a while to get going – to explain the backstory, to introduce the characters and to layout the legend behind the present time. Miraculously, Ceres seems to execute all of these perfectly. We are launched straight into the story, into Aya’s life, and see everything as she sees it, and things are explained as and when they need to be. Strangely, things seem to start to slow down in the middle. When everything has been explained we lost some of the pace that the natural back-and-forth between times had given us. All we are left with is the mystery surrounding Toya, Aya’s indecision and their developing relationship. Sadly, when it tries to stand on its own it’s quite disappointing and many of the mysteries surrounding the guy are more than a little predictable. It seems that Watase has tried to string it out a little bit too long, and the reader has reached all the conclusions before the big revelations are set into motion. And as an actual couple… well. Fushigi Yuugi’s Miaka and Tamahome were a lot more believable – and they were the typical shoujo manga couple. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed how different this romance was this time around, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been.

Ceres’ real strength lies in its action and intrigue surrounding the celestial maidens and the intends of the Mikage family surrounding them. In comparison, romantic relationships in this manga pale to the great scenes with the girl turning into celestial maidens and unleashing their powers.

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Ceres: Celestial Legend was a little different to what I expected to be. In a way, it is almost the inverse of Fushigi Yuugi in that it brings the fantasy into reality, and not the other way around – which makes for some interesting scenes and adds the extra complication of naturally having reality ‘get in the way’ of the fantasy. But this didn’t lead to any obstructions in the writing. Everything was well-layered and, to an extent, believable. The only thing that I felt let-down by was the romance, which I expected more from given that this is a shoujo manga. But still, this is another success from Yuu Watase which, like many of her other works, has proven itself by standing the test of time within its genre.