This Ballmastrz: 9009 review contains spoilers
Ballmastrz: 9009 Episode 10
“It’s the burning spirit of teamwork in our hearts!”
It’s not always easy to be a part of a team. Finding a purpose amongst a larger group of people can be wildly validating, but it can also reduce one’s sense of self and create a homogenized group mentality. Therefore it’s important to find a team that’s actually right for you and makes you feel empowered rather than ignored.
Gaz’ relationship with her team, the Leptons, has steadily been examined over the course of this season, whether as the focus of episodes or some background detail. The season finale to Ballmastrz: 9009 looks entirely at Gaz’ relationship with the teams in her life and she comes around to some very important realizations.
In “Strength Through Song; Brotherhood Through Blood; Redemption Through Rage. Sing, Fallen Angel!” the first season of Ballmastrz comes full circle as Gaz must make a crucial decision between the Leptons and her former allies, the Boom Boom Boyz. Ballmastrz: 9009 has gotten fairly fast and loose with its overarching storyline and has instead opted to have fun that highlights particular characters in unique ways. That being said, it’s a smart move for the first season’s finale to tie things back to the show’s premiere.Gaz must choose between her old ways and her new life and that’s a powerful, personal idea to fuel this finale.
As the Leptons get ready for their final game of the season, their strategy shifts from ball tactics to creating a team song that will boost morale. For some reason the Leptons believe that this anthem will give them the necessary strength to beat the Boom Boom Boyz, but Gaz thinks their situation has a lot more to do with how terrible they are. As amazing as any team song may be, it’s not going to change the fact that the Leptons have never won a game all season.
The Leptons’ team song is a big part of this finale, but the episode also explores the deeper territory of whether Gaz has changed and grown at all since the start of the season. This installment sets out to answer if Gaz is still selfishly driven or if she’s learned to actually think of others and value the team as a whole above herself. It certainly looks like Gaz loses her way and she’s ready to flip on the Leptons, but Ace doesn’t give up on her, especially since it’s their final game of the year.
Through all of this it’s also nice to see Gaz actually interact with the Boom Boom Boyz a little and see how she gets along with them. Gaz is deeply entrenched with her team when she’s introduced in the series’ premiere, but this is the first time that we really get to see them spend time together.
What’s even more interesting here is that the Boom Boom Boyz aren’t bad people. They seem to genuinely value Gaz and still regard her as a friend, which makes this emotional tug of war that Gaz is caught up in much deeper than if the BBB were a great Ballmastrz team, but total assholes. The stress of all of this pushes Gaz into her worst bender yet, which also unfortunately results in the Boom Boom Boyz obtaining the Leptons’ secret team song.
When it comes down to the big match, the Boom Boom Boyz pity Gaz after they listen to her music, but in fact their public unveiling of the Leptons’ song only boosts their confidence into unforeseen heights. The way in which Ballmastrz reaches this conclusion is a little problematic, but the results are so enjoyable that it’s easy to look past any subpar plotting.
It’s pretty convenient that Gaz happens to lose the Leptons’ song and that the Boom Boom Boyz do exactly what the Leptons want them to do with it. There’s also not quite enough time spent on exactly why everyone believes that this song will be their key to victory. In spite of these minor setbacks, the episode’s final Ballmastrz match is by far the most satisfying and gorgeous sequence that the show has put together.
There are plenty of impressive scenes from this finale, like Gaz’ arm wrestling debacle at the bar, but the synthesis of elements that come together at the end are truly on another level. Christy Karacas has been pretty upfront about the influence that Masaaki Yuasa has had on Ballmastrz, but Karacas embraces this more than ever before with the show’s dazzling finale. The episode pairs together music (that song is so stupidly great) with animation in a staggering way, which also pushes the show the closest that it’s ever been to Dragon Ball’s lightning-paced battle scenes.
The point of this finale is the reveal that the series has all been a big exercise in friendship and understanding how to work as a team. This subtle message has been pushed through every episode of the season and it’s beautiful to get to see it come together so perfectly here. The series’ second episode is the first time that Gaz needs to cooperate with the Leptons and it’s no coincidence that that episode’s title, “The Burning Spirit Of Teamwork In Her Heart!” gets explicitly uttered by Ace in this finale. It’s all been building to this.
Even though this powerful team spirit doesn’t cause all of the Leptons to turn into some Voltron of Cooperation, they do experience some sort of spiritual bond that transforms them into winners. Gaz thinks that she’s been putting herself first all year, but she’s actually been reprogramming the Leptons to be the ultimate team.
In fact, this was perhaps Crayzar’s plan all along and it’s finally come to fruition. It’s just really sweet to see all of the Leptons triumphantly work together and get to kick some ass after so much failure as underdogs. Everyone gets their moment to shine and it’s oddly poignant to see Flypp’s Umbilicus get to finally do some damage!
The Leptons earn their long overdue first win, but all of the teamwork and celebration comes to a premature end when Crayzar asks Gaz an important question, which will forever change the future of the Leptons. The season ends on a little more of a cliffhanger than expected, although it does seem like Gaz’ answer to Crayzar’s lofty question is fairly obvious (I don’t expect Gaz to dessert the Leptons again, and if she does, it will likely just be for the next season’s premiere). That being said, it’s still nice to see the season go out on a little bit of mystery.
There were a few missed opportunities throughout Ballmastrz: 9009’s debut year (Crayzar still feels like a character that they could have done more with), but this is certainly a complete first season that brings as much to the table as Superail!’s inaugural season did.
Ballmastrz shows tremendous variety, fun characters that only become more infectious, and an exhilarating look that’s always a pure delight to consume. Whether Ballmastrz’s intense art style was exactly what you were looking for or it came across as too chaotic, there are few series that hit the ground running with such a voice and vision. Even if there wasn’t a single joke from Ballmastrz that made you laugh, this is still one of the most beautiful animated series on television and that alone deserves respect.
Whether Ballmastrz: 9009 becomes a short-lived fever dream of animation or grows into an intimidating hit, the show played by its own rules (of which there are none) and achieved what it set out to do. Hopefully Ballmastrz: 9009 will be given the opportunity to evolve more with a second season because the strong foundation that’s in place here could really find its groove and become even stronger with a second year of stories.
Besides, we need to finally hear an episode of the “Leto Talks to Women” holocast.