hen a scantily clad blonde alien pops up in the middle of Tokyo and starts shouting orders, Gen takes it all in stride. Informed that he's the Mapman, a descendant of a space-gypsy tribe with the location of a precious star map encoded in his genes, he doesn't bat an eye. He's only mildly perturbed when the blonde, Lipumira, hauls him off to her spaceship and demands he undertake a quest for the map. Even the arrival of a second ship, which blows bloody holes in Lipumira and razes Tokyo, barely fazes him.
Clearly Gen isn't easily shocked. In fact, he's not easily roused to any emotion--he just doesn't seem to have much of a personality. But at least he can get irritated and attack things, which is more than can be said for his limp-dishrag girlfriend, who insists on joining his quest, then promptly drops into the background for the rest of this series. Unless, of course, something needs cooking or whining over.
As it turns out, Lipumira is the brain of a living spaceship; her wounds heal rapidly as the ship's repaired, and she's soon ready to take Gen and his dishrag into Earth's heart to find the map. But they quickly discover that Earth holds only one of three pieces, which starts the inevitable quest for the other two. Once they're assembled, Lipumira will still have to defend the completed map from her violent sister-ships and their creators, the Mystic Breed, who want the map for their own purposes. And, of course, it's not really a map...
One thumb up, one thumb down
The first two acts of MAPS are pretty abysmal--shallow characters, flat generic animation, painfully rushed and superficial plots. Gen's pointless girlfriend is a particularly low point--he shows no affection for her, doesn't seem to care that she's around, and openly chases other women, but no conflict ever arises from this obvious setup. She simply seems to be a meek afterthought. Either that, or she's a symptom of the disturbingly sadistic and often misogynistic streak running throughout MAPS--the same streak that has Lipumira and her sisters screaming and writhing and bleeding in every third scene, and that introduces the "sacrifice gun," a ship-busting weapon powered by the pain and despair of a bunch of bunny-lizard creatures as they're put through a giant blender.
Acts No. 3 and No. 4 are noticably richer in design and ink-and-paint work; they had a different supervising animator, a different color designer and a partially different animation team, and it shows. Oddly, they also prove far more coherent than their predecessors, even though the same script writer worked on every episode. Perhaps it's because Lipumira's family feud with a single evil sister and her clan of deluded or dominated lackeys is more striking and adventurous by far than Gen's adventures being fawned over by helpless, brainless women.
Unfortunately, the first two acts are necessary to explain the second two. If not for that, it would be pretty tempting to pitch Vol. 1 in the nearest trash bin and pretend this is a reasonably good two-act series.