Ballmastrz 9009 Episode 4 Review: To Catch A Princess

Ace follows his heart and chases his princess while love clashes with obsession and ignites with explosive results!

This Ballmastrz 9009 Review contains spoilers.

Ballmastrz: 9009 Episode 4

“You must be in the castle”

“Where else would I be?”

Much like Mario in the original Super Mario Bros., we’re all just trying to get to our princess at the end of our respective castles. Life is all about the journey and understanding that your princess won’t be at the end of that first castle. No, she’ll be off somewhere else and always just out of reach, despite your best efforts. It’s important to learn that life will repeatedly pull that rug out from under you and that your princess will sometimes be off in “another castle.” Ballmastrz attempts to crystalize this point in a strong installment that uses video games and magical girl anime as its lens.

“To Catch A Princess” draws its inspiration from romance simulation video games, which is a rich, deep well to draw material from here. Anime definitely has an obsession with the popular dating sim genre of video games and it’s not uncommon to see an episode of a series throw itself to the mercy of this device. Ballmastrz already has such a heavy anime influence, but “To Catch A Princess” definitely leans into this trait the hardest of any episode yet, not just in terms of its structure, but also the opposing team that Ace and the Leptons are up against in this episode.

This episode also gains a lot of points just in how it applies its wonton disregard for cohesiveness to the many tropes of video games. At one moment “Power Ace” goes through the motion of a dating sim, but then he inexplicably catches his Princess like she’s a Pokemon and he’s now in a monster hunting-type title. This all happens while Power Ace jumps from floating pieces of land like he’s navigating through a platformer. This attitude is perfect here and it helps the show cram in as much humor and as many insane visuals as possible.

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Originally it seemed like Ballmastrz would just find its comedy from the numerous tropes that go along with sports films and series. Now it’s exciting to see the show stray outside of that box a little due to the generous concept it’s created with the universe’s many disparate galaxies and competitors. For instance, why couldn’t the show do an episode where a team from a new planet is just a bunch of John McClanes and the whole thing is one big riff on the Die Hard franchise? “To Catch A Princess” helps explore the versatility of this show, even if it did initially feel like a series that might be limited or boxed in at times.

There’s also a bit of commentary here on how video games can become quite the addiction and take over people’s lives. Ace is more caught up in this cyber romance with Luna than the video games themselves, but “To Catch A Princess” still hints at the ugly side of video games and how unbecoming it can be to get lost continually chasing your princess. At one point a frustrated Gaz tells Ace that “video games are for losers who can’t win at anything in real life,” but it’s because of Ace’s obsession with gaming that he’s unfocused and useless at the Leptons’ practices.

The stakes get raised in the second half of the episode when Ace finally does catch his Princess and she insists that they take their relationship off of some server and into the real world. The vertically challenged Ace is a little concerned about meeting Luna since his avatar is more than a little exaggerated when it comes to his physique. Ace’s plan to come to his date as Ballmaster isn’t half bad and it finds a way to rope Baby Ball into all of this too, but there’s still the major catch that the two are still amateurs when it comes to the whole Ballmaster transformation.

This “date” quickly falls apart and Ace and Baby Ball wind up as hostages under the rule of Luna and her Oshigari Princesses. Naturally, they want to know the secret behind the Ballmaster transformation so that they can go through the same procedure and help bring their team to success. The Sailor Moon references here are all very much appreciated and the Oshigari Ball is dripping in kawaii goodness. This is a show that’s no stranger to exaggeration, but the Sailor Moon and “magical girl” tropes go over especially well. This will hopefully be a universe that the show returns to soon. It’d also be nice if the show offered a brief little piece of information regarding whether Dee Dee came from the Oshigari Princesses before transferring over to the Leptons. She’s certainly drawn in the same style so an acknowledgement towards that would be interesting.

“To Catch A Princess” tones down the action a little in this one (although it crams an awesome no holds barred fight into the final 90 seconds), but the characterization is stronger than ever. This is also probably the funniest episode of the show yet. All of the Oshigari’s unsuccessful attempts to create a Ballmaster with Ace and Baby Bell are a lot of fun. Their obliviousness mixed with the increasing frustration of Luna and company is a solid combination. Plus, the animation work on Luna and the other Oshigari Princesses just look gorgeous here. The whole lighting scheme during the rendezvous at the park is just beautiful to look at and is a good representation of the winning, unique art direction on this series. Between the yellow wash of the light from the park and the purple glow of computer screens, this episode offers ample opportunities to get creative.

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The music in Ballmastrz is always on point, but it’s also a highlight of the episode. It just always feels perfect for the subject matter, whether it’s the appropriate, simplistic beats that accompany the video game portions or the more thrilling music cues that dominate the battle in the final piece of the episode. There are also other small touches that go a long ways here, like the pixelated 16-bit-style speech boxes that pop up throughout Ace’s virtual adventures. Overall, “To Catch A Princess” actually becomes a stronger episode of the series because it puts the actual Ballmaster game in the backseat for once. The more that this show experiments with what it can be and how elastic its boundaries are, the more that this show blossoms and turns into something even more special. As it stands, Ballmastrz: 9009 is a wonderful series, but let’s see it become something even greater. Let’s see it chase that princess.

And who doesn’t love that nosebleed trope from anime? It’s a shame that hasn’t translated overseas. Picture Zach Galifianakis or Will Ferrell shooting blood geysers from their noses upon seeing a pretty lady. We’re a lesser society for not embracing that bizarre custom over here.


4 out of 5