MADOX-01 is a short, straightforward, wish-fulfillment mecha anime that lasts just long enough to not overstay its welcome.
The premise of MADOX-01 is straightforward enough to easily fit on the back of a VHS tape box. Military contractor develops prototype powered armor for military experiments. After a car accident following a transport from a field test the armor gets lost and ends up in the apartment of a military otaku, who ends up putting off the powered armor without figuring out how to take it off first. Can the corporation who built it get the suit back before it gets blown up by the loose cannon American Marine Tank commander? Can the otaku get the suit off before he gets blown up? And can he meet with his girlfriend to reconcile on time!
That is exactly enough plot to drive about 50 minutes of anime, including opening and closing credits. The comedy beats generally work pretty well with exactly one shot of fanservice (the MADOX-01 suit blows through a bath-house for about 3-4 seconds, you don’t see anything and neither does our otaku protagonist Kouji) and it’s basically a setup for a joke about Kouji running into problems with not being able to get out of the suit when he tries to eat.
There’s no graphic violence at all, the body count is in the single digits with no on camera dead people. No people actually get injured in the action. Hell, if it it wasn’t for two shots of people giving the finger, this would be a current PG. Not PG-13. Not 1980s PG. Current PG. You could probably show this in Cartoon Network’s original after-school Toonami block with no edits save for the two middle fingers.
It’s not without some stylistic faults. The faces in the character designs don’t quite look right. They remind me a lot of Peter Chung – but without the rest of Chung’s character designs. It’d be like if you had a Yoshiyuki Sadamoto face on a Akira Toriyama body. It doesn’t mesh.
The writing of the women in the show’s cast is kind of mixed. On the one hand, Eriko Kusumoto, the designer of the MADOX, is a well written character, with her own character motivations and goals. They’re not completely independent from a male character’s – she wants to find and recover the MADOX before Kilgore does because she wants to retrieve it intact and without causing harm to the project. That said, Kilgore is basically the walking embodiment of toxic masculinity and institutionalized misogyny, and the film is well aware of that, so it’s not particularly a big strike against the film in that regard.
It’s just that Eriko isn’t the lead – Kouji is. Ultimately, the climax of the film isn’t Eriko taking on Kilgore one-on-one and proving that she’s the better pilot (though technically she already did that in the film’s opening at the field test). It’s Kouji overcoming Kilgore so he can reunite with his girlfriend and tell her that he wants to stay in a relationship with her, even if she’s going to end up studying abroad for 3 years.
This is aggravated by the fact that Kouji’s girlfriend, Shiori, has almost no other traits aside from “1) Kouji’s girlfriend,” “2) Is going to study in the UK for 3 years,” and “3) Her father doesn’t approve of their relationship because Kouji isn’t rich.” She has barely any lines outside of a couple flashbacks, several of which are just her saying Kouji’s name. She’s basically a human McGuffin.
That said – the film isn’t bad, and it’s helped by the filmmakers knowing that they basically have less than an hour of plot and don’t even bother padding the film. It makes for the kind of OVA that probably couldn’t exist these days, outside of something funded by Kickstarter, instead needing at least enough material for a feature film, if not 13 episodes of TV.
I do think this is worth picking up on DVD – I don’t know if it got a Blu-Ray release in Japan, and at the film’s length, I also don’t know if this will get a Kickstarter re-release by AnimEgo, unless they find another short thing to bundle with it. But what we do get is worth picking up on DVD.
That said, the show is very much out of print, with no English DVD releases available. Plenty of import model kits, and an import laser-disk release, but I can’t find a DVD release (even an import) available through Amazon, RightStuf, or eBay. So, if you want to pick this up – keep your eyes open in convention dealers rooms, or maybe call the Bentenmaru or Arcadia.
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