MAZE: THE MEGA-BURST SPACE (1997)

 

Format: 25 24-minute episodes on 4 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC, AL, V)

 

American Production: Software Sculptures

 

Japanese Production: JVC/J.C. Staff

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B+

Story:

C

Writing:

C

Character Design:

C

Mecha Design:

C

Animation:

C

Artistic Merits:

C

English Dub:

C-

Musical Score:

C+

Opener:

C+

Closer:

B/C+

 

 

Humor Content:

B

Action Content:

C+

Drama Content:

C

 

 

DVD Presentation:

D

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

C

 

Synopsis

      Maze, a pretty college coed, is transported to a magical world where she gets mixed up with a deposed princess despite a nagging case of amnesia. Soon she discovers that she has substantial magical powers herself, and that she undergoes a curious transformation at each sunrise and sunset. By day, she is a woman. By night, she is a man.

 

Quotes

      “Ukyu? Here we go!” (Princess Mill, at the beginning of each episode)

 

The Long View

      One of the most common plot devices in fantasy media is the world-hopping character who’s No One Special in the original world but Someone Important/Powerful in the fantasy world. That’s exactly what happens in Maze, albeit with the rather odd twists mentioned above. The implication throughout the series is that Man Maze/Woman Maze might be a dual being, two separate individuals merged together by some potent effect, though it’s certainly also possible that the male and female versions are the opposing sides of a single persona made manifest through magic (the personalities of the male and female versions are polar opposites, after all). The truth of the matter, and how it came to be, remains a mystery until late in the series, and the answer isn’t entirely what you would expect. The one hint I will provide is that the hero/heroine’s name - Maze - is a play on words representing the real truth of the matter.

      Both sides of the Maze entity eventually become embroiled in the efforts to see the young Princess Mill to safety, a matter complicated by the efforts of the Jaina Holy Group, who backed the coup that deposed her and quickly come to regard Maze as an unequaled threat. But safety, even once achieved, is fleeting, as nothing is safe until the Jaina Holy Group and its Creator are defeated - and they aren’t going down easy. What ensues is a time-traveling, world-hopping adventure which has lots of twists and turns but ultimately isn’t anywhere near as complicated as I’m probably making it sound. “Complexity” and “sophistication” are not two words that you’d associate with Maze.

      Along the way Maze and Mill pick up various useful allies. The first they meet are a pair of freelance “demi-hunters” - the bulky man Aster, who swings a ridiculously big sword, and the petite woman Solude, who can throw spikes with deadly accuracy and has mastered enough magic to do short-range teleportation. The pair make a great team, albeit a bit of a competitive one since both have the same taste in women (Solude is a lesbian). Later on they pick up a fairy named Randy, the austere and duty-bound swordswoman named Rapier, and a short, old former Royal Adviser named Woll who’s quite handy with grenades. Much later on they also pick up Ran Chiki, a very boyish girl who has some serious magic of her own. Other occasional allies including a dashing “lone wolf” samurai named Saber and the playboy Gold, who turns out to be much more than he appears. Chief among their opponents are two brothers - Gorgeous and Chic - who are the prime henchmen of the Jaina Holy Group’s Creator.

      Although it’s packed with action and does get serious at times, Maze plays primarily as a comedic adventure. Part of the humor is sheer slapstick, while much of the rest comes from the insanely complicated relationships among the main and supporting characters. The simple version is that most of the supporting characters are smitten with one version of Maze or the other to one degree or another, which flusters Woman Maze but delights Man Maze. Both version of Maze are themselves smitten with different characters (though the lecherous Man Maze would do anything female - except Ran Chiki - that crosses his path, one would guess). And then there’s Mill, who appears to be about 13 but acts much younger, is a total klutz, and resolves her confusion over Maze’s dual identity by calling him/her “Big Sister-Brother” and fixating on both aspects. She also, bizarrely, says “ukyu” a lot, which doesn’t seem to mean anything.

