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Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01

As various niches established themselves in the OVA market during the 1980s, mecha anime was one area to see a lot of growth. Giant robots were just such a hot commodity with series like Gundam, Macross, and countless others dominating Japanese pop culture during that decade. With that, OVAs became saturated with stories built around these metallic behemoths. Some were quite good while others were pretty terrible. Enter Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01, the story of a college boy who accidentally becomes the pilot of a new kind of military power armor. It’s a show with some decent mecha designs, but most will probably not enjoy the story as it’s actually rather ho-hum. At best, those who like to angrily shout at their TVs while watching a bad movie may get a kick out of this, but that’s about it.

Taking place in the near future, military contractors have devices a new piece of tech dubbed MADOX, which is a form of power armor that looks like a tiny mech. The back opens up for a pilot to hop in, then put their arms and legs into slots where the controls are before the hatch closes, encasing them in the machine. It is heavily armored, has a lot of firepower, and is incredibly nimble. Experts believe that it could be a replacement for tanks on the battle field after a show is put on for potential buyers of the technology. This doesn’t sit well with a tank commander named Kilgore who worries these machines will put him out of a job. However, the system’s inventor, Ellie Kusumoto pushes forward with the project. Not long after all this, while the various MADOX are being transported, a freak traffic accident causes one of the units to be knocked off its delivery truck and onto another, eventually reaching a young mechanic named Kouji. Curiosity gets the better of him and before long he finds himself the unwilling pilot of one. Worse still, he’s supposed to meet his girlfriend later that night. So, come hell or high water, he sets off to make that rendezvous, even if it means doing so while piloting a MADOX.

It’s overall premise is borderline quaint, but how everything plays out is part dull and part infuriating. The opening scene actually does a good job of setting the tone for a potentially interesting anime as viewers see a MADOX being tested, making sure each system works. It’s a nice little bit of mech porn followed by a reasonably enjoyable battle. Once the story shift to Kouji, things get frustrating fast thanks in no small part to his lack of logical thinking. When he first gets trapped in the MADOX, he accidentally causes all sorts of damage smashing into buildings. Finally, he manages to come to a stop after plowing through the entrance of a convenience store where he has the nerve to order some food. Next, we see him eating it outside, which raises the question of how he was able to reach for his wallet while trapped in the power armor. From here, the military finally figures out where he is and starts following him, hoping to get their tech back. All the while, Kouji keeps complaining, asking himself why they won’t stop following him because he’s still obsessed with meeting up with his girlfriend on time. Maybe this was intended as humor, but he just kept saying stuff like this throughout the show, making him more of an annoying young man without a clue than anything else. By the time an inevitable showdown between him and Kilgore happens at the end of the anime, it's tempting to cheer for Kilgore to finish Kouji off.

People’s reaction to Kouji could go one of two ways. Either they’ll stop the video in disgust at how irritating the main character is, or they’ll have some fun seeing just how clueless Kouji is as he gets chased around town by the agents who want their suit back. Assuming one can stomach that, MADOX-01 can manage to at least be mildly entertaining. As mentioned before, the battle suit does look nice, and there are some decent action scenes sprinkled throughout the 40 minute OVA. Enjoyment will largely hinge on one’s ability to put up with Kouji.

Besides the MADOX designs, which we’ve established are quite good, the rest of the art in this anime is very much in line with other late 80s anime. Characters have a somewhat sharper, more angular quality to their designs, especially with their jawlines. Meanwhile, they tend to have fairly big hair, reflecting hairstyles of the time when people crammed all sorts of highly flammable substances on their heads to sculpt their creations. Meanwhile, the actual animation is pretty good as well, especially when fights break out. As it turns out, both Hideaki Anno (Evangelion, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water) and Takahiro Oomori (Baccano!, Durarara, Haibanei Renmei, etc.) were involved with this aspect of the OVA, so that likely contributed to this quality.

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 is an anime that is definitely not for everyone. It does have its merits as a show someone might get a kick out of screaming at given Kouji’s behavior. However, people who don’t warm up to him will likely become quite frustrated. The only other saving grace this OVA will have in that case is that the battle armor present is very nice to look at, so fans of mecha anime may want to stick around for that. This is a show that came out when there was a glut of mecha-related options. With so many ifs, ands, or buts associated with whether one may enjoy it, this anime certainly isn’t on the same level as other similar anime of the time.

- IroIro
October 15, 2019
Directed by: Shinji Aramaki
Studio: AIC / Artmic
Released: 1987
Episodes: 1

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 Image 1
VHS Cover

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 Image 2
The first scene of the OVA held so much potential

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 Image 3
Behold, the MADOX-01

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 Image 4
All Kouji wants is to meet up with his girlfriend