© 1994 Yuichi Hasegawa, Gakken / KSS, TMS
One of the hardest things I find to write about are anime that just don't break any new ground and wind up wallowing in their own mediocrity. Such is MAPS, a very generic science fiction piece with virtually no redeaming qualities to speak of. Little wonder I nearly fell asleep watching it, that while appearing like Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder, is just too unremarkable to bother laughing at.
MAPS begins with the introduction of Gen and his girlfriend, Hoshimi. Having just finished enjoying a movie at a local theater, they are confronted by a strange woman clad in a revealing red outfit. She claims that Gen is the "Map Man", the chosen descendant of the Nomad Star Tribe. He apparently has a map encoded in his DNA, which reveals the path towards a great treasure, the "flowing light". Gen and Hoshimi are whisked aboard Lipumira's space craft, looking like a cross between an angel and a hood ornament. No sooner does she have them aboard, than they are attacked by another woman in a similar craft. A fierce battle ensues with Lipumira and her craft barely escaping (the same of which cannot be said for most of Tokyo). Once safe, Lipumira gives Gen a choice. He can concede to accompany Lipumira on her quest to find the flowing light or he and Hoshimi will never be allowed to return home. Gen agrees to accompany Lipumira (some choice), and a short time later they set out on the quest for the flowing light.
MAPS suffers from a number of problems. Originality is the first, with a fairly generic plot and stock characters that do little to become more than stereotypes. Action sequences are equally uninspired, generally comprising of the usual lasers and Macross-style missiles, waged across the galaxy in an effort to showcase the series' whiz-bang effects and boost the audience's adrenaline level. It accomplishes neither very well.
The series has some originality in the form of the giant, living spaceships wielded by Lipumira and the antagonists. The costume design of Lipumira is original, as well, if you count dressing like a stripper at Christmas as being original. Given some of the elements of MAPS, however, I wish they tried to be a little less creative. Take, for example, the "sacrifice" cannons, MAPS' version of a futuristic, superlative weapon, which gets its juice from animals being blended alive. Yum.
Where MAPS really disappoints is in pacing and execution. The series tends to move along fairly swiftly, and at times it can be difficult to get a handle on things. This is very apparent in the early goings of the first episode, in which events are propelled into motion in the span of about five seconds. In addition, the story line itself is somewhat convoluted, with plot revelations being thrown left and right at the audience. Truthfully, I had little idea where the series was headed and had a hard time following some events as it wound to a climax.
As an unfortunate side-effect of the rushed story, character development suffers as well. Aside from Lipumira, virtually no one else in the series is given much of a back story or interesting personality traits. Gen and Hoshimi came across as stereotypical boy and girl side kicks, and the cadre of antagonists might as well have been carbon copies of one another. The lacking development of the heroes and villains did little to generate any enthusiasm for them.
Production values, surprisingly, weren't all that bad. The artwork and animation was quite functional as anime goes. Conceptual designs ranged in quality from the unique visuals of the giant space ships to some truly laughable alien beings. The English voice acting was quite solid, and some of the instrumental background music was of generally good quality (save for some cheesy synth tunes now and then).
At first glance, MAPS may seem like an enjoyable time-waster, but poor pacing and a tedious story make it little more than a waste of time. Save yourself the bother and leave MAPS where you find it.
The Verdict: * 1/2 (very poor)
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