Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01, directed by Shinji Aramaki. 45 minutes. December 16, 1987.
MADOX-01 is memorable today for two reasons: it was the first release of AnimEigo, on April 1, 1990; and it was animated by Hideaki Anno of GAINAX, which was responsible for the key animation in MADOX-01. (The overall anime producer was AIC.) Anno has become much more famous since then, particularly for the 1990-1991 Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and the 1995-1996 Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Most anime scholars cite these two facts as footnotes today, without bothering to otherwise discuss MADOX-01. That’s too bad, because it’s still light fun albeit a bit too silly; a parody of the overly-serious military/s-f OAVs and anime TV serials before and especially after, and a good example of the unrestrained-military-action-in-the-midst-of-a-major-city genre.
The OAV begins with a dialogueless montage of the schematics of the MADOX-01, a revolutionary new “slave driver” personal powered armored battle suit for a soldier. This cuts to the MADOX-01 in action at a proving grounds. The MADOX-01, alone, is piloted by experienced female test-pilot Ellie Kusomoto. She wipes out an opposing force of several tanks commanded by macho 1st Lieutenant Kilgore. Although this is just a test, Kilgore takes his defeat personally. He wants revenge; not against Ellie but against the MADOX-01. (The tests and military hardware belong to the U.S. Army, but they are in Japan.)
The MADOX-01 is being shipped to a new location when the truck carrying it through Tokyo is caught in a traffic accident while on an elevated overpass. The MADOX-01 in its carrying case falls into another truck below, which is driven off by teenager Haruo Onose. When Haruo finds it, he takes it to his pal Kōji Sugimoto, a college sophomore and ace mechanic. Dialogue establishes that Kōji has just broken up with his girlfriend, Shiori Nagura, because her father is about to send her to college in England for three years. Despite that, she has left a message for Kōji to meet her for one last time on the observation floor atop the NSR Building at 8:00 p.m.
Kōji tries to power up the MADOX-01 – a mistake, because it automatically traps him inside it before he finishes reading its instruction manual. He can partially operate it, but can’t figure out how to get out of it. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is desperate to get the MADOX-01 back. There is disagreement over whether the accident was natural or was caused by terrorists to steal the MADOX-01. Terrorism looks more likely after the MADOX-01 is found to be activated and under an unknown pilot. Ellie is shocked to learn that Lt. Kilgore has been put in command of the recovery effort, and has taken an antitank helicopter and a prototype airborne one-man tank to do so. After learning that he had no orders to do so, she is sure that he is more interested in destroying the MADOX-01 than in recovering it. Ellie takes the MADOX-00 to get the 01 back before Kilgore can ruin it. The 00 is weaker than the 01, but Ellie is more skilled at using it than the 01’s unknown driver. Meanwhile again, Kōji who can’t get out of the MADOX-01 decides to go in it to meet Shiori.
This turns into a three-way fight across Tokyo: Kōji to get to the NSR Building to meet Shiori, Ellie to recover the MADOX-01, and Kilgore to destroy it. It seems to me like there is a discrepancy here, never mind the silliness including the art design of Ellie’s hair. If Kōji is so desperate to get out of the battle armor, why does he fight so hard to escape those who can free him from it? And the Japanese civilians don’t seem to be more than mildly startled by all the destruction at first. The later action has to include at least a few deaths. I also wonder about the sequence in the subway: that has to be the emptiest subway station in Tokyo. The action escalates, of course; Kilgore goes from wanting to destroy the slave driver to wanting to destroy it plus kill Kōji, and Kōji has to save Shiori and the other civilians atop the NSR Building from death. (Would the U.S. military really keep anyone as clearly psycho as Kilgore, no matter how skilled a tank driver he was?) The OAV ends without going into any aftermath of the action. I would have liked to have seen how the scriptwriters would have handled the Japanese public’s and government’s reaction to all the destruction caused by the U.S. Army in the midst of Tokyo.
MADOX-01 was very popular with American anime fans when it was released on VHS in April 1990. It marked the appearance of a new professional anime company, and there was almost no other licensed anime in America at the time. By the time it was rereleased on DVD on January 2, 2004, it was buried under all the other anime DVDs available by then.
Sorry for the English dub from the DVD, but the subtitled Japanese doesn’t seem to be online. AnimEigo’s VHS release in April 1990 was subtitled; that was “more authentic” than English dubbing, and cheaper to produce.
(MADOX-01 reminded me immediately of Crisis in 2140 by H. Beam Piper & John J. McGuire, a rip-roaring s-f paperback that had me laughing heartedly when I was 16 years old, in 1957. Its climax was a straight-faced full-scale war inside a department store. They don’t write ‘em like that any more. There’s an abridgement of it on Project Gutenberg)
Next week: Let’s take a break from “forgotten” OAVs.