This Ballmastrz: 9009 review contains spoilers
Ballmastrz: 9009 Episode 7
“I was totally useless. It’s like some vital piece of me has gone missing.”
There’s a reason that the expression, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s done,” is so relatable. It’s a universal idea that can essentially refer to anything. Before the destructive carnage of the Rad Wars, people probably took normalcy and peace of mind for granted, too.
It’s easy to underappreciate something when it turns into part of a routine. It’s safe to say that everybody has lost something in their lives, but this old adage is arguably the most painful when it’s applicable to another person. “2 Hearts, 2 Wheelz, Infinite Roadz” explores this idea from a number of different angles, but the bulk of them revolve around Ballmastrz’ lovable, explosive female figure, Duleena Duneeda (aka Dee Dee).
Ballmastrz: 9009 is far from formulaic, but it’s done a good job at spreading the love amongst its cast and letting most episodes showcase someone new. In this case the spotlight shines on Dee Dee and she gets to step out of the shadows and become more developed than a bi-polar anime yandere.
On top of that, the episode also fleshes out the laconic Leto Otel as it tries to explain the complicated are they/aren’t they dynamic of his “relationship” with Dee Dee. Both characters get their due here as distinct individuals, but also as a couple. Plus, Norman Reedus joins the party for some biker-centric madness that feels very appropriate for the scruffy actor.
The finer points of Dee Dee and Leto’s relationship remain a mystery, but it’s easy enough to fill in some blanks. That being said, it’s a little unclear why Leto is so insistent to tell everyone that he’s notin a relationship with the love-crazy Lepton. It doesn’t seem that Leto dislikes Dee Dee by any means, but that he merely seems to be uninterested in any sort of romance all together. This sparse, stoic character almost feels asexual in how he acts.
Dee Dee and Leto reach an impasse and their differences lead to a chaotic bar fight that has a very Rube Goldberg-like momentum to it, which Karacas always excels at. It’s a nice change of pace to see this raw animation style get funneled into a barroom brawl instead of the usual Ballmastrz theatrics. The series continues to find fun, creative ways to inject their signature touches into new environments. If there were any reservations that Ballmastrz wouldn’t be able to sustain itself, they should be long gone by this point.
The Leptons don’t fare too well in their bar fight and they’re about to get finished off when the leader of these bikers, Bacchus LaBrute (Norman Reedus), shows some interest in Dee Dee and her spitfire attitude. Bacchus makes quite the impression on Dee Dee and it doesn’t take much effort for him to lure her away from her Ballmastrz friends and hop onto his bike with the rest of his gang.
It honestly just seems like Dee Dee’s happy to get some attention for once here. Leto’s lackadaisical shtick doesn’t really lend itself to gigantic romantic gestures. Not to mention, with the rest of the Leptons looking so “unconventional,” Dee Dee might not have been infatuated with Leto so much as he was just the most convenient option available. Bacchus seesDee Dee and wants her to embrace her wild ways with him. That leaves the Leptons to limp forward to their upcoming match and for Leto to pick up the pieces and recover from what just happened. He’s completely useless on the Ballmastrz field because he can’t stop thinking about Dee Dee and the mess that he’s made.
Dee Dee has never seemed like the most fundamental member of the Leptons, so it’s telling to get an installment that reinforces how useless the team is without her involvement. This might be a little overdone in the end, but it more so speaks to the point that everyone on the Leptons are needed.
They’re more than just a team and to lose any of their members would be like losing a limb (and without the proper regenerative B.E.H.O. parasites to recover it). That’s a strong idea in itself, but it becomes even more powerful when it comes from the fact that Dee Dee leaves the team. She doesn’t just think about it, but she actually does it, which is necessary for both her and her friends to understand her significance.
The episode navigates a bit of a dual narrative as the Leptons struggle and Dee Dee acclimates to her new rougher lifestyle with the Middle Fingers Bikers Gang. It’s enjoyable to get to watch Dee Dee come into her own and really go wild with her new ways.
