Ceres, Celestial Legend (妖しのセレス Ayashi no Seresu?) is a fantasy shōjo manga series written by Yuu Watase. It was originally serialized in Shōjo Comic from May 1996 through March 2000. The chapters were also published by Shogakukan in fourteen collected volumes. The series focuses on Aya Mikage, who learns on her sixteenth birthday that she is the reincarnation of a celestial maiden (天女 tennyo?) named Ceres, and her twin brother Aki the reincarnation of Ceres' former husband, Mikage. Ceres begins manifesting in Aya. To try to save her brother, Aya must find Ceres' lost celestial robe (羽衣 hagoromo?), while trying to avoid being killed or captured by her own family, who wants to use Ceres's incredible powers and abilities for their own gain.
The manga series is licensed for English language release in North America by Viz Media. In 1998, it won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōjo. Studio Pierrot adapted the series into a twenty-four episode anime series that premiered in Japan on WOWOW on April 20, 2000 and ran until September 28, 2000. The anime series is also licensed for Region 1 release by Viz Media.
Aya Mikage and her twin brother Aki go to their grandfather's home for their sixteenth birthday unaware that it's actually a test to see if they have enough angel or celestial maiden blood in them. Aya is the reincarnation of a powerful celestial maiden called Ceres. When she transforms into Ceres, Aya obtains supernatural powers and abilities such as flight, teleportation, telepathy, incredibly strong and powerful telekinesis, premonition, projecting highly strong, powerful and destructive deep pink glowing energy blasts from her hands, creating incredibly strong and powerful impenetrable shields and barriers of pure deep pink glowing energy, and superhuman speed. According to the legend, Ceres will kill the Mikage family for revenge upon stealing her celestial robe, thus preventing her returning home to Heaven, so Aya's family attempts to kill her. However, she is saved by Suzumi Aogiri, another angel descendant with supernatural powers, (since not all Mikages have angel blood) and Suzumi's brother-in-law, Yūhi. Aya tries to control Ceres's power over her and Aki is taken over by the vengeful hateful spirit and soul of "Mikagi", the ancestor of the Mikage family who first stole Ceres' celestial robe, forcing her to stay on Earth. Aya also wrestles with her growing love for Toya, a servant of the Mikage who are trying to kill her, but lost his memory of his past. He also starts to love Aya in return. Aya promises Ceres to help her find her celestial robe in exchange for not killing her family (especially Aki) who hunts her down, since Aya still loves them. Toya tries to regain his memory. He learns that he was the organism that Ceres's celestial robe (otherwise known as "the mana") created to help it reunite with Ceres.
- Aya Mikage (御景 妖 Mikage Aya?)
- A high-school girl and the protagonist at the beginning of the story who discovers she is a descendant of a tennyo named "Ceres" and is Ceres' latest medium for existence. The Mikage family takes this as a threat and continuously tries to take Aya's life. Her father is killed attempting to protect her. Her mother is forced into a coma for the majority of the series. While Aya is initially horrified that her life has been turned upside down, she is determined to right the past doings of her family and recover Ceres' hagoromo so that her family will no longer suffer in fear of her. As the series progresses, she falls in love with Toya and they conceive an unnamed child together.
- Ceres (セレス Seresu?)
- Voiced by: Junko Iwao (Japanese), Onalea Gilbertson (English)
- A celestial maiden or tennyo from the legend, who married the founder of the Mikage family, Mikagi Mikage. While she is immensely strong and powerful, and volatile, she seeks to recover her hagoromo, or celestial robe, to regain her true form, and full powers and abilities. She has repeatedly attempted to manifest herself through certain female descendants of her bloodline when they reach the age of sixteen, only to be thwarted each time as they are relentlessly killed by the Mikage family. Ceres hides a tragic past misinterpreted by descendants who seek to kill Aya to prevent Ceres from manifesting through another generation.
- Toya (十夜 Tōya?)
- Voiced by: Katsuyuki Konishi (Japanese), Victor Atelevich (English)
- A mysterious young man who has absolutely no memory of his past or the nature of his being; his only clues are two names: "Toya" ("ten nights", his name), and "Mikage". He was found and hired by Kagami and works for Mikage International, and later rebels against them. He and Aya are drawn to one another, not only in love. Toya is the embodiment/offspring of the hagoromo which Ceres is searching for. As he regains his lost memories, he sacrifices the immortality bestowed upon him by the celestial robe to save Aya and his unborn child. At the end of the series, he tells Yūhi that he may not live for long and that Yūhi should take care of Aya in his place once he dies.
- Aki Mikage (御景 明 Mikage Aki?)
- Aya's twin brother, a gentle and caring person who is subject to becoming a medium for the spirit of Mikagi, the founder of the Mikage family who aggressively pursues Aya and Ceres and almost raped Aya. In the end he sacrifices his life to destroy the violent and hateful soul and spirit Mikage.
- Suzumi Aogiri (梧 納涼 Aogiri Suzumi?)
