How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? ?
Our workout is complete, and we are done-bells! It's neither surprising nor damning to reveal that How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? goes out pretty much the same way it came in: a string of exercise instructionals linked together with cute and fanservicey antics from all these characters we've come to love. Hey, working out is all about maintaining a routine, and this series has gotten that down to such a strong science that I wasn't concerned about them messing with it too much. The good news is that after the past couple episodes did prove lighter on entertainment value, Dumbbells heeds the burning advice of any good workout coach and finishes strong.
Part of that means peppering this episode with the most fanservice yet, as another beach trip (this time to the hallowed tropical mecca of ‘Muscle Island’) conspires to put the whole cast back in swimsuits. But it continues to be of the more incidental type of fanservice that Dumbbells has enjoyed so far. And hey, Machio's showing off too, along with stripped-down versions of Deire and Jason Sgatham if you're into that. The point is that unlike the squad's disappointment at the lack of activities they found in episode four, this episode lets everyone get together for some more beach-episode antics. And that's fine, because a fun vacation with these characters is a great way to party down in the finale.
The humor's more toned than in the recent past, which helps. That's partially spurred by how well it integrates the development we've seen the characters go through as they leveled up their workout skills to this point. So we get good motivated jokes like Hibiki actually being interested in learning trap exercises, at the expense of the watermelon she was so invested in splitting. It's a good example of how Dumbbells's formula has come into its own, with targeted training humor cutting through the expected anime antics. That delightful dissonance even feeds into the fanservice, as this episode blurs out any hint of Ayaka's too-saucy swimsuit and instead leads into the stuff we're really here for, like glorious shots of Akane doing handstand pushups or Hibiki clobbering a punching bag clean off the hook.
The antics in this episode are truly in top form. It's not just the feats of strength demonstrated by Hibiki and Akane in the talent show that forms this episode's climax. We get a distraught Gina having her shtick stolen by a cameo character who's even more of a comical Russian stereotype. We get Hibiki and Akane in a bench-press lift-off that produces a beautifully animated lightning dragon showdown, until we find out Hibiki was too hungry to actually compete. Remember not to starve yourself in the name of fitness! That kind of anticlimax is par for the course in Dumbbells, but the lead-up to it is clever. As Akane notes, the girls' efforts have brought them full-circle, where we could concretely measure how much stronger they've gotten at the end of this three-month exercise plan. Dumbbells is hilarious even when it's taking itself seriously, but as Hibiki exposits at the end, exercise can be better for you when it's less about competition and more about enjoying yourself. Maybe the real muscles were the friends we made along the way.
Not that we slow down on the exercises, even as this show throws itself a going-away party. There's the aforementioned trap exercises we learn, an understated use of hand weights that's good for posture and shoulder-pain, particularly useful for a perpetually seated office type like myself (to say nothing of sitting on my duff watching and writing about anime). Akane's stunt also lets Dumbbells cover something I couldn't believe they hadn't gotten around to yet: push-ups! These straining staple sets are infamously variable, and the show's instructional goes into detail about the different ways you can work out with different stances, even noting the benefits you could expect from doing Akane's high-power handstand variant, if you're able to safely pull those off. Naturally, we close the whole show out on this classic exercise, timed for twenty seconds rather than paced to a set number. I was able to do just eleven push-ups in that time, but to my credit I felt pretty good after knocking those out! I'm hoping I'll be able to keep up with the meager workout routine I've taken from this show even as it leaves my weekly routine. I've noticed some decent upticks in how I feel and improvements in the exercises I've been doing over this time. It'd be nice to think this inconsequential little show could have a measurably positive effect on some part of my life.
Overall, this last episode was an effective reminder of how much I'd come to enjoy Dumbbells, despite entering it with hardly any expectations. It effortlessly accomplished its goals, and it was fun and infectiously enthusiastic to watch along the way, helping us in the audience to learn something about fitness. If the measure of a show like this is how much it gets you to engage with the activity it was promoting, then this qualifies as a success. And I wouldn't mind if it was successful enough that we see these characters in another season again sometime. Hopefully it'll give me an encouraging boost if I find myself falling off this workout wagon.
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is currently streaming on Funimation.
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