This Ballmastrz 9009 review contains spoilers.
Ballmastrz Episode 3 Review
“The lowly Leptons revealed a new super suit? What the hell is it!”
Throughout all of the planning and revelations this week, Gaz drunkenly moans about how there are ultimately two types of athletes: snots and turds. Turds come and go, but snots—like Gaz herself—are the glue that hold everything together. It feels like this analogy can also be applied to Ballmastrz: 9009 as a whole. In this case, snots are the episodes of the series that beautifully marry together the show’s unique, eccentric animation with a challenging, surreal story, whereas the turds are the episodes that are only able to indulge one of these strengths and fall short and feel empty in the end. “Very Special Balls!” is an absolute snot and hopefully the rest of this season will be full of snots too, rather than the occasionally exciting, albeit unfulfilling, turds.
“Very Special Balls!” is easily the most complex, interesting episode of Ballmastrz to date. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise as each entry has impressively built on the previous one in an effective way, but “Very Special Balls!” really starts to push things in motion and works to develop these characters. Back in my review of the first episode, I mentioned that this felt like a show that was more about the art style and chaos than the story and characters and it’s nice to see the show slowly change those instincts. There could be a deep, cathartic story that comes out of this high-paced ball mayhem yet.
This episode begins right where the previous installment left things, hot off the reveal of the Leptons’ new secret weapon. This rarity on the ballmaster field suddenly catapults Ace and Baby Ball into the spotlight and turns them into veritable celebrities of the sport. Ace is all too ready to sidestep the adoration and not let this newfound fame go to his head (although his greedy manager Buddy Marinara feels differently on the matter). Baby Ball on the other hand can’t exploit his new status fast enough and he’s ready to consume as many drugs and women as ball-ly possible until his fifteen minutes are up.
The series finds some comfortable territory to explore with Ace and Baby Ball’s recent popularity, especially when their fame brings out some latent jealousy in Gaz Digzy. Gaz and her destructive ways were very much the focus of the show’s first two episodes, but the character works even better when she’s got something to prove and no longer the golden child of the Leptons. Gaz was certainly over the whole ballmaster thing when she was forced to play with her new team, but now that she suddenly might not be the best any longer she has a new sense of worth to prove just how much ass she can kick.
Of course, Ace might have the ability to fuse with Baby Ball and turn into some legendary ballmaster warrior, but the major problem here is that he has no idea how to trigger the gamechanging transformation. Gaz is wise to the duo’s obliviousness towards their powers, but all of this ends with Buddy Marinara setting up a highly anticipated ballmaster death match between the Leptons and the reviled Xythryll. Marinara promises that the Leptons will win the match with their new trump card and the rest of the episode explores a stressful training session while the team tries to prepare for something that they don’t know how to control. Gaz is also particularly eager to heckle Ace and Baby Ball’s failed attempts to activate their skills. She basically only wants the Leptons to win if she’s the one that earns the victory.
Since the Xythryll is the major threat of this episode, the series goes off on a fun, twisted tangent that clues the audience, and Gaz, into what this abomination is all about. A lot of the time it looks like the threats in this universe will be rival ballmaster teams, but the Xythryll is instead one dangerous, overpowered beast. Legend dictates that the Xythryll is an abandoned chinchilla who’s mutated into a killing machine through a steady diet of radioactive waste. This creature is so mysterious and elusive that apparently nobody has even seen its entire body, only the versatile appendages that do its killing for it. Ballmastrz spends just enough time on Xythryll’s backstory to give this episode momentum while also not getting lost in this detour. It also acts as a strong model for the sort of one-off monster stories that this show can tell in the future. At this early point in the show’s run it’s always helpful to see what sort of series this can be beyond the whacked out sports angle.
With the Leptons’ efforts going nowhere and their fear only becoming more palpable, Ace decides that maybe the mighty Crayzar knows something important to the Ballmaster myth. Up until this point, the powerful Crayzar still feels like a cipher and Warden-esque omnipotent creature rather than a character onto his own. In that sense, it’s helpful to get a larger dose of him in this episode, let alone in his home rather than the ballmaster field.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get admission to see Crayzar. The Leptons struggle with gatekeeping riddles as Crayzar’s fortress adopts a very Wizard of Oz vibe. In my opinion, riddle challenges are always a fun time, so this is the perfect sort of madness that Crayzar would have his guests go through. Ballmastrz naturally imposes its own bonkers take on the whole riddle trope too (ten guesses per question) and soon what would be a cliché scene turns into a lightning round of absurdity. Plus, they also reveal some (strange) information about Crayzar and his pre-Rad Wars ways.
Crayzar goes about answering everyone’s questions with a “flashback” that’s definitely the animation highlight of the episode (the music through the sequence also particularly kicks ass). Crayzar shows the origin of the mighty Ballmasters and their efficient death orbs and it makes for a thrilling backstory. It also marks the show’s biggest push into its anime tendencies yet. The sequence is gorgeous to look at and it’s nice to think that perhaps the world before the Rad Wars looked entirely like anime until the pain and death of war “roughed up” the animation style. Elsewhere there are other fun, subtle touches in the episode’s animation, like the array of stars and disoriented shapes that always follow Gaz Digzy around in her alcohol-fueled stupors.
Apparently the synthesis to create a Ballmaster involves a yin and yang exchange between the two individuals where both are in control and neither are in control. So it’s basically Jaeger rules from Pacific Rim. Crayzar also lets it slip that those that wield the Ballmaster magic will either save the world or destroy it, so clearly that’s the larger endgame of the series and where this season is headed.
Once the team has learned exactly what Ballmasters are and the important purpose that they serve, an argument breaks out over how everyone else on the team would be a much better fit with Baby Ball than Ace would. There are some fun alternate Ballmaster transformations on display as everyone’s egos get out of control. In the end, it’s Ace’s modesty towards all of this that likely makes him the perfect Ballmaster candidate. He may not carry the bloodthirsty impulses of the original Ballmasters, but his clear head will be able to properly put these powers to use. That’s exactly what happens in the end and the Xythryll is no match for the newly motivated Ballmaster duo of Ace and Baby Ball. The two show off a number of their new abilities and it looks like part of the fun of this transformation is the sheer insanity of it all. New attacks will be added to its arsenal with no rhyme or reason other than it making for aggressive entertainment.
“Very Special Balls!” bodes very well for the future of Ballmastrz and it’s the most balanced episode that the show has turned out. There’s once again a lot of exposition to get across in these meager 11 minutes, but the episode helps prove that tons of information doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it can help compliment your unusual action scenes.
Here’s hoping that the season wraps up with all-out war between a whole cabal of Ballmasters.