I think we can all take a guess as to what the real appeal of How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is. Anime girls in tight gym clothes breaking a sweat? No way an anime won’t flaunt that. That being said, it is actually a little interesting to see an anime centered around exercise. When you watch a lot of anime, you’ll run into a character concerned about their weight (a subject Japan treats less sensitively than here in the States). And yet, exercise is generally not the go-to method these animated characters use to get fit. Usually, it’s dieting or the plot simply doing something absurd such as the summer heat causing the character in question to lose an enormous amount of fat or something. With that in mind, I do kind of admire Dumbbells for showing its characters hit the gym. It also helps that the show itself is looking to be pretty good.
The protagonist of Dumbbells is Hibiki Sakura (Ai Fairouz), a high school girl who decides she needs to exercise after her friend, Ayaka Uehara (Shizuka Ishigami), asks her if she’s gaining weight. Part of me does think Sakura is blowing her predicament out of proportion. According to the show, she weighs 55 kg and stands at 160 cm. Combined, that’s technically pretty good BMI. That doesn’t stop her from serving her role well though. Anyone who works out will find a lot to relate with Hibiki’s disbelief with the initial hurdles of exercise and her determination to keep at it even when both her mind and body get exhausted. She also works well as an everyman, exercising because she feels like it and perceiving everyone around her as overzealous bodybuilders.
Speaking of which, there are some pretty eccentric co-stars in this show. Hibiki’s gym partner, Akemi Souryuuin (Sora Amamiya), is simply a joy — gushing at the sight of buff muscles but also incredibly motivated to be fit herself because she loves muscles so much. Meanwhile, you have the girls’ trainer, Naruzou Machio (Kaito Ishikawa), an absurdly buff man (that character design) who nevertheless proves to be a competent and an encouraging gym trainer. Both characters are highly entertaining and combined with Hibiki acting as the straight man in the bunch, you have a really fun dynamic going on in this show.
Something neat about Dumbbells is that it is pretty knowledgeable about exercise. In this episode, Naruzou goes over with Hibiki the bench press and squats and he explains to her how to properly execute them, even breaking them down into a series of steps. The show also elaborates on what muscles benefit from each routine (the way it does so though…more on that in a bit). The most amusing tidbits thrown in though are text effects detailing the calories Hibiki’s food have. It’s a neat way to tell the viewer to still be mindful of what you eat while getting fit. Although I must say, it kind of feels like they’re patronizing Hibiki. Why do I get the feeling she’s going to be in the gym a lot?
As for the fan service, I think it’s perfectly fine. I prefer it when an anime has a diegetic excuse for that kind of stuff and Dumbbell does have that advantage going for it. When the show does deliberately flaunt some eye candy, it’s at least cheeky about it. For example, whenever Naruzou explains a routine to Hibiki, his narration is accompanied by some shots of Akemi posing and showing off the muscles that benefit from said routine. There’s no denying the erotic nature of these shots but to be fair, it technically is still conveying some valuable info surrounding the show’s subject matter. You also have Hibiki break the fourth wall, express disbelief at how erotically Akemi is posing, and even accuse the show she’s in of pandering. That I’ll admit is pretty funny.
I’m liking How Heavy the Dumbbells You Lift?. It may be really easy to snicker at the show’s exercise theme for obvious reasons but so far, the cast seem pretty likable and the plot is something one can relate with. The show is also pretty informative about exercise even if it does sometimes present said info in a very “purposeful” way. As always, I have my silly seasonal CGDCT streak going and this show is looking to fit the bill for this summer.
OP: “Onegai Muscle” by Hibiki Sakura (CV: Ai Fairuz) & Naruzou Machio (CV: Kaito Ishikawa)
ED: “Macho a Name?” by Naruzou Machio (CV: Kaito Ishikawa)
Thanks for reading!