As nice as this is, Gaz and the rest of the Leptons are tired of losing and decide that playing Cupid and bringing Leto and Dee Dee back together is necessary for their success. It’s makes a lot of sense that Ace would fall back on the power of love and push forward such an idealistic, romantic plan, but it’s a little surprising to not see Gaz or Baby Ball push forward a more sinister alternative. Maybe it’s just because they know that a Dee Dee and Leto reunion is the path of least resistance here, but it’s still a shame that it has to come at the expense of her fun with Bacchus.
Leto’s strength comes from his thoughtful love poems, but it’s pretty clear that poetry isn’t going to be enough to save the day here. Instead Leto gets a makeover so he looks as tough as Bacchus, but he’s still got a long way to go. It’s very interesting to see that Dee Dee’s return is prompted by a drastic display of testosterone and not a result of Bacchus turning into a bad guy or her new life becoming a bore. Leto’s gesture helps Dee Dee remember what she loves about him, but Bacchus is far from a villain. He’s arguably still a better companion for Dee Dee that actually challenges and encourages her, too.
This message might be a little messy, along with how it pushes that men need to be aggressive rather than sensitive, but the foundation of the story is still strong and it leads to some great character work. It’s also a little regrettable that this episode falls right after “Ultimate Gaz Boom Boom Rookie Card,”which also put unrequited relationships front and center. These episodes still have very different focuses and points of view, but making this the eighth episode instead of the seventh might help this entry play a little better in a binge.
Bacchus mocks Leto attempts to earn back Dee Dee’s love and he offers him one opportunity to win back Dee Dee. Everything comes down to the classic tradition of a dangerous motorcycle race that’s set on Gallow’s Gulch. Leto plays the part well and has no shortage of courage for this challenge, but it doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t own a motorcycle and even if he did, he doesn’t know how to ride one.
Ace and Baby Ball put some inventive brainstorming to use and figure out a new Ballmaster formation that Leto will hopefully be able to ride to success. The consistent solution where Ace and Baby Ball transform into a new thing to fix their problems could easily become tiring real quick, but thankfully the show understands to not overuse this device and to make it feel different each time. As it stands, the visual of characters morphed into tools like swords or bikes is still quite entertaining.
The climactic race between Leto and Bacchus starts out a little tame. All of Baby Ball’s tactics to take out the competition, like his gas clouds and vomit slicks, have a very slapstick Looney Tunes mentality to them. There’s a fun innocence to these obstacles, but the excessive carnage slowly trickles in and the race turns into quite the bloodbath before Leto edges out Bacchus at the finish line.
Overall, “2 Hearts, 2 Wheelz, Infinite Roadz” feels like the episode of Ballmastrz: 9009’s first season that gives in the most to homages and classical ideas to connect its dots. The installment pulls from stuff like Mad Max, Fast and the Furious, and the collective works of James Dean. The episode relies on a lot of old fashioned, reductive story tropes, but it does so in a very innocuous manner.
Clearly the intent here is to have fun and not to marginalize anyone. The episode just wants to be able to build to an exciting race for its conclusion. In spite of these clunky gender dynamics, the installment saves some face with how Dee Dee ultimately saves Leto and rescues herself. She proves that she’s tougher than both Leto and Bacchus, which does leave the character in quite the empowered place.
If last week’s “Ultimate Gaz Boom Boom Rookie Card” borrowed some character designs that paid homage to Kill la Kill, then “2 Hearts, 2 Wheelz, Infinite Roadz” finds its character inspiration from the titular macho id of swagger in Space Dandy.
Bacchus LaBrute is a tremendous stereotype, but it’s the job that’s necessary for this role. Reedus plays the part with a certain relaxed glee, too. Furthermore, the twangy music that accompanies Bacchus and his Middle FingersBiker Gang is also a really nice touch that adds a little more personality to all of this.
This episode ultimately hits more than it misses due to its character development for Dee Dee and Leto. While I’m all for an episode that focuses on Bob the silent alien, I’m not sure I need a Lulu-centric entry any time soon. Even though this is one of the weaker installments from the show’s first season, it still has many memorable sequences and continues to expand its universe in a fun way.