- Voiced by: Mayumi Asano (Japanese), Maizun Jayoussi (English)
- A widow and a C-Genomer (tennyo descendant) from the Kansai region, Suzumi is a head of a branch of the one of the Aogiri family's schools of Japanese dance. She welcomes Aya into her household when she discovers Aya has become Ceres' latest medium. Suzumi cannot become a tennyo like Aya, though she does possess slight psychic powers and abilities like clairvoyance and telekinesis. She is capable of making protective charms for Yūhi as he strives to aid Aya.
- Yūhi Aogiri (梧 雄飛 Aogiri Yūhi?)
- Voiced by: Kentarō Itō (Japanese), Matthew Erickson (English)
- Suzumi's brother-in-law, the adopted younger brother of Suzumi's deceased husband. Early within the series, he wears a headband highly strengthened and enhanced with tennyo magic made by Suzumi which helps to designate him as Aya's bodyguard. Yūhi has unrequited feelings for Aya. Though attracted to Yūhi, Aya ultimately comes to see him as a close friend, and Yūhi is able to accept the fact that Aya only has eyes for Toya. Later, he begins to care deeply for Chidori Kurama. A notable martial arts expert, he is also an extraordinary cook.
- Kyū Oda, "Mrs. Q" (小田 玖 Oda Kyū?)
- Voiced by: Kujira (Japanese), Doug McKeag (English)
- The Aogiri's household help, a gnome-like woman known for her reckless driving and ridiculously ugly appearance, despite her consistent claims that she is a beautiful woman. She's convinced that she and Toya are made for each other.
- Chidori Kuruma (来間 千鳥 Kuruma Chidori?)
- Voiced by: Ayako Kawasumi (Japanese), Carol-Anne Day (English)
- Another C-Genomer from Tochigi Prefecture; a cheerful, high-school girl who looks and acts child-like until she transforms into a tennyo. Chidori cares deeply for her younger brother, Shouta, who was hospitalized upon her introduction into the story. She can transform into a tennyo at will. She develops deepening feelings for her crush Yūhi, and later dies for his sake. The Mikage scientists identify Chidori’s tennyo type as Pallas.
- Yuki Urakawa (浦川 由貴 Urakawa Yuki?)
- Voiced by: Akiko Kimura
- A high-school girl and a C-Genomer who goes the same school as Yūhi and Aya. Yuki is quiet and has a weak constitution. She can't transform into a tennyo, but she can manifest the amazingly strong and powerful power and ability of pyrokinesis, the power and ability to create, control, and manipulate fire, flame and heat at will. She has a relationship with her teacher, who is actually an agent sent by the Mikage International to capture and eliminate Aya (Ceres). In the end, Urakawa burned the agent and hugged him, which causes her to get severely burned and die.
- Miori Sahara (佐原 美緒里 Sahara Miori?)
- Voiced by: Akiko Yajima (Japanese), Meredith Taylor-Parry (English)
- Aya's distant cousin and a C-Genome (celestial descendant) from Shizuoka Prefecture. She was Tooya's lover in the past. She is an ordinary, high-school girl living a normal, happy life with her mother. Her mother was summoned by the Mikages and was killed at the main house when Aya first transformed into Ceres. When Aya comes to a new school, the two meet and become friends. Although Aya doesn't know about her personally, Miori is only pretending and has an agenda of her own. She transformed into a tennyo to take on Aya (as Ceres) to avenge her mother's death. She later committed suicide as her final act of "revenge" against Aya. Miori is identified by the Mikage scientists as possessing the same tennyo type as Aya.
- Shuro Tsukasa (司 珠呂 Tsukasa Shuro?)
- Voiced by: Shizuka Sasaki (Japanese), Elizabeth Stepkowski (English)
- An Okinawan C-Genomer raised as a man by her family in fear that Shuro would one day take away the family's heirloom hagoromo and ascend to heaven. She is GeSANG's famous pop star alongside her cousin Kei Tsukasa, of whom she shares more than cousin feelings for. She dies near the end of the series attempting to free the C-Genomes. Shuro has the ability to magnify her voice to epic amplitudes when she transforms into a tennyo, to a degree that people near her had their hearts rupture. Mikage scientists identify Shuro as tennyo type Juno.
- Kagami Mikage (御景 各臣 Mikage Kagami?)
- Voiced by: Tomokazu Sugita (Japanese), Dave Kelly (English)
- Aya's distant cousin and director of C-Project (Celestial Project) conducted by Mikage International. He is one of the few members of the family who actually wants to meet Ceres and does not fear her. In fact, he almost seems in love with her. Kagami wants her captured for study, so that he can harness the exceedingly strong and powerful power and ability of the tennyo and wishes to learn their true nature in hopes of bettering humanity, though his methods are less than moral. When Kagami was young he suffered a tragic childhood and was beaten by his mother for not being the best at things. Because of this it has an effect on his personality. His objective on C-Project is to create the "perfect" human race.
- Alec (アレク Areku?) / Alexander O. Howell (アレクサンダー·O·ハウエル Arekusandā O. Haueru?)