      The magic of the world of Maze is called Phantom Light Power, and seems to be derived from the life force of people, creatures, and plants. There are five types - diamond (white), gold (yellow), sapphire (blue), ruby (red), and emerald (green) - and one who masters one type is called a Luminator. The extremely rare individual who masters multiple types is called a Master Luminator. The world of Maze also uses riding lizards rather than horses and has semi-human troops called demi-humans (though they aren’t used much in the series). The mecha of Maze are called Demi-Armors and are magical combat suits which bond with a particular knight and serve as the elite units on the battlefields. There are several different types and strengths of Demi-Armor, among which one of the most powerful is the holy Rom Armor Dulger, which can be summoned by Mill (the only thing she’s good for in a fight) for Maze’s use. There’s even an undead version called Undeader, which apparently results when the armor sucks out the life force of a wielder rather than bonding with him/her. All versions can fire magical blasts depending on the nature of the wielder’s own abilities and some can even fly.

The technical merits of Maze are less than stellar, definitely not the strong point of the series. The animation seems a bit rough at times and takes a lot of shortcuts (Randy’s wings don’t flutter when she’s hovering, for instance). The writing also leaves a bit to be desired, especially in the dialogue, and there are some odd decisions on character development; Rapier is well-established, for instance, and two of the best episodes feature the backgrounds of Solude and the villain Gorgeous (who has more depth than his “pompous ass” personality lets on), but we get almost nothing about other characters. Worse, one of the lead characters - Woman Maze - is arguably the least interesting character for much of the series, and her placid behavior may come to annoy you after a while. The series also relies a bit too much on filler episodes, such as the obligatory beach episode. I also found the naming conventions (Randy? Chic? Gorgeous?) to be rather odd. On the upside, the series as a whole is entertaining enough to mostly outweigh the negatives and the musical score isn’t bad. The English voice work is barely adequate, although I like the Japanese voices just as much if not more. The naming conventions for the episodes are ridiculous, although this isn’t a standard exclusive to this series.

      Comparative to most action-oriented anime, the violence in Maze is rather mild. The rating is primarily for occasional swearing and quite a bit of risqué content, but there is no actual sex or nudity.

      The opening number of Maze effectively sets the tone for the series but is otherwise unremarkable. The closer for the first half of the series is a catchy dance number with some amusing superdeformed animation in it, while the closer for the second half is a respectable pop-rock number with entirely different animation. All three numbers continue the distinctive anime music trend of inserting English words into the verses, seemingly at random.

Is Maze: The Mega-Burst Space worth a look? It’s not great, but it is entertaining enough to serve as a light diversion.

 

DVD Extras

      The entirety of the series can only be purchases as a boxed set in the U.S. at this time. Only the first episode is available separately (on the DVD with the two OVA episodes, reviewed separately). The only extras on all DVDs are company trailers, with limited character profiles also present on the first DVD.

      The problem I had with the DVD set-up is the way the episodes are broken down. The industry standard is to put each episode on a separate track, with the episode itself broken into two chapters (typically corresponding to the parts before and after the commercial break) and the opener, closer, and Next Episode feature all in separate chapters. Maze doesn’t do this. Instead, each episode is broken down into only two parts, with the opener being part of the first chapter and the closer and Next Episode run together with the second half of the story in the second chapter. This is quite annoying when you’re trying to flip past the openers and closers, hence the low grade in the DVD Presentation category.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Man Maze

Greg Wolfe

Woman Maze

Angora Deb

Princess Mill

Elisa Wain

Aster

Michael Schwartz

Solude

Tara Jayne

Rapier

Suzy Prue

Randy

Michelle Medlin

Woll

Tristan Goddard

Saber, Gold, minor roles

Dan Green

Ran Chiki

Mirm/Echo*

Sir Thanus

Keith Howard

Gorgeous

Rik Guiltor

Chic, assorted minor roles

Yotee

Female Jaina Creator

Shannon Conley

Akira

Shamo

 

*- There is inconsistency here in the English credits

 

 

 

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