For The Barrel was a short lived serial novel written by Otsuka Gichi. The novel was intended to be a bold re-imagining of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s novel trilogy, Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Confrontation, Escalation.
In Newtype Magazine
The novel was serialized in Kadokawa’s anime and science-fiction publication Newtype from August 2000 to June 2002 totaling twenty-two chapters. A manga version titled For The Barrel 1984 was created as a companion to the novel and serialized in Newtype from February 2001 to May 2001, only receiving four chapters.
The novel’s character designs and illustrations were by Shigeto Koyama, best known for his work as a key animator for the Rebuild of Evangelion film series, Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, and Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo. Koyama also served as a designer for the Eureka Seven series.
For The Barrel kept most of the original character names(albeit small revisions), but with radical re-designs. Protagonist Amuro Ray was re-imagined as a Taiwanese youth named “Ling A-bao”, deriving the name from Amuro Ray’s Hong Kong dub name “Li A-bao” . Ling is described as a cursed child with innate psychic abilities. Nicknamed “White Speed” for his piloting skills, Ling makes death his own reason for living, and believes it’s his destiny to lead others.
Mecha & Ships
The mechanical designs were by Junji Ohkubo famed for his work with the 2002 Capcom video game series Steel Battalion. In 2007 Ohkubo spoke in an interview with mecha/gaming writer Ollie Barder recounting his experiences and fresh redesigns of Gundam mecha for For The Barrel.
Q: What was it like working on For The Barrel? Did you feel any pressure from Kunio Okawara’s work on the original Gundam?
A: When the plan was brought to me, I was very very interested in it. In fact, the work process itself was very exciting, too. As I have heard that the original design of Gundam was the created after many trials and tribulations of not only Kunio Ogawara, but also of Yoshiyuki Tomino and staff who were involved in Gundam at the time, the pressure was enormous. As such I started to present ideas more than 6 months prior to the commencement of the series, but the series began before the idea was totally consolidated in the end. It was after a few installments that the design everything fell into its own place.
Q: In what way, if any, did the original Gundam influence you in your designs for For The Barrel? Where there any other influences?
A: The origin of the plan was to create Gundam based on the novel without having any knowledge of original animated Gundam. Therefore I ignored original design as if it had not existed in the first place. This may be similar to the way Tim Burton produced the remake version of the Planet of the Apes. The only thing I took into consideration was the detailed technological bits that were accumulated over 20 years of Gundam culture (including building plastic models of Gundams) in realizing a robot that is 20 meters tall.
Q: The “machining skins” and other ships in For The Barrel again look very realistic, how did you approach the design of these?
A: Unlike existing Gundam, there was no need to consider merchandising aspects with For The Barrel. The aim was to purely draw scenes that were in the novel more effectively and dramatically without being restricted by signifiers that were particular to Gundam. For instance, the robot equivalent to Zaku is described to be a single eyed giant in the novel. So I began to create it based on that information alone. I then came up with the logic that a gigantic humanoid arm should potentially give the sense of fear to the enemy, I decided to base this one eyed giant on the form of a Cyclops in Greek Myth. The shape of feet like artiodactyls was adopted from Cyclops in a film called The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. This is a homage to Ray Harryhausen. In order to express wiliness of the Zeon Army, I designed lines based on hammerhead shark. Inorganic eyes are also taken from the image of sharks. The robot of the federal army that is equivalent to Gundam, on the other hand, was designed as the fighters in the space with the addition of parts that are like arms and legs. The ideas for parts came about so that the robot may change directions by action-reaction forces based on mass transfer not by rockets. “The accidental humanoid” was the image I was trying to achieve. In addition, I made the color of the body of this robot white as it is nicknamed “white devil” by the Zeon in the novel. In the case of classic Gundam (and the Gundam series that is still continuing), mecha were designed with the elements from the simple moral of the robot anime heavily bearing merchandising into consideration. However, in For the Barrel, I designed the federation army robot to make it obvious that it is indeed a weapon as threatening as the Zaku. In addition, I restricted it to be a part of stage-set to make real protagonists stand out more. This was very experimental.
As for the battle ships, the setting was the first era when the war in the space was made. Therefore, I designed them thinking that they were converted forcefully from spaceship that had been originally built for transportation and carrying goods, as I recall.
In For The Barrel mobile suits are redesigned as a new breed of mobile weapons designed for sabotage called “Machining Skins”. GMs(Gundam Mass-produced types) became “Gladiator Machining Skins” and Gundam type mobile suits became “Gunboys”, referencing the original name for the RX-78-2 Gundam. Also the mobile space pod RB-79 Ball became the “Mister Ball”.
The space vessels retained their original names, such as White Base and Musai but also were redesigned significantly.