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The RB-79 Ball (ボール Bōru?) is a fictional weapon from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. Its design was partially inspired by the EVA Pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a ubiquitous mobile weapon, it has been a popular subject for modeling enthusiasts, largely due to its unique and unusual design among the other vehicles within the Gundam universe.
The RB-79 Ball, introduced in the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series, have also gained its appearance in Gundam Sentinel 0079, MS Igloo, Gundam Evolve, All of SD Gundam G-Generation series, Super Robot Wars series and Gundam Century. Originally designed by Kunio Okawara, it is also redesigned by Katoki Hajime for almost all of the other series.
It is one of the clear designs in the Gundam meta-series that is technically feasible, and is suggested as an item that should be pursued by an aeronautics expert involved in the Gundam Academy.
The RB-79 Ball is probably one of the most popular mobile weapons in the Universal Century timeline, second only to Gundam and Zaku. Designed by Kunio Okawara, the Ball was the only Mobile Pod seen in Gundam for over 26 years (1979~2006). In one episode of the new 3D animation productions, Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO: Apocalypse 0079, Zeon deployed their own mobile attack pod, the MP-02A "Oggo", in desperation. The Ball appears in various Gundam stories, including its first appearance in Mobile Suit Gundam, Gundam Sentinel 0079, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO, Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam and Gundam Evolve. It also appeared in many of the Gundam video games, including the Gihren's Ambition series, the SD Gundam Generation games, the Versus series, and even in the Super Robot Wars series on more than one occasion.
The unit has received redesigns several times, including a redesign in Sentinel 0079 by Katoki Hajime, the later variation K type in 08th MS team (also seen in the SD Gundam games and MS Igloo), and the C type variation in Gundam 0083. The manga artist of Crossbone Gundam also based the designs of the RB-133 Ball and the side story unit B Gundam on the RB-79. In the story Magical Ensign Blaster Mari, several MC coating-equipped Balls have also appeared.
The first redesign of RB-79 Ball in the Model Graphix magazine for Gundam Sentinel 0079 by Katoki Hajime was inspired by the space pod in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and Katoki said in the interview in Sentinel 0079 that he wanted to designed it to look like a one-man space pod NASA would build. He depicted it to have a similar impression of the working pod appearing in the new film The Abyss at that time directed by James Cameron The design made it (or the SP-W03 space worker pot) a clearly feasible technologically icon and an aeronautics expert involved in the Gundam Academy said that it is one of the items that should be pursued in reality.
The RB-79 has been a popular subject for modeling enthusiasts. The popularity of the unit have granted it 3 different versions 1/100 Master Grade models. In February 2005, Hobby Japan made a special topic called Cannon Ball, featuring the MG RB-79 Ver. Ka, calling it the Last and Greatest featured product of 2004 The second version, the RB-79K was used as a base for the champion model Cross-section in the 2006 Japan Dengeki Gunpla competition by the Hong Kong modeller Tomoon Lee, and still won first place against the newest and very popular unit, Strike Freedom Gundam.
Role in plot
The RB-79 is mainly a grunt unit in stories, it is normally seen as the unit easiest to produce in the story, with a few exception parody units Saku and Samu. The strength of the RB-79 comes from numbers, in the Gundam Battle (series) game, the RB-79 and RB-79C both got a secondary weapon named Call Ball and a SP attack summoning dozens of RB-79 and swarm the field with their 180mm cannons. However, the designer Katoki Hajime viewed the unit differently. In his design notes, he granted the RB-79 a much higher position as a war weapon, making it an attempt of the Earth Federation Forces to create a small size mobile armour, since the specs of the unit could be compared against the MS-09R Dom.
In the background story of Mobile Suit Gundam told in official books, the fictional One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, the Federation lacked any sort of the mass-produced humanoid mecha, known as mobile suits. The Zeon forces laid waste to the Federation fleet with their mobile suits, the MS-05 Zaku I and the later Zaku II. To counteract this, the Federation scrambled to make some sort of mobile weapon that could counter the Zeon attack. However, their new prototype mobile suit, the Gundam, was too costly to mass-produce, and their first mass-production mobile suit, the GM, just wasn't being fielded fast enough.
The RB-79 Ball mobile pod was created with the cancelled number of the Project V RX-76 Prototype Ball. The Federation refitted about 1200 of the civilian-model space construction pods, known as SP-W03 mobile pods, and installed heavier armor platings and a 180mm recoilless cannon on top. The Ball mobile pod also had vernier thrusters mounted all along the body, which used solid-fuel explosives rather than more conventional liquid propellants. As an improvised conversion, the Ball was initially seen as ill-suited for combat, earning the nickname "Mobile Coffin" among EFSF pilots. It was, however, smaller, more maneuverable, and more stealthy than a mobile suit, and its real strategic advantages were its low cost and large numbers. Harassment from hit-and-run attacks by Federation's fast Salamis cruisers and their attached Ball squads proved to be a constant headache for Zeon supply fleets, who often had to deploy additional forces to escort their vulnerable Papuas and Pazocks.
A joke about the Ball unit is that if it is painted red and a horn is attached to it, it will become one of Char Aznable custom and became 3 times more powerful than an ordinary unit. This gag has at least appeared in two manga, one Super robot wars doujin manga was actually published by a branch of Bandai showing a Ball unit painted red, with a horn and stripped with ammo. Char Aznable seems to actually like it but was shot down in less than 3 panels — totally not helpful to the battle at all.
An official manga published on Gundam Ace, where titled as Why Char assassinated Kycilia showing in place of where in the original story should be MSN-02 Zeong, Kycilia Zabi actually provided Char with a red Ball, with two conical horns, labelled Horns next to them; an enlarged bottom thruster, labelled 3 times next to it; the cannon was replaced by a hand of Zeong, labelled Psycommu next to it, referencing the traits of Char's custom units. This unit is in fact designed by Katoki Hajime and he designed the box art for it to look like the MG model box as well in the back, along with other custom Ball units for other Zeon pilots.
In Superior Defender Gundam Force Kao Lyn had a personalized Super-Deformed ball similar to the SDG-style ball in the same series. In spite of the Super-Deformed balls however, there were two normal sized ball-variant vehicles.
- Gundam Sentinel 0079, Mecha design, Model Graphix magazine
- Cannon Ball, special feature, Hobby Japan, Feb, 2005 issue.
- Gundam cartoon academy to turn science fiction into reality in Japan
- Model Kit World issue 198, 5 Jun, 2007
- MG RB-79 Ball instruction manual
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Skullheart
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Magical Ensign Blaster Mari
- SD Musha Gundam series
- MS Igloo
- MS Igloo Apocalypse 0079