I’ll be honest: I knew I was going to like BALLMASTRZ 9009. It’s the sort of show that has “me” written all over it. As a show from the makers of SUPERJAIL, I would’ve been happy with a slightly more coherent sequel. But this show went beyond my expectations.

There are a few things I love to see in cartoons:

  1. Energy
  2. Surreal animation
  3. Violence (I admit it)
  4. Cuteness
  5. A hint of a larger story
  6. A bit of heart

It’s rare that I find a show that checks all these boxes, but BALLMASTRZ 9009 did just that. It manages to be equal parts crude, violent, and cute. It’s both juvenile and witty. Most importantly, it has just the right amount of heart to balance out its manic, cynical tone. With the first season over, it’s time we take a look back and evaluate this strange, exciting new show.

So, what’s there to like about BALLMASTRZ 9009? What’s it about? Is it worth watching? Well, let’s take a look!

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The Plot

The world of BALLMASTRZ 9009 is a dystopian ’80s fever dream. Drawing influence from THE HUNGER GAMES, THE RUNNING MAN, and ROLLERBALL, society is held together by a violent sport called “The Game.” The protagonist, Gaz Digzy, was once The Game’s best player but has since become a washed up, out of shape drunk. The ruler of the world, a magical being named Crayzar, gives her one last chance to get her act together and come back to the league.

I’d explain more, but this video really sums up the tone, theme, and plot of the show better than I ever could:

So Gaz is made the captain of The Leptons, the worst team in the entire game. The show follows the misadventures of Gaz and her new “friends” as they compete against a bizarre assortment of mutants, robots, and quirky characters.

A Haze of Surreal Humor

You’d probably expect a show like this to rely solely on violence and gross-out humor, but BALLMASTRZ 9009 is surprisingly creative with its plots.

Each episode goes in a direction you likely won’t expect. Mundane tasks become epic quests, full of strange characters and over-the-top obstacles. In one episode, Gaz decides to pick up some valuable trading cards from an old flame. The conflict quickly explodes into chaos, with lethal security drones and armies of henchmen standing in her way.

Her ex’s “bestie” is a swordsman straight out of an anime, who chides Gaz for her toxic behavior. He sounds like a character from SPEED RACER and the way he shouts “Bros…BEFORE HOES!” is just priceless. He ends up in a duel with Gaz’s teammate Ace and The Leptons’ talking team ball, who merge into a robotic super-soldier whenever their minds sync up.

All this for a few holo-cards… (Courtesy of Den Of Geek)

This is BALLMASTRZ 9009 in a nutshell. It blends the manic with the mundane. It’s a world where every action, task, and activity is taken to its most energetic, surreal extreme. There’s no such thing as a “normal day” for these people.

That being said, this is still a show full of fart jokes and ball-related puns. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I can’t recommend it to anyone looking for “high-brow” entertainment. But not every show needs to be a high-brow. There’s more than enough room for a show like BALLMASTRZ: a show that revels in its own immaturity while offering something a bit more creative than you’d expect.

BALLMASTRZ may be a haze of surreal animation and crude humor, but there’s a surprising amount of story and worldbuilding to be found here.

I’m Actually Intrigued By This World

Christy Karacas, the creator of BALLMASTRZ 9009, is most known for his work on SUPERJAIL. While I loved the show, it wasn’t exactly known for its cohesive, consistent worldbuilding.

BALLMASTRZ 9009 maintains the insanity of its predecessor while providing a more established world. There’s actually a sense of history here, a mythos that slowly reveals itself as the season goes on. The origin of The Game ties into the history of the world, which was destroyed by nuclear fire during “The Rad Wars.” Ace’s ability to merge with his ball is an ancient, mythical practice from before The Game even existed. Crayzar, the supreme leader of Earth, is a man full of secrets and intrigue. I genuinely want to know more about him and how he became this godlike being.

CHILDREN OF THE WHALES: An Ambitious Disappointment

None of the worldbuilding is particularly deep or surprising yet. The show has a long way to go before it reaches the shocking revelations of ADVENTURE TIME or the complex relationships of STEVEN UNIVERSE, but there’s enough story here to keep you intrigued. I want to see where this story goes next. I want to know more about this world, and that’s more than I can say about a lot of cartoons.

