Ceres, Celestial Legend Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ceres, Celestial Legend

Ceres, Celestial Legend Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 04, 2004
Release Date: July 31, 2001


Ceres, Celestial Legend Vol. #1
© Viz Media


What They Say
Aya Mikage and her twin brother Aki thought they were two normal teenagers until one incredible day turned their lives around forever.

According to legend, in the village of Miho there lived a fisherman who found a beautiful feathered robe of tennyo (celestial maiden or angel) hanging on a pine tree. This tennyo, named Ceres, was tricked into marrying fisherman and bearing his children, eventually forming the Mikage Clan.

Although age eventually claimed the Ceres, her will and vengeance have lived on in a select few of her female descendants. One of who just happens to be Aya Mikage. And now Ceres wants her revenge!

With Ceres? incredible power about to manifest itself, Aya has become a liability to her influential family?s interests. Will Aya prevail over the influence of Ceres, or will her family mark her for death?

The Review!
After the lengthy and rather highly praised series Fushigi Yugi, author Yu Watase went on to create Ayashi no Ceres, or as it's being called here, Ceres, Celestial Legend. The release is off to a fairly decent start, but there's a few flies in the ointment here.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Being a recent TV series, there's a fairly decent amount of forward soundstage directionality during some of the action sequences and a couple of times during some dialogue. The majority of the dialogue comes through the center channel as usual, and the opening and ending songs sound fantastic. The English audio track sounded noticeably lower than the Japanese track though, making dialogue a bit harder to hear, hence the lowering of the grade.

Video:
It's a bit of a mixed bag in the video department, depending on what bothers you. Being a recent show, I had expected something better, but it appears that this was done on a bit of a budget. There's a fair amount of soft fuziness to many scenes, particularly in the backgrounds. This is more noticeable in the first episode than the second or third ones. The varying mileage area is going to be whether the rainbows are going to bother you. The show has a lot of close linework throughout the hair and in the faces, so there's a good amount of rainbowing there, as well as in areas such as furniture and other items. It's not horrendous, but I found the rainbows to be fairly distracting.

Packaging:
I know it had been too much to hope for to see the Japanese covers used here, as they're so wonderfully stylized, but I had also hoped for something a little more lively looking than what's essentially a manga cover. Five of the main characters we get acquainted with in the first three episodes get their shot here with some nice linework, but again, it looks more like a manga cover than an anime cover. The back cover provides a few small actual anime images (including a cute one by the barcode) and a brief summary of the show. There's a surprisingly large amount of unused space here. The insert provided was definitely a surprise, with it opening up to an illustration by Watase that was done for Shojo Comics back in 1997. The back side of it lists the episodes and their chapters.

Menus:
The menu layout manages to pull off the right balance of music, animation and design so that it accentuates the material and isn't overbearing or out of place for the show. Menu selections are quick to access and the language selection area shows easily what languages are set for default. Very nicely done.

Extras:
There's a couple of really nice extras in here. The character profiles we only glanced through, once again afraid of potential spoilers. The promo clip is basically the US trailer, but I found it to be quite well done and one that didn't give away a whole heck of a lot. The two extras that we did really enjoy are the rare ones. The first is a video message (subtitled) from Yu Watase herself, talking about how surprised she is about her American fans and the universal messages that come from her stories, and how it'll likely influence her future work (that'll scare some folks). The other is a five minute segment during a convention that shows her drawing a picture of Tamahome and inking it. I hate it when artists make it look so easy. Hate it! But it's a great little extra, one that my wife was rather pleased to see.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Before I get into the story side of the show, there's a few technical things that were interesting about this disc. Some good, some bad.

The first is the nice way the opening logo was done, with the English overlay version playing over the blank portion of the sequence, then disappearing, and then the Japanese original logo shimmering into view. Very nicely done and everyone is happy. The other surprising one is during the end credits, the Japanese cast is credited actor for character. At the end, we get the mass listing of English actors with no attribution. I very much prefer the fade in and fade out of the end-credits rather than the rolling titles.

Also a nice surprise was that after the episode opens and the text is displayed in Japanese for the episode number and episode title, it's then followed by an English translation, rather than ripping out the Japanese one or busying up the screen with both.

So what was disappointing? Unsubtitled songs. Confound it. Is it really that hard to do? And not just English translated ones, give us the romaji translation as well. Make everyone happy for a few dollars more. After all, we're getting less episodes than the Japanese release per disc, which means we're getting two more discs, but even at their higher price, they got a separate novel with each release. That's all I'm asking for, subtitled songs in English and romaji. My daughter loves hearing us sing along with the romaji. No romaji makes Amethyst cry. :)

So, what about the show itself? Well, after the first three episodes, I do admit that we're fairly well intrigued. Once you get past the Fushigi-ness of the show (i.e. "All the beautiful men" as my wife puts it), you really begin to notice just how different they are, and then you simply stop comparing and get involved in the story.

The story takes place in present day Japan, and focuses on the brother and sister Mikage children, Aki and Aya. Both kids are about a day away from turning 16. Aki's a fairly introspective and slightly moody boy, but one with some maturity to him and a look that you know will have the girls goo-goo eyed. Aya on the other hand is a very outgoing girl who likes to karaoke and have a good time. She reminds me a lot of an inbred Miaka and Yui from Fushigi Yugi.

The two are excited about spending their birthday hitting the karaoke clubs and having fun with their friends, but their plans are quickly axed by their moody parents. Instead of their own plans, they have to go to their grandfathers mansion for their birthday, which is sounding more and more like a solemn event rather than a joyous occasion. But like the dutiful children they are, they obey their parents and after school the next day, head to their grandfathers place.

Something strange is afoot though, as the two walk along the street to the mansion, when they see a variety of their aunts and uncles driving in. Once inside, they find most of their family, which appears to be fairly large, attending and all being quite solemn and quiet. The two children are led to a room where their grandfather is, along with a couple of aunts and uncles as well as their parents

Despite the quiet mood, Aya is overjoyed when she's finally presented with a wrapped package. But the moment she begins to unwrap it, various images begin to flash through her head, causing her pain. Aki takes the package instead and begins to unwrap it, but is suddenly and mysteriously shredded with a variety of cuts and begins to bleed all over the place. The grandfather looks strongly at Aya, and tells her that her life is forfeit, and for the good of the family, she must die.

With mysterious powers of hers now beginning to surface, and aided by unknown friends who may really be enemies, Aya forces here way out of the mansion and back into the world, trying to figure out just what's going on. Her new friends tell her stories that make no sense while her family continues to try to kill her. And during all of this, the images she'd seen previously only become more intense and begin to take shape in her present day.

There's a fair bit of mystery in the show and definitely a level of not knowing who to trust when it comes to those around Aya. The animation is pretty nice, but similar to Fushigi it suffers from a lot of still frames that are panned over, but it makes up for this with some wildly frenetic sequences where the characters go completely deformed and just for the laughs. The shots that count though are quite wonderfully rendered and give the show a hard to pin down feeling.

While I'm certainly not happy about the price for the number of episodes, nor the total number of discs or the lack of subtitled songs, there's enough in the actual content itself that intrigues us and gives us hope of another show about angels that just doesn't suck. Time will tell on that front, but so far our curiosity is piqued.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Promo Clip,Character Profiles,Yu Watase Message,Yu Watase Character Sketch Session

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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