Despite an interesting initial premise, disjointed storytelling and uninspired combat kills whatever MAPS tries to accomplish.
What They Say
Lost for countless eons, the crystal maps show the way to the most priceless treasure in the universe. Now, the key to finding the maps has been discovered, and an insignificant planet known as Earth has become the target of an alien invasion! Rescue by the living starship Lipumira, Gen and Hoshimi suddenly find themselves trapped in an epic odyssey across space and time. Against impossible odds, the two young lovers must locate the missing maps and locate the treasure before the force of darkness can destroy the galaxy!
Contains all 4 episodes.
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. A 2.0 Japanese track is also available. The sound was clear, with no dropout among the tracks, but there is nothing special about it. Sound stayed mostly centered, though there was some minimal directionality with the sound effects during battle. A little more distinction between the channels might have been nice, especially since there is a quite a bit of action in this title, but it is adequate for what it is trying to accomplish.
Technically, this title looks fine, though as a 1994 release, it certainly is showing its age. There were no instances of cross coloring, pixelization, or other technical problems related to transfer, but the colors and imagery could have used some restoration. Most times, colors were fairly muted and hazy, while lining was indistinct. It even looked at times that some bleeding had occurred. As I said, as a transfer, it was well done, but this title certainly does not look as crisp as newer shows.
The packaging for MAPS is decent, though again, nothing special. Coming in a standard, white Amaray case, the front cover features a large image of the scantily clad Lipumira, with smaller images of Gen, Hoshimi, and Lipumira’s ship to the left. The back once again features a large image of Lipumira near the top, with another picture of Gen, this time with Jarna, right above. Screenshots are placed along the right, with a summary and the technical details below. It is fairly standard packaging, but well composed.
The menu has a nice design. Along the right is the same picture of Lipumira from the back of the case, with her ship above her and the selections along the left, looking as if part of a digital display. Selections each have a blue box next to them that gets a white arrow for the highlight, making for ease of use. The English logo is along the top, and all of this is set to a space background. A loop of the beginning section of the opening theme plays while on the main menu, and breaks at a nice place. The selections each have a blue box next to them that gets a white arrow for the highlight, making them easy to follow. There are selections for each episode, along with Languages, Previews, and Credits. The menu is relatively simple in construct, but is well done.
Aside from a few trailers, there are no extras on this disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
MAPS is a recent beneficiary of ADV’s decision to rerelease catalog titles at budget prices, but unfortunately I am not sure it is one for which people were exactly clamoring. A short series of OVAs, MAPS presents a mildly fascinating initial idea in the first five minutes, but then spends the next hour and a half wrecking it. Uneven pacing and dull combat doth not a good sci-fi title make.
MAPS opens with Gen and Hoshimi at the theatre together watching a science fiction movie. If the official blurb is to be believed, the two are lovers, though they never show anything more than mild interest on screen—in fact, Gen spends most of his time helping women not named Hoshimi. The movie they are watching is a popular science fiction title that gets Gen’s imagination going, as he begins to imagine himself as a dashing space hero. Imagine his surprise when not five minutes from leaving the movie theatre, the Earth is attacked by aliens.
At this point, Gen is approached by Lipumira, an attractive and minimally clothed woman, who demands that he come with her. Lipumira is the human visualization of one of seven powerful spacecraft built for the purpose of finding the three pieces of the Star Map, which is somehow the final key to using the powerful Suicide Ray. Lipumira explains that Gen is the legendary Mapman, a descendent of an ancient race dedicated to protecting the Map, and his Map-finding skills will help save the universe. While he is skeptical, he cannot ignore the fact that Tokyo was just leveled in a matter of minutes.
After spending a little time thinking about his options—essentially go willingly or go by force—Gen decides to help Lipumira in her search, and Hoshimi tags along since she does not want to be separated from Gen. At this point, we discover that Lipumira is being hunted by her sisters, the other six ancient craft, as she has turned from their original design to make sure the Star Map is never used to activate the Suicide Ray. Now they are racing through the galaxy to not only get to the map pieces first, but to also protect the Map from those who wish to use it for destruction.
Each of the four episodes of MAPS details a separate part of the story. The first three each concern the search for one of the Map pieces, while the last is the final battle over the completed Star Map. Intertwined in each search is a subplot of Gen helping attractive women who are not his girlfriend, but Hoshimi breaks the anime stereotype by not being bothered by that fact too much. Only when Gen goes out of his way to protect Jarna and deliver her to a peace conference does Hoshimi show true form of jealousy, but even then she gets over it fairly quickly.
Instead, Hoshimi basically spends her time hanging out on Lipumira’s ship and waits for Gen to return from his adventures like apparently any good girlfriend should. In fact, she does so little over the course of the four episodes that she feels pretty pointless as a character. As a storytelling device, she really adds nothing to the overall idea, and probably would have been better off being left behind on Earth.
Even Lipumira, the reason that Gen is on his journey, tends to spend a lot of time hanging out doing nothing. She carts Gen to a new location where a map piece might be, he sneaks off with cute girl du jour—though he has nothing but honorable intentions—and finds the map piece on his own, and Lipumira is there waiting for him to return. But it does give her and Hoshimi plenty of time to go shopping, so it all works out.
While I do not think it is really intentional, MAPS seems to have some interesting theories on male/female dynamics. Gen is the only major male character, and when not off looking for map pieces, he spends his time being handsome, helping out wherever he can, and just being an all around swell guy. The women, on the other hand, all like to hang around and wait for Gen to fix things/rescue them/hand them towels after showering and not minding being naked around him/etc. Sure, they may have some initial impulses towards being independent and self-reliant, but in the end, it is just better if they let Gen handle everything.
Despite being mildly misogynistic, or perhaps partially because of it, MAPS biggest problem comes with its pacing. At only four episodes, it does not have a whole lot of time to do what it tries to accomplish, and therefore the storytelling tends to be a bit disjointed. Each episode finds the trio at exactly the right location to find the next map piece, and there is no discussion as to what they had to go through to find that location. I was almost shocked when Gen mentions at the beginning of the second episode that a year had passed since they left the Earth.
The story loses a lot with the way it jumps around. As I said before, there is no real hint in the story as to how close Gen and Hoshimi really are, despite being listed as lovers in the summary. They certainly act like a vague couple at times, but on screen, their relationship is nothing more than very platonic—almost like they are just best friends who just happen to be members of the opposite sex.
Then there are the battle scenes. Each time they find a new piece, it precludes the start of a battle with one of Lipumira’s sisters. The battles are fairly formulaic: the sister in question gets the jump on them, Lipumira gets wrecked fairly easily as it seems she is by far the weakest of the bunch, then Gen does something crazy to swing momentum back their way and give them time to escape. It is all fairly unoriginal.
MAPS is a title that I struggle to consider decent for 1994, and it certainly has not aged well. While there is nothing present that I would actively consider horrible, it is all fairly dull and uninspired. I would be tempted to suggest that I would like to see them redo MAPS as a 13 episode series so that they can fully flesh out the plot and explore the characters in more detail, as the initial premise is intriguing. However, that would just mean I would have to sit through it again, and I am not sure I would be up for that. Thumbs in the middle, pointing down.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System