The Animation is Polarizing

At first glance, the show’s animation is a bit primitive. Movement looks choppy, and there’s a lot of “wiggling” in place of convincing motion. It’s pretty clear most of the budget went into the fight scenes. The show suddenly becomes visceral and eye-popping whenever The Leptons are playing a game, but otherwise, the animation can be pretty mediocre. The difference in quality is like night and day.

You could say the animation suits the tone and style of the show: it’s hectic, a bit silly-looking, and prioritizes energy over elegance.

Whether you like the animation or not, the art style is worth talking about. There’s a surprising amount of detail in the environments. You can always find several unique mutants or aliens within a crowd. In each scene, there are usually multiple details to draw your eye. While the foreground may be a beautiful park, the background is a sprawl of half-ruined factories. The color palette is diverse, ranging from dystopian hues to neon glitz to bright, cutesy kitsch.

Every team The Leptons face has a unique “gimmick” and style. There’s talking trains, wind-up dog toyssuper-buff anime schoolgirls, and all manner of strange, abstract monsters.

Just a few of the teams they face throughout the first season. (Courtesy of Den Of Geek)

Draw Me a World

All of this contributes to the general vibe of the show. It feels like a real world, regardless of how strange it is. Whether or not you enjoy the show’s visuals is a matter of personal taste. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I find its style endearing and creative.

If I were to suggest anything, I’d tell them to go further with this visual storytelling. Give us more unique character designs. Don’t just stick The Leptons in the same, bland training room. Show us more seedy cities and dive bars. Let us sink into this weird world.

Ace Steals the Show

While Gaz is the driving force behind the plot, Ace Ambling is the heart of the show. An orphaned boy who idolizes Gaz, Ace is the perfect foil to her cynical nature. Amidst the chaotic, drug-fueled cacophony of the show, Ace serves an adorable contrast. His “can-do” attitude is infectious and he’s always the one to rally the team.

I just wanna hug him. (Courtesy of Adult Swim)

He rarely falls into the dreaded “annoying kid” trope. He’s not rude, he’s never obnoxious, and he’s not a drag on the team. Ace is the kind of kid that spends his free time at an animal shelter. He’s naive, but not stupid. He’s just an earnest force of positivity in this delightfully dark world.

Just the Right Amount of Heart

I love cartoons with a dark, cynical, comedic edge. I love seeing characters do bad things and I love seeing bad things happen to them as a result. But most of all, I love when the most cynical shows have a bit of heart.

I wasn’t expecting this from BALLMASTRZ 9009, but as the season went on I found myself caring about these people without even realizing it. The show manages to slip in some character development without you noticing it, to establish chemistry under your nose, and to subvert the most cynical tropes that come with this style of cartoon.

Unexpected Charm

[Minor spoilers below]

For example: In the last episode of the season, Gaz has to face off against her old teammates. Now, if this were a lesser show the rival team would be portrayed as generic bad guys. They’d mock Gaz for getting kicked off the team, they’d insult her new teammates, and they’d ultimately drive her closer to The Leptons. Throughout the entire season, we were kind of expecting “The Boom Boom Boys” to be just like Gaz: rude, arrogant, and cynical.

Instead, the exact opposite happens. Gaz refuses to acknowledge it, but it’s clear that her old teammates still care about her and just want her to do well in life. This shines a bigger light on her own actions in the episode, which are even more self-destructive than usual while making the conflict a bit more interesting.

If Gaz wins the game, she can go back to playing with her old team or she can stay with The Leptons. This only makes her choice more difficult.

[Spoilers end]

That said, the show is more about action and hijinks than character development. But the way they build upon these characters and their relationships with every episode does a lot to keep me engaged. I want to see what Gaz does next. I want to see The Leptons finally win a game. It’s fun to see these people go on adventures, solve mysteries, and fight in the arena. What more could I ask of a show like this?

BALLMASTRZ 9009 — The Verdict

BALLMASTRZ 9009 could’ve easily been another wacky, incoherent show on Adult Swim. It could’ve skated by as a morbid curiosity, something to tune in for when you’re in the mood for a surreal spectacle and little else. But BALLMASTRZ 9009 goes that extra step, becoming a genuinely engaging show for any fan of crude silliness and energetic hijinks. It’s the extra layer of worldbuilding, heart, and good writing that makes it truly entertaining.

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BALLMASTRZ 9009 is the best of Adult Swim. If you’re a fan of that channel’s special brand of madness, then you’re bound to love this show.

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