Plot holes are almost an inevitable evil in anime that condense major manga epics into two hour bits of story. Some plot holes are actually OK; they merely ask you to suspend disbelief for a few short moments, and then everything returns to normal. Plot holes can be disastrous, however, when they ask us to believe too much, spoiling the feeling of immersion we get from the best anime. During its first episode, MAPS has some plot holes, but is surprisingly rich and entertaining anyway. Its third episode is fantastic and sets up a scenario that had me shocked. But beware, as the fourth episode brings a huge letdown, with not only a huge plot contrivance but also a disappointing explanation to the proceedings. If you like the journey better than the destination, you'll like MAPS, but otherwise the trip may feel unnecessary.

MAPS starts like many other series, when a young man finds himself the center of attention after it's found that he's the new chosen one/gatekeeper/keymaster/whatever. In MAPS, this is Gen, whose genetic code holds the key to the first of three star maps. Gen's DNA holds this information because he is a descendent of the Nomadic Star Tribe, who wanted to keep the map hidden until the time deemed appropriate by an ancient prophecy. Gen is first apprehended by Lipumira, a strange being who turns out to be not exactly human, but instead winds up being the physical representation of the living brain of a starship. When the ship is hurt, so is she and vice versa. Lipumira is on a quest to find the star maps, and has spent years attempting to find them. With his girlfriend Hoshimi, Gen decides to leave home and piece together the mystery. It turns out, though, that the combined star maps may not provide the treasure promised in prophecy, but may be a guidance system that could bring destruction throughout the universe. It's up to Gen and Lipumira to make sure this doesn't happen.

MAPS is unique in a variety of ways that I really appreciated. First is the design of the ships and aliens. The Mystic Ones--the race of which Lipumira is a part--fly around in big crafts that resemble gigantic female angels. At first, they appear a bit odd, but they are a nice change from the typical starship look. The aliens, meanwhile, take on a variety of looks and sizes, some strange, some silly, and some scary. Somebody was actually being creative, which I enjoyed. Meanwhile, although conceptually the story is not new, MAPS brought some good elements to the mix. I liked how the Mystic Ones had this strange connection with their ships, and I also thought the galactic cannon which makes an appearance in the second episode was a great concept. I also really appreciated that Gen isn't the only important person in the show. Though he is vital to providing the first star map, it's not like he's the only person who can save the universe, and his significance grows not because of his title as "Descendant of the Nomad Star Tribe" but because his heroic actions merit it.

Unfortunately, although there's a lot to like about MAPS, there are too many issues to give it a firm recommendation. The first episode is not as solid as it should be, and it contains some credibility straining issues (such as the Earth coming apart at the seams for a few moments, during which time stops and our heroes can explore Antarctica). There's also the issue of the girlfriend who tags along for the ride, yet serves no real purpose throughout the show otherwise, but I can deal with that. The second and third episodes are quite good, and there are only minor quibbles there. But the fourth episode--oh, boy, it's bad. Life-changing events from the third episode are glossed over, and though I can't go into them without spoilers, suffice it to say that the dramatic setup in the third episode never gets paid off. Characters somehow survive death and come back with virtually no explanation. We never are satisfied as to the central mystery of the show. We get no return to Earth of our heroes, who have been gone from their families for more than a year attempting to restore harmony to the galaxy. This simply has the worst final episode of any show I've seen in a great long while. Although I really got enamored with the characters during the second and third episodes, any love was lost by the mind-numbing disaster of the fourth episode.

So is MAPS worth anything? Well, maybe. It has huge gobs of lost potential, but it was still quite entertaining for a while. I have been throwing around a rating for quite some time, and I'm going to have to go with a C+. Though the show was solidly heading for a B+ or perhaps an A- even, the ending is what mattered, and it was terrible. I felt cheated, especially when the setup from the third episode was so cataclysmic and so unexpected that I expected a great deal more. Your mileage may vary, but what I found in MAPS was a Ford in the first episode, a Lamborghini in the second and third episodes, and a Yugo in the fourth. Once you've driven the best, you're thoroughly disappointed by the rest.

MAPS -- brief but frequent nudity, graphic violence, mild profanity -- C+