What Is It?
Maze: the Mega-Burst Space is a 26-episode action-adventure series, based on the light novel series of the same name. The series was originally written by Satoru Akahori (Saber Marionette J, Sakura Wars, Sorcerer Hunters), which later received a manga adaptation that was a co-produciton between Akahori and illustrator Rei Omishi (Sorcerer Hunters, Omishi Magical Theater: Risky Safety). The TV series actually aired in 1997, nearly a year after a pair of OVAs based on the novels were released to Japanese stores. It was animated by J.C. Staff (The Slayers, A Certain Magical Index), and released in the west by Central Park Media under their Software Sculptors label.
The show is set in a world of swords, sorcery, and mobile combat suits known as Demi-Armors. In this world, in the middle of some unknown forest, an unusual structure stands. Inside, a woman awakens with no memories aside from her name, Maze. She doesn’t have long to get her bearings in these unusual surroundings, as a mysterious girl soon bursts into her room. The lass, who introduces herself as Mill Varna, proclaims Maze to be her savior. Mill explains that she was running from agents sent by the malevolent Jaina holy group, whom Maze’s home conveniently crushed as it fell from the sky.
Reinforcements are quickly dispatched, though, and the two girls are forced to flee. The sun begins to set, as the two finally appear to have lost their pursuers. They make a grave mistake, though, which places Mill in the hands of three knights working for Jains. They reveal to Maze that young Mill is the princess of the kingdom of Bartonia, whose royalty was murdered in a cout d’etat. Mill offers her life to end the pursuit of her new friend, but Maze has other plans. Maze’s anger combines with her desire to protect the spunky princess, only to be unleashed as a burst of burning white light. Maze, as it turns out, is a luminator: one who commands phantom light powers, as well as one who can pilot unstoppable the demi-armor Dulger. Maze isn’t quite sold on the idea, and uses Dulger to, well, flee. As the sun sinks below the horizon, the unexpected occurs. Maze vanishes, only to be replaced by a male doppelgänger. This male Maze is everything his female equivalent isn’t. He takes all challengers, and he can command Dulger like a pro.
The male Maze lays waste to the three knights without breaking a sweat. With the With this current group of attackers dispatched, Maze and Mill must make out of the forest, and into the safety of the kingdom of Bistal. As each night falls, though, Maze’s male side takes control. While he’s skilled with the powers of phantom light, he’s also a pervert of legendary proportions!
Why Was It Passed Up?
Maze: the Mega-Burst Space was a title that flew under many radars during its initial release. The show’s first VHS volume hit on September 12, 2000. This was at the earliest days of the anime boom. And, because of this, we were seeing distributors ramp up their outputs with each passing month. During that month, we saw a lot of heavy-hitters reach market, including the following:
- Cowboy Bebop DVD Volume 5 (9/5/2000)
- Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 VHS (Dub & Sub) Volume 7 (9/12/2000)
- Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2020 DVD Volume 1 (9/12/2000)
- Gundam Wing Dub VHS Set (9/19/2000)
- Gundam Wing DVD Volume 3 (9/19/2000)
- Pokémon – DVD Volumes 21 & 22 (9/19/2000)
- Ranma 1/2: Outta Control Dub VHS Volume 12 (9/19/2000)
- Ranma 1/2: Martial Mayhem Dub VHS Volume 10 (9/22/2000)
- Agent Aika: Lace In Space Sub Volume 1 (9/26/2000)
- Rurouni Kenshin DVD Volume 3 (9/26/2000)
- Tenchi Universe DVD Volume 3 (9/26/2000)
- Trigun DVD Volume 4 (9/26/2000)
Mind you, that this is a partial list. This is on top of over fifteen titles other hitting during the month. It was released as a dub-only title at this point, so about half of the buying fanbase was dissuaded from even giving the show a passing glance. At the same time, the rest of the market generally ignored the series in favor of much larger and better-promoted shows.
When the series hit DVD on July 10, 2001, it was utterly ignored by many major review outlets. Those that actually reviewed the show tend to award middling review scores:
- Anime News Network never reviewed the title
- Anime on DVD (now Mania Anime) gave the series an overall 3/5
- T.H.E.M. Anime gave the series an overall 3/5
And so on. During the DVD set’s release month, seventy-one anime and manga titles were released, including the following:
- Gundam MS08 DVD Volume 1, 7/3/2001
- Sailor Moon Dubbed VHS 9 & 10, 7/3/2001
- Dragon Ball Z DVD Volume 22, 7/10/2001
- Rurouni Kenshin DVD Volume 8, 7/10/2001
- Gundam Wing DVD Volumes 8 & 9, 7/17/2001
- Magic User’s Club Dubbed VHS 2, 7/17/2001
- Akira Dub & Sub VHS, 7/24,2001
- Akira DVD (Three editions: Standard, Special Edition, Limited Edition ), 7/24/2001
- Oh My Goddess! DVD Volume 1, 7/24/2001
- Ranma 1/2 Random Rhapsody DVD Volume 3, 7/24/2001
- Ranma 1/2 Random Rhapsody Dubbed VHS Volume 3, 7/24/2001
- Martian Successor Nadesico Subbed & Dubbed VHS Volumes 11, 7/31/2001
- Rurouni Kenshin DVD Volume 9, 7/31/2001
The series was only offered in its standard edition until Central Park Media closed its doors in 2009. So, as a title released to middling reviews in an incredibly packed month, the series was simply passed over. Since its release, the series has managed to garner a hardcore cult following, but little more than that.
Why This Show?
Maze: The Mega-Burst Space is one of those shows that’s far more than the sum of its parts. This is in part due to the charming cast of characters that populates the world. Maze, in both incarnations, is especially fun to watch as the two characters try to coexist within their body, despite having vastly different motivations. The secondary cast is vibrant, and stacked with figures like Solude, a sassy demi-huntress with who has eyes for female Maze, and Aster, a muscle-bound demi-hunter whose skill with a sword is only surpassed by his skill with the ladies. While there are obvious running jokes among the supporting characters, the show does a fantastic job of going beyond these one-shot gags to build up a cast that the viewer will truly care about.
Similarly, Maze does a fantastic job building a world that draws the viewer in. Mega-Burst Space is a realm of mythology and intrigue. Political dealings are laced with skullduggery and military threats. The threat of Jaina always seems present in the air, as their religion taints the political chatter and empowers oppressors. At the same time, viewers are given a look at the lives of average people, whose only aspirations are to live happily and provide for their families. At the same time, the mystical is explained in ways that are both unique and interesting. Everything, from the hulking demi-armors, to Maze’s gender affliction is told such that they make sense both in the context of the world as well as in the eyes of the viewer.
Plus, the show’s first closing is one of the best ending sequences ever!
Maze: the Mega-Burst Space is a series that could have been an utter disaster. It’s laden with popular clichés, and isn’t above shamelessly borrowing from prominent properties. The animation is average at best, and the perverted humor often tip-toes just outside of the realms of “wrong.” By some miracle, though, Maze was able to become something far greater. It’s a charming fantasy adventure that treads its own unique path through the countless clichés. It’s offbeat, quirky, and certainly not afraid to make fun of itself when needed.
Note: the trailer is unavailable. We’ve included the opening sequence instead.