If you want a balls-to-the-wall, frenetic, animated action series that centers on a post-apocalyptic game of sports-ball played to the death, then Adult Swim’s Ballmastrz: 9009 is for you. Go ahead and skip the rest of this review and set your screens for Christy Karacas‘ debut arriving on Sunday April 8th in a two-episode premiere; the Adult Swim series will then continue airing back-to-back episodes each week. Oh, and if you’re a fan of Karacas’ super-insane co-creation Superjail!, you’ll also want to check out Ballmastrz for more examples of the artist’s unhinged imagination.
For the rest of you who might need a little more coaxing–though you should always give Adult Swim shows a chance, in my humble opinion–here’s the low-down on Ballmastrz: The story takes place in the year 9009 where a washed-up sports star attempts to lead a winless team to their first-ever victory with the ultimate hopes of restoring her former fame and glory. It’s, as expected, completely insane and without boundaries, allowing anything and everything to become a character and a player in the game, be it a floating, muscular torso or a formless, gray blob.
Karacas’ quarter-hour series, produced by outstanding animation studio Titmouse, is a unique, stylized hybrid of animation that incorporates anime elements, rapidly produced sketchy sequences, and so, so, so many lens flares. It features a talented cast of voice actors, including Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) in the lead with Dana Snyder, Dave Willis, Jessica DiCicco, Eric Bauza, Christopher McCulloch and Karacas. Special guests who will arrive in the coming weeks include Norman Reedus, Stephanie Sheh and Mike O’Gorman.
You’ll know whether or not Ballmastrz: 9009 is your thing within a few moments of tuning in because it positively blasts its over-the-top style into your eyeballs from the get-go. It dares you to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of its exposition as a sports announcer/infomercial host hybrid quickly explains how the “Rad Wars” forever changed human civilization and led to the creation of The Game by The Great One. If your neurons can keep pace with the shifting animation styles, flashing lights, and visual riot of color that plays across these scenes, you’ll also learn that The Game is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to live sports entertainment. It’s the great leveler, a literal arena where unstoppable all-stars compete against perennial losers who hail from a world known for its energy-generating human waste-processing facilities, and they do so on equal ground.
While Ballmastrz: 9009 could have been an entertaining watch by just featuring a new game with new opponents in each episode, it takes things up a level by focusing on the character development of members of the losing team, the Leptons. It goes another step further when folding in mythology that connects the year 9009 with the distant past, revealing a powerful and unpredictable merging of man and machine that plays a central role in the Ballmastrz story. It’s tough to say just how well these characters will be received in the episodes to come, but in the three installments available to me, I was certainly left wanting to see more.
First, you’ve got Gaz (Lyonne), the all-star of the sport who goes on yet another bender and falls on hard times after another round of celebrity rehab; she’s your standard “bad boy” of the sports drama world who’s out for redemption. Helping her in that effort are Ace and his team, a bunch of lovable losers who’ve each got their own shtick. It’s Ace who’s the team’s heart, with Snyder’s Babyball providing the literal balls. While Gaz may seem like the Leptons’ ticket to their first win ever in The Game, a surprising turn of events actually puts that opportunity square into Ace’s hands, if only he can get his shit together. Luckily, the super creepy and weirdly charismatic supreme leader Crayzar is happy to help provide some wisdom along the way…
Ballmastrz: 9009 certainly isn’t for everyone; you’ll know if it’s for you within seconds. It’s best suited for those of you who are into progressive animation, surreal style, and classic cartoons like Mutant League. But I’d honestly give it at least the first two segments to see if you can settle into the insanity that has become part and parcel to Adult Swim’s programming.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Ballmastrz: 9009 premieres Sunday, April 8th at Midnight ET/PT on Adult Swim with new back-to-back episodes each week.