Shinji Aramaki is an anime director that I pay attention to more out of fascination then how good he is. One of many hot takes I have is he hasn’t really directed or created anything of amazing quality ever? Some of his ambitious projects like the first CG Appleseed film gets close because it’s his most ambitious thing, but it aims for the moon and misses by a lot to where it ends up in the stars. Aramaki is a fantastic mechanical designer and a lot of his directing style is pretty standard except for how the things he designs move. Why do I bring this up? MADOX-01 is Shinji Aramaki’s first directorial work, so this is where his journey began. (Thank you Iridium Eye for suggesting this so long ago.)
MADOX-01 is a short, 45-minute film with two very simple story lines that meet each other into becoming one story. The first is the evolution of military technology. The opening scene features a battle between hot mecha ace, Eriko Kasumoto winning a virtual reality fight with her mecha the MADOX against Lt. Kilgore’s tank unit. She won single handedly and Lt. Kilgore is an insane man who will jump at any chance to defeat the MADOX unit to show it whose boss no matter the cost. As you would expect, he will get his chance when a “terrorist” acquires it.
Enter a traffic accident with the transfer of the MADOX-01 unit in a suit case and it getting into the hands of engineering student by the name of Koji Sugimoto. A boy whose girlfriend is about to leave home to study abroad in 3 days and wants to see him in a certain location on the top of a tower before she leaves. Too bad Koji gets locked into the MADOX-01 in that important moment and must make his way to that tower wearing the suit causing all sorts of damage and inevitably meeting Kasumoto and Kilgore on the way. One with much more positive results then other and some good mecha fights.
So since I told you all of that, I bet you guys can figure out how this movie goes and concludes. Yeah, the writing isn’t the best part because people don’t change that much. Especially Sugimoto himself. He does learn about how to use a MADOX unit during his escapades, but his resolve to meet his girlfriend is merely tested never over written by fighting. Lt. Kilgore remains the crazy man with his next generation tank. The person who changes the most is Kasumoto herself when she warms up to Sugimoto and helps him out. It’s very typical action stuff which is an alright vessel for a lot of the good mecha action in it.
This is also a bit of an otaku’s wet dream sort of OVA. Can we just say that? What college student is going to hopefully get a mecha suit completely out of nowhere? (ME PLEASE). What chosen number of events are going happen which to allow a person like that to learn how to use it. (ONCE AGAIN…). MADOX-01 is about the fanservice. Not the fanservice you expect, because we only get that moment where we meet Kasumoto butt first in the opening in that regard and that’s it, but Mecha fanservice. Oh my goodness it’s everywhere and it’s worth watching for that sort of expectations.
The mecha action is where the love is and it’s why MADOX-01 looks great in movement or otherwise. In general, the art, backgrounds, and character design are solid, but mecha action is where it owns. The introduction scene where we see all the working mechanics of the MADOX-01 unit should tell you that. Same with Sugmoto slowly learning to use it and the mechanics of the machine and the damage it causes in the streets, in elevator shafts, and many other great moments against other machines. You know, the heftier MADOX-0 Unit which makes the 01 feel like an upgrade and the future tank. Each one feels like they can exist and are grounded in reality because they just don’t fly around doing all sorts of nonsense. No, these are beautiful fights where every moment and decision by their pilots matters.
In general, Metal King Panic MADOX-01 is just ok. As I mentioned earlier, this film is very indicative of Shinji Aramaki’s directorial style. Plot and characters go second while mecha action is king. Mecha fans like me will go gah gah over this stuff while I find everything else lacking. I wish there was so much more consistency between in and out of mecha because that would make all of his work so much better. You can tell the guy has a deep love for mechanical design because every suit he has created feels believable, fun, and grounded in the world they belong in. Even the damage done to them are great. There is also the fact that the simple decisions characters make in suit are so different from the railroaded plot line where each character decision doesn’t matter. That’s my hot take for today.