Review: Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01


Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 is a standalone mecha OVA that runs a mere 41 minutes but is a lot of fun. The premise is simple: a military-manufactured mech suit is accidentally lost in Tokyo where it is then found by a regular guy who gets into it without reading the manual. 
Because this story isn't associated with any existing series, novels or manga, there's no pressure on it to do anything other than entertain. It isn't setting up a larger world or introducing us to characters that we'll be following for dozens of episodes, it's just a quick little jaunt with mecha fights, a tank battle, and a finale on a skyscraper that looks a little bit like Nakatomi Plaza. 

The film is written and directed by Shinji Aramaki, who would later helm Appleseed, Blade Runner: Black Lotus, and  Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045. Animated in 1987, this is not only the kind of anime that served as the gateway to my own appreciation of the medium, but it's also one of the first anime features to have been brought to America--in this case by Animeigo. I'll always have affection for 80s anime because of how wonderfully mysterious and foreign it was at the time. These days, one can walk into any Hot Topic and find a myriad of anime shirts and collectibles, but it was standalone features such as this that paved the way in the USA.

The new Blu-ray (which releases on January 24th, 2023) is beautiful. Grain is evident but not pronounced and there is no evidence of DNR to eat away the clean line work, as has been applied to other shot-on-film anime. The are lots of supplements: three (!) audio commentaries, a vintage interview with the head of Animeigo, line and color artwork galleries, and even an easter egg that runs almost ten minutes. Both Japanese and English audio are included. The English subtitles are fantastic, providing not only different colors when multiple characters are talking at the same time, but also short notes of context when necessary to help clarify plot details that might be lost on western audiences. 

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 isn't earth-shattering, but the 80s hand-drawn animation is striking, the character and mecha designs are gorgeous, and it's a fun way to spend 41 minutes--a refreshingly small commitment in an era where running times soar higher and higher. 

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