How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? ?
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? runs on exercise trivia, but here's a fun little factoid about the show itself: it's set in the same universe as Kengan Ashura, which is written by the same author, Yabako Sandrovich. And the Kengan Ashura anime just dropped on Netflix the same day Dumbbells airs on Crunchyroll! It does make for an odd contrast, like if you had a goofy cooking show spinoff of Berserk (though now that I think about it, that's a pretty apt description of Golden Kamuy). Either way, even beyond the difference in intensity of content, Dumbbells is obviously more about physical education and comedy than fierce competition. That is, until this episode!
Exercise isn't just used to improve your health or acquire a killer bod that can pick up cute boys. You can also use your toned and tightened muscles in the arena of competition! As this episode declares, sports is what the season of fall is all about. Unsurprisingly, Hibiki is less than interested in parlaying her workout routine into even more physical activity, but the cruel mistress of a lottery system lands her a key role in the sports festival nonetheless. At first pass, this just seems like an excuse for the show to go into detail about specialized training for running. And to its credit, it does so with its usual informative zeal. I've been intrigued by Dumbbells' dedication to the importance of efficiency in exercise: working out only the muscles you want for your desired results in terms of appearance and performance. At first it seemed odd, in that you were specifically instructed to ignore body parts you weren't developing for a purpose that matters to you, though I guess that's the definition of ‘bodybuilding’ from a certain point of view. The idea is to channel that hard work into your own personally desirable side-effects, like in the amusing scene where Hibiki gets excited about leg-curling her way to a cute butt.
I've mentioned before how Hibiki's a strong protagonist for this show because she's so straightforward and relatable, so her earnest attitude makes her easy to root for. That becomes much more direct in the first half of this episode, as she develops the drive to succeed in the relay race and does a good job bringing the audience along for the ride. This is actually the closest thing the show has had to a major conflict so far, even if the score ruling that makes Hibiki's role meaningful is somewhat contrived, as is the punchline at the end that deflates her struggle against Akemi. But it's still nice to get swept up into seeing Hibiki's efforts pay off in a tangible way. Even in a show that's fifty percent instructional video, there's been solid enough character development to make us want Hibiki to win.
That competitive streak continues into the second part of the episode, as does the more casual focus on character. Technically the ‘lesson’ part of this segment focuses on the sauna, and while I'll admit that I wasn't previously educated on the use of this gym standby, I was surprised that the truth was simpler than I expected. It makes for a silly antithesis to the show's otherwise highly-detailed instructions. You use the sauna simply by hanging out in it, and while it won't actually result in weight-loss, it does have other benefits like better blood circulation. The rest is just general sauna etiquette and safety, before a surprising warning about what not to do leads us into the real purpose of this portion: a sauna competition between all the girls.
It's another utterly shameless fanservice premise that I can't fault Dumbbells for, since it's never made any secret of its motivations, but even then what we get is remarkably blatant. It's just several minutes of the girls sitting around in towels, sweating and panting. If you've started up a routine exercising along with the show, I guess it makes for a heck of a motivating reward, even if the underlying lesson is that you absolutely shouldn't be using the sauna the way these girls are, as demonstrated by the final punchline of Tachibana-sensei passing out. That's pretty rote in terms of gags; I was much more tickled by the real final joke, and Akemi's adorable joy over the shirts Hibiki won with her raffle tickets.
Even with a more leisurely focus, there was still time in this episode for some education and motivation for audience participation. This time we got truly useful information on bicycle crunches, the ‘secret’ exercise Hibiki did to hone her running abilities. I'd never even heard of the iliopsoas! I was also incredulous at them wanting me to do forty of these things, but they ended up being rather invigorating. Crunches also get you abs, right? That could be the motivation I need. On top of all that, Machio was especially entertaining this week, leaning directly on the fourth-wall conventions of the at-home exercises and featuring one of his most well-animated tracksuit-busts yet. If you're watching Dumbbells more for the entertainment value of humor and fanservice than the pure educational content, this episode was a great example of those strengths.
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is currently streaming on Funimation.
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