Kabukicho Wars: The Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 Plan & Design Document

In December 1987, Pony Canyon released a light-hearted contemporary mecha OVA into a market where the value of direct-to-video anime was starting to be doubted. Criticized in magazines of the era, OVAs were often labeled as unoriginal, dull, or straight up cash-ins targeting fans of existing manga series or video games. Shinji Aramaki’s Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 may be a relative footnote from that era of anime, but it’s a damn good one.

There was something special about ARTMIC. For nearly two decades the design studio founded by Toshimichi Suzuki planned and scripted original video animation titles that were, if nothing else, aesthetically focused. Unlike traditional anime studios, ARTMIC’s staff of artists and writers would come up with ideas for a new series, design the characters and mecha and settings, write the scripts, and then hand them off to a production studio to actually create the anime. It wasn’t a typical process, but they found success with it during the OVA boom of the late ’80s.

After a miss (Technopolice 21C) and an underwhelming performer (Genesis Climber MOSPEADA), ARTMIC hit paydirt with their TV-series-turned-OVA, Megazone 23. The next decade saw ARTMIC push out a steady stream of original OVAs, usually sci-fi and almost always original titles created by the staff at ARTMIC. They didn’t always have the best scripting or the best production values, but an ARTMIC OVA almost always had great designs and felt imbued with the style of the artists that worked on them. Their efforts of the era were representative of the talented artists that worked there, like Kenichi Sonoda (Bubblegum Crisis, Gunsmith Cats), Shinji Aramaki (Megazone 23, Appleseed), and Hideki Kakinuma (Megazone 23, Gall Force).

An early design for MADOX-01 by Shinji Aramaki, from Entertainment Bible #19, ARTMIC Big Picture Book.

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 wasn’t one of ARTMIC’s most popular titles (Megazone 23, Bubblegum Crisis, and Gall Force are the names most commonly associated with the studio) but that’s too bad because taken on its own merits, MADOX-01 is one probably of their best. Simple but never boring, wholesome without being trite, MADOX-01 managed to rely on common ARTMIC themes and motifs while being very much its own thing and incorporating trends of the era that that studio rarely used.

Most of ARTMIC’s OVAs featured conflicts with insurmountable opponents; massive space fleets, omnipotent governments, global corporations with limitless resources. The conflict of MADOX-01 was on a much smaller scale, with broader political conflicts only being hinted at in the periphery. The aesthetics of contemporary Tokyo, seen in OVAs like Megazone 23 and the mundane locales of Bubblegum Crisis was impossible to miss. MADOX-01 is not different, since it’s quite literally set in contemporary Tokyo, albeit with a couple of powered suits and a futuristic tank running havoc through the streets to give it that ARTMIC sci-fi flair.

Where MADOX-01 feels like it bucks the studio’s trend is largely in regards to its characters, namely Koji and his girlfriend Shiori. Like the bumbling protagonist you’d find in a harem or comedy anime, Koji quite literally falls into the titular powered suit and then bungles his way through Tokyo to meet up with Shiori before she leaves Japan to study abroad. Those types of cliches aren’t unusual in anime, but they feel out of place compared to the more dry yet capable characterization found in most ARTMIC titles.

The Metal Skin Plan and Design Document

Despite some serious differences in other areas, the plot beats in this outline are very similar to the story found in the MADOX-01 OVA. Koji comes into possession of a secret military powered suit, puts it on, goes after a girl, and is forced to fight off a bloodthirsty soldier intent on destroying the suit. The biggest differences are, for lack of a better word, the “seediness” of the characters. Koji is less a hapless dope and more an unaccomplished ronin who sees the MADOX-01 as a way to have the power and control his life otherwise lacks, rather than an impediment to him seeing Shiori off before she leaves as in the OVA. Similarly, Shiori in this pitch document is not a student about to be sent overseas but instead an escort working in Kabukicho who’s picked up by Koji, like an ‘80s anime version of Ann Darrow.1

The setting of Tokyo, specifically Kabukicho in Shinjuku, features prominently in the outline detailed in the pitch document, even going so far as to highlight the concept of “Kabukicho Wars” as a primary selling point. The specifics of the OVA’s location aren’t quite as honed in as the pitch document details, but the film does feature a climax played out on the upper stories of a skyscraper in what is presumably Shinjuku’s skyscraper district.

The political aspects of the pitch were also apparently toned down a bit for the eventual OVA release, as the outline features a subplot involving the Japanese Prime Minister and hints that the MADOX-01 features into some military intrigue between Japan and United States. Patlabor 2 it is not, but it does seem to want to make more of a political statement than most other contemporary OVAs. Note that in the outline, as Koji is wreaking havoc through Tokyo in a weapon designed in Japan for the U.S. military, he’s listening to the Far East Network, an American radio station designed for service members stationed throughout Asia after World War II. Not exactly subtle.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that the title page of the document says “Part I,” implying that the original hope may have been to produce sequels. MADOX-01, of course, never received the sequel treatment.

Kilgore/Krueger pursues Koji in the MADOX-01 through Tokyo with his AH-64 Apache. The final version would keep the Apocalypse Now reference but swap out the real-world attack helicopter for a futuristic tank.

The Production of MADOX-01

Compared to other ARTMIC OVAs, the production of MADOX-01 isn’t as well documented as one might hope. Thanks to its release date, the OVA occupies only about a page and a half of the exhaustive ARTMIC Design Works book that was published a couple of months before the video’s release. A page of early powered suit designs by Shinji Aramaki can be found in ARTMIC-focused Entertainment Bible #19. Perhaps the most abundant source of MADOX-01 design work and insight can be found in the doujin GURAMAN, published by artist Yukimi Kimoto. While Aramaki and Kimitoshi Yamane got the major mecha design credits, Kimoto assisted with design responsibilities in mid ’87.2

Frustratingly, there’s no date on the pitch document itself, although all of the artwork is dated January to March 1986, so it’s safe to say that the text portions of the document date from around the same time. For what it’s worth, Kimoto mentions in his doujin that he began work on MADOX-01 in March 1987, nine months before it hit video store shelves. It would seem like the general look of the project was pretty dialed in by that point.

About the Metal Skin Panic Plan & design Document

This pitch document was acquired on a Japanese auction site and subsequently translated into English. The formatted PDF linked before includes complete scans of the original and English text formatted to match. While differences with the final product abound (and are outlines abound), a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • The page numbers for this document are inconsistent. Is it two different documents? The result of a typographical error? Who knows!
  • Names for a couple of the characters are inconsistent in the description, for that and other inconsistencies we’ve made notes and edited the English text to be as easy to read as possible.


The complete pitch document PDF is available for download on the Internet Archive.

Translated MADOX-01 Schematic

Thanks to Austin of the wonderful Heisei Etranger for sharing this translated version of the early MADOX-01 schematic.

Key Art Gallery

Images presented below are a maximum width of 2000 pixels due to WordPress limitations. For full-sized images, please use the Internet Archive link above.

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  1. The pitch document doesn’t include much detail on Koji and Shiori’s relationship and it’s not clear how well they knew each other before Koji nabbed her from her cabaret.
  2. Kimoto was hired to work on MADOX-01 while still in high school based on the strength of his GURAMAN doujin. Later he’d work on Gall Force and create manga based on both MADOX-01 and VOTOMS for General Products’ Cyber Comix anthology.