- Voiced by: Tomokazu Seki (Japanese), Jonathan Love (English)
- Studied in the USA, Alec is a Scottish scientist hired by Kagami for the research of tennyo legends. He speaks Japanese with a thick accent, a certified genius with a very high IQ and is a complete otaku. He works for Mikage International and provided advanced technology for the development of C-Project. As the project progresses, Alec soon finds out that things are not really going to what he expected and tries to back out from it. The only thing keeping him from doing his job ends up being his own moral convictions.
- Gladys Smithson (グラディス·スミソン Guradisu Sumison?)
- Voiced by: Yuko Nagashima (Japanese), Maureen Jones (English)
- An American colleague of Alec who works for the C-Project at Mikage International. She's responsible for the C-Genomer's power growth and development. She dies when she puts herself between Mikagi and a pregnant Ceres.
- Wei Fei Li (偉 飛麗 Wěi Fēi-lì?)
- Voiced by: Kouichi Toochika (Japanese), Ethan Cole (English)
- A young, skilled martial artist from China hired by Mikage International. Wielding a vicious chain whip and various tiny throwing blades, he is often sent out to bring in captured C-Genomers or other covert tasks. When Toya tried to leave the headquarters together with Aki, Wei was sent stop them. His left eye was taken by Toya during their fight. He is Aki's (and Shiso's) caretaker and bodyguard, and as Toya's replacement. He seems to be calm most of the time and does not complain, but harbors a grudge against Toya for the injury he caused.
- Shiso Mikagi (始祖·ミカギ Shiso Mikagi?)
- Voiced by: Shinichiro Miki (Japanese), Jonathan Love (English)
- A man from the Jōmon period of Japan and the founder of the Mikage family. In the legend, he hid her hagoromo in the ocean forcing her to become mortal. Toward the end, it is revealed that he had begun as a gentle, kind young man. Ceres falls in love with him, to the point of granting him power after their family is attacked and he is ashamed at his own inability to protect them. As Shiso grows strong, he went mad and his love becoming an obsession that drives him to hide the hagoromo, and Ceres comes to fear for her children's safety. When she leaves, he chases her and is killed by Ceres (after he kills their first child), who covers him with lacerations identical to the ones that appear on Aki Mikage when Mikagi manifests himself in his descendant. He will stop at nothing to ensure Ceres is his again.
- An young assassin from Indonesia hired by Kagami Mikage to kill Toya after Toya cut his ties with Kagami to join Aya. He is also a replacement for Toya. His goal for the C-Project is to stop using children as objects of war.
Ceres, Celestial Legend is the third manga series written by Yuu Watase. She based it on the legend of the tennyo and her stolen hagoromo. This legend is the basis for one of the most performed Japanase Noh plays, Hagoromo. It is the Japanese version swan maiden, with versions from other cultures also being mentioned as the series progresses.
As with most of her serials, Watase planned the basic story line of Ceres through to the end before beginning work. She notes that it is easier to work this way, but that even with planning sometimes the characters will "move on their own" and refuse to follow her original plans. When she reaches the end of the work, though, she found she could understand why they did so. Watase noted that one of the hardest parts of writing a serial manga was having to plan for the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. She wanted each to be something that made the reader want to know what happened next, so they would want to keep reading.
To enable her to accurately depict the many locations used within the series, Watase traveled to Miyagi, Okinawa, and Tochigi to visit the locations where legends say tennyo landed. She was able to negotiate entry into some normally closed to the public. The characters in Ceres are not based on real people, however Watase notes that each one reflects some part of herself, as does the story as a whole. For example, Watase incorporated her thoughts on genetic engineering and other new technologies through the character of Kagami. While she feels such technologies can be useful to society, she feels that they should not be abused. Kagami is Watase's reflection of her view of how people should not be, in his cruel disregard for the lives of the celestial beings he creates. Watase purposefully left Ceres' true nature ambiguous in the manga ending, never clearly stating if Ceres is an alien or truly a being descended from heaven. She notes, however, that part of the reason for this was that it wasn't something she'd thought about. In reflection, she felt Ceres was a symbol. In Japan, men are considered the dominant sex, and Watase notes that as a woman there are things about the system that anger her, such as men saying she is "just a woman." Ceres became a story about the relationship between men and women. She also wanted to show that while the tennyo and the humans in the story may have come from different origins, and evolved differently, they also were still the same living creature in the end, with similar feelings and thoughts.
Written by Yuu Watase, Ceres, The Celestial Legend premiered in Shogakukan's Shōjo Comic May 1996 issue and ran through the March 2000 issue. The chapters were collected and published in fourteen collected volumes, with the first volume released on December 11, 1996. Starting October 15, 2005, Shogakukan began re-releasing the series in six special edition volumes, with the final one released December 15, 2005.
In 2001, Viz Media licensed the manga for an English language release in North America. The series was originally released in a flipped trade paperback format, however Viz stopped publication after four volumes. In 2003, Viz re-released the first four volumes in unflipped standard manga size volumes, along with the remaining ten volumes. In the table below, the dates and ISBN numbers given for the first four volumes are for their second edition re-releases.