Wish fulfillment stories are nothing new in anime, but the theme is commonly applied to dorky guys finding themselves thrust into the companionship of attractive women with an unusual interest in them. Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 throws that cliché for a twist by focusing on an admittedly dorky protagonist who actually has a girlfriend, and instead of having a attractive woman wander into his life he has an experimental military powered suit literally dropped into his possession.
Thus instead of fetishizing a perfect-yet-unobtainable woman, MADOX-01 obsesses over the mechanical detail of the titular mecha and and concerns the hijinx surrounding our dopey protagonist Kouji, who finds himself unable to take off the suit. Its a weird mix to be sure: frighteningly detailed illustrations of the mechanicals of the MADOX-01 contrasted with the rather plain character designs by Hideki Tamura (who has no other character design credits to his name, oddly), all the while set in a comedy feature. Instead of the typical slapstick jokes most comedy anime seems to favor, MADOX-01 focuses on the slightly more subdued humor of Kouji trying to function in modern day Tokyo while wearing a huge power suit and the difficulties of doing simple things like eating a boxed lunch.
It isn’t straight comedy, as there’s a crazy military lieutenant who’s trying to destroy the MADOX-01 with his experimental tank, adding extra difficulty to Kouji’s plight as he tries to meet his girlfriend for their date. I’ve never been a big fan of Shinji Aramaki’s directorial works, as the guy tends to deliver straightforward stories without much style. In that regard, MADOX-01 might be one of my favorites that he’s done since he does a great job blending the action, comedy and mechanical obsession into a thirty minute running time that never feels rushed or forced.
Aramaki also handles some of the mechanical design along with Kimitoshi Yamane (who went on to do design work for just about every recent Gundam series as well as titles like Xam’d) and the quality shows. MADOX-01 was an ARTMIC (the guys who did Bubblegum Crisis, Genocyber and others) production, so mechanical detail isn’t surprising, although certain still shots are staggeringly detailed (yes, at times even exceeding seven layers of shading). The animation throughout is of a general high quality and there isn’t much to find fault with.
MADOX-01 is the perfect example of a one-shot OAV done right; the kind of story that wouldn’t work well as an entire series and simple enough to fit well into a short running time. The light-hearted nature of the OAV is such that it could appeal to non-mecha fans while still offering enough robot porn to appeal to the hardcore mecha meatheads. This is the kind of title that we should be talking about when lamenting the loss of the OAV; the kind of title that wouldn’t work as a short TV series and isn’t quite enough for a full movie.