Gen and his girlfriend Hoshimi have just left the movie theater following a date when they come across something they didn't expect: a woman, Lipumira, who claims to be a space pirate and an alien and contends that Gen is the mythical figure known as the "Mapman." According to legend, an ancient race of beings hid a treasure of inconceivable wealth somewhere in the galaxy; only the mythical last surviving descendent of these people, this "Mapman" who bears the piecs of a "Galactic Map," can locate it. Lipumira isn't the only one searching for this person, unsurprisingly, and Gen and Hoshimi soon see their city attacked by yet more would-be treasure hunters. The two ultimately decide to join Lipumira in her quixotic galactic quest, teaming up with her against those who would rather not see her succeed (Adapted from Raph's original review...thanks!)
MAPS, I suppose, is the latest casualty of my sometimes ill-advised strategy of "pick an obscure series and hope against hope for a hidden gem." Now, this is not to say that I'd heard nothing about this show, and I think that MAPS can thank AMV Hell's amusingly juxtaposing a shot of literal lizard-bunnies (I kid not) being ground into pulp (I kid not again) for energy-producing purposes ("why didn't I ever think of lizard bunnies! the energy crisis is solved!") to the sound of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' song of the same name for a good chunk of what little name recognition it currently has. Meanwhile, the lonely pair of reviews I've come across are split evenly between "has potential, shoots itself in the foot with plotholes" (courtesy of our friend Jason Huff of The Anime Review) and a "thiiiiis ssssucks!" worthy of Mike Judge's best Beavis and Butthead-style Music Video smackdowns (courtesy of our own Raphael See). So perhaps I really should have known better. It's 2015 as I write this, over a decade after Raph first tried to take it on and over two decades since it first was released, and either way, time has not been kind to MAPS, no, not at all.
The central plot of MAPS doesn't really do it any favors: we have the common situation of an everyman male character becoming the center of an interstellar conflict or some sort of ancient prophecy he'd never guessed at before, and there are several means by which the show could've made this premise more interesting (aside from ditching this overused setup altogether), none of which it employs. It could, for example, spice up the background with some engaging side characters a la Tenchi Muyo, or dive into the psychological effects of Gen becoming the center of this conflict a la Evangelion or Gunbuster, or, perhaps, it could make the revolutionary move of writing its main character into anything besides a cipher, fill-in-the-blanks, choose-your-adventure-type nobody; since it does neither this nor anything else to catch my attention character-wise, no dice.
Indeed, from the get-go, I simply had no capacity to care about Gen, nor about his girlfriend; Hoshimi's most substantial contribution to the story is a single scene of her spending her free time analyzing Lipumira's maps, and she's otherwise relegated via a get-back-in-the-kitchen attitude to doing the grocery shopping and playing the role of the spoils-of-badassery love interest for our hero. Lipumira's a bit better, and in one of this show's very few worthwhile moments she managed to pique my interest as the literal embodiment of the ship she also commands, the ship (and those of some of the other space pirates seeking the same treasure) resembling female humanoid figures, perhaps as part of an ode to the gender-conventions of real-life craft. There's the ghost of an interesting relationship between the supposed "Human Map" and one of the treasure-hunters trying to find it, and maybe Lipumira might've made a better protagonist, as opposed to being the catalyst and fanservice object she ends up being, but it doesn't pan out, to say the least.
Regarding MAPS' other, sparsely-distributed positive qualities, it's not bad-looking, especially considering its age, although Gen and Lipumira are subject to what (to me) amounts to unfortunate hairstyling. The animation's actually pretty consistent, if still clearly low-budget, and while the aliens won't ever be crowned as DeviantART's most original creations, I did appreciate the mangaka (or the staff's) efforts at making a myriad of non-humanoid races to populate a galaxy this large and this unknown to humans, as opposed to, say, the common easy way out of making a dozen different variants on scantily-clad human women. The music doesn't help the show's cause, sadly, for the synthy and repetitive background tracks don't do a lot besides make MAPS sound like a cheaply-made video game (and not in an endearingly retro way, either), and while the OP theme's main sin is being a bit cheesy, most episodes also use it as the ending theme, resulting in a fair bit of overkill.
And that's honestly about as nice as I can be to MAPS. Let's first address the opening episode, which glosses over the devastation inflicted on Gen and Hoshimi's home city by Lipumira's rivals, neglecting to depict or even mention the sheer degree of damage and casualties that must've been inflicted by a battle of such intensity, ultimately in favor of a brief scene showing Gen leaving a mere note (that's right, a "Bye Mom, I'm off to join-the circus!"-style letter) and leaving earth without a care, with Hoshimi, having nothing better to do with herself, following him unquestioningly into the depths of space and years of interstellar travel. Perhaps I'm somewhat spoiled by Gunbuster, in which the psychological strain of leaving friends and loved ones behind nearly always lay at the back of the main characters' minds, but it made it difficult for me to take this particular show seriously. And yet take itself seriously is what MAPS indeed does, even amidst such bizzarro scenes such as one in which the earth's fabric literally unravels during the course of this first battle, so that the heroes are able to go straight through the earth and come out right through Antarctica for the sake of convenience, with the earth later being fixed with no apparent permanent damage, probably offending the sensibilities of any structural geologist with the misfortune of watching this. And we're supposed to take this seriously.
Fellow reviewer Carlos in fact opined that this series might not've been a complete loss if it hadn't treated itself with so much damned self importance, and I'm inclined to agree: this might've had some entertainment value as a parody of the mystic-galactic-quest space opera genre. Indeed, Gen's having the map as his "genetic code" makes as much sense as Data invoking the concept of "quantum RNA" in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, given how much we learn about this, and beyond the humanoid ships and the alien designs, there's just not enough worldbuilding to support any of this. We spend episodes two and three on what, to me, felt like pretty ho-hum battles between Lipumira and her adversaries, with the aforementioned mass death of the saurian lagomorph-thingies occurring during this portion. Then, just as I've become convinced that MAPS has contented itself with being pompous and boring, it strives to be pompous, boring, and full of miraculous survivals of should-have-died characters in its fourth episode, making one of my pet peeves the very center of its ending and concluding on possibly the worst possible note it could. In truth, though, I was so bored by that point that it was largely beyond saving even before then.
Thus; if you're seeking closure, you're as likely to find it by watching MAPS as you are to find an entertaining, well-written science fiction yarn, or, for that matter, anything entertaining at all. At the end, I'm decidedly in favor of dismissing this series to the dustbin of forgotten B-Movie efforts. Perhaps elements of its universe had the potential to make for interesting sci-fi, and perhaps it could've been decent comedy under different circumstances, but as it stands, I'd rather rewatch something like Gunbuster and appreciate that show's attention to the intricacies of interstellar travel than waste time on drivel like this. Goodbye, MAPS. We hardly wished to know ye.
And.....mission to find hidden gems? Failed. Just like this show. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: Raph: Although the intellectual level of this series is clearly best suited for the pre-school-and-under crowd, this series is definitely not for kids. Graphic violence, profanity, and more-than-gratuitous nudity is to be found throughout the first two episodes (haven't seen the others). Okay for older audiences, although I'm not sure why they'd want to see this thing.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (4/4)
MAPS © 1994 Yuichi Hasegawa / Gakken / KSS / TMS
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