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Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 15th-Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition Anime DVD Review

7 min read
Madox is one of the best representations of a good chunk of 80s mecha anime.

Madox is one of the best representations of a good chunk of 80s mecha anime.

What They Say
Ace female test pilot Kusomoto Elle humiliates macho tank driver Lt. Kilgore in the first demonstration of the advanced personal battle tank, the MADOX. Kilgore vows revenge, and gets his chance when the army rather carelessly loses the prototype in Tokyo. The MADOX is found by engineering student Sujimoto Kouji, who doesn’t take the time to completely read the manual and ends up zooming around Tokyo trapped in a machine he doesn’t quite know how to operate.

Guess who gets the job of stopping the now mobile missing MADOX? Poor Kouji. If he’s late for his date, it’s over between him and his girlfriend. His current attire redefines the term “over-dressed.”

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The OVA sports a pretty basic stereo mix that does have some moments of minor directionality across the forward soundstage, but on average it’s such a “loud” show that there isn’t much to discern from it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout it and we had no trouble with dropouts or distortions. We did sample both the English track and chunks of the commentary track and noted no issues there either.

Originally released to video back in 1987, the OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Animated by AIC and Artmic, the transfer for Madox comes across pretty well but isn’t without its problems. There’s some noticeable macroblocking going on at various points throughout the show, which is mostly noticeably in characters hair such as Kouji’s brown breaking up a bit or some of Ellie’s hair. There’s some obvious and expect line noise during some of the fast paced areas where there’s a lot of detail as well, but that isn’t terribly bad. The main area that’s really noticeably bad is during a scene when the show has a red light flooding everything, which causes a lot of chroma noise to appear. This hits just about everything in the scene causing it to look pretty ugly, especially depending on the size of your monitor. The majority of the transfer looks decent considering the age and that there doesn’t appear to be a recent remaster in Japan either.

This release used an interesting illustration pace for the cover that at the time I hadn’t seen before and that made for a welcome change. It’s got a shot of Kouji inside the Madox while his girlfriend rides along on the arm. The coloring used for it feels a bit strange, almost like a partially painted piece that didn’t get the final detail needed to bring it to life, but at least it’s not the same cover as used previously. The back cover has a few shots from the show and a summary that covers the bulk of the OVA. The discs features and very minimal production credits are laid out clearly here as well. This is fairly typical AnimEigo packaging, so there’s some small quirks to it but it all works in the end. The traditional recipe card is included in this release, which has a number of amusing little notes, particularly the list of famous people who touched this project and went on to much bigger things.

Using some of the animation from the show, the main menu has a motion shot of the Madox unit and has the selections lined alongside it, but you make your selection based on the gears that are spinning. I don’t recall too many menus that actually have active animation from the show itself being manipulated like this. The menu layout is pretty standard and nicely done with fast access times and an easy to navigate setup.

For the anniversary release, there’s some good extras included in here. In addition to the trailers for the show, there’s the original lengthy documentary that was made that goes into detail about a lot of SDF equipment and the concept of a piece of gear like the Madox. Robert Woodhead sits down for an interview as well and talks about the origins of the company, how Madox was picked up and how it’s done over the years. A good number of questions and answers surface here, though several are of the usual convention variety, but it’s interesting to get it all down in one place, even if he will never confirm nor deny the existence of the interview. The dub director for the show from Swirl Recording also get an interview, and goes over all sorts of aspects of dubbing and where Swirl is today, as well as comparisons to hentai dubbing. To top it off, there’s a commentary track that goes over the length of the show, though it’s less a talk about the show itself and more a commentary on the gags and action as it goes by.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the time, it took a bit for AnimEigo to go back to their first release and bring out this bit of history on DVD. After coming out on both VHS and LD, Madox is the kind of 80’s mecha OVA show that really highlights one of the mainstays of the genre. Originally released at the end of 1987 in Japan, it was written and directed by Shinji Aramaki, who is producing a lot of big works these days, and this was backed and produced by Hideaki Anno. The somewhat bumbling or naive older kid who happens upon a really cool piece of technology, only to be controlled by it, was a pretty popular subgenre at the time and this one executed it well. It falls into some of the general paranoia about technology controlling humanity, but it also allows the animators to let an oversized souped up piece of military gear to rampage through a city and cause all manner of destruction in its wake.

The central storyline to Madox comes in the form of a military test mecha that’s being tested out. The unit which is just a bigger version of a human that pilots it, is high-tech and high powered, which we see playing out in the first few minutes of the show as the units designer, a young woman named Ellie, takes out a tank division with ease, not even getting scratched. The tank commander, Kilgore, is furious about how this all plays out and doesn’t want such a unit to become the main force of the military. As one of his commanding officers says, he’s a man born in the wrong time. What he wants is action and plenty of it. So when the Madox unit gets packed up and shipped to Tokyo, only to be lost after an accident, he’s set to take it out once and for all.

The Madox unit, which is shifted down to a large cube when not in use, ends up in the hands a mechanic named Kouji after the traffic accident causes it to spill into the city. Kouji finds the instructions for it after he eventually gets it back to his apartment and starts to activate it. After all, what could happen? Before he knows it, it’s practically come alive and forced him into the pilots seat. He’s able to control much of what it does, but it has a number of automatic responses to external stimuli. So when Kilgore comes looking for the unit, it starts to fight back against him. Kouji doesn’t understand what’s going on and since he’s a simple-minded young man, he’s only interested in getting to the top floor of the NSR building where his soon to be former girlfriend wants to meet him before she goes studying abroad.

The bulk of Madox-01 is really a chase scene that runs about three fourths of the OVAs 45-minute runtime. Kouji goes from not being able to control the machine to mastering its movements so that he can eat a boxed lunch. Once Kilgore actually after him, he spends more time on the run than anything else, but everything he does helps him along in mastering the units abilities. There really isn’t a lot of depth to this show and it’s reflective of a lot of similar OVAs made at the time. The show is quite enjoyable as a romp, and with the Sonada-like character designs, but there’s no real meat to it.

In Summary: 
Madox-01 took its time to get out on DVD but AnimEigo has done a decent job overall and provided some good anniversary extras with it. The show is one of those early landmark releases for US anime history and I’m glad that AnimEigo has kept the show licensed and available in one format or another back when this came out what seems like a lifetime ago. While Madox-01 may not mean much to the majority of fandom these days, I’ll always remember it as one of the very few number of titles that you could legally buy back when there wasn’t even anything you could call an anime industry. For that alone, Madox-01 is a title that deserves a lot of recognition.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Documentary, Interview with Robert Woodhead, Interview with Swirl, Audio Commentary

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: AnimEigo
Release Date: March 9th, 2004
MSRP: $19.95
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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