How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? ?
I appreciate how Dumbbells consistently tries to keep itself fresh and interesting. We're constantly cycling through shifts in settings and situations, along with regular character additions. We get all of that again in this week's episode, as we're immediately introduced to two of Tachibana-Sensei's fellow teachers (so I won't be able to keep calling her ‘Sensei’ for short now), mostly so we have a big enough cast within the school to send everyone off on a class trip to the mountains. But it still seems to be business as usual for the show in terms of educational content, which is fine by me in the wake of the last week, and it seems like there could be a major storyline shake-up coming in the next episode.
Kure-Sensei and Aina-Sensei are solid additions to the supporting cast. Aina seems to mostly exist to play straight man to Tachibana, as a teacher who doesn't have any kind of cosplay-related secret, while Kure is packing some surprise strength and a habit of going demon-eyes on anybody who brings up her being older than everyone else, which of course happens a lot. The age-related roasts of Kure are maybe too repetitive and mean-spirited to be as funny as the show thinks they are, though at least she doesn't take it lying down, and her vicious reactions are entertaining. Anyway, new patrons with different exercise goals leads us to a discussion of everyone's favorite subject: abs!
The main point of Machio's Muscle Lessons this week is that general exercises without proper guidance and explanation of what parts you're working out won't give you the results you want. Abs aren't just about crunching the mid-section; firming up the sides is important too. We get a revisit of the bicycle crunches from Hibiki's relay training, but the episode also demonstrates the side-bends: a simple at-home exercise with lots of variables for intensity. I was expecting these to be the post-credits workout, but even though they weren't, I tried them out anyway, and they aren't too bad! The post-episode lunges were also relatively easy. It's neat that for all the show's emphasis on gym membership and working with weights and equipment, Dumbbells has also built up quite the repertoire of exercises viewrs can do at home with minimal setup. The show just wants to encourage people to partake in the activities it loves, in any way they can.
That same sense of accessibility remains as the action moves to a forest for that hiking trip. Of all Dumbbells's various changes in scenery, this is definitely one of the nicest-looking, and it speaks to the ambitions of the show that go beyond just slapping attractive characters over a gym background and giving us exercise lessons every week. In the woods, we learn that there's actually a ‘proper’ way to walk while hiking, training your body in the process while making the actual act of climbing up forested mountains easier. There are quite a few steps to this process, more than I might have thought, but the easy-going atmosphere of Kure-Sensei's lessons and the silly speed-walking effect that results sell all this effort amusingly.
Of course, Hibiki, Aina, and Tachibana end up power-walking so fast that they get lost, leading to some momentary gallows humor in their defeatist overreactions and an exercise explanation that's tangentially related at best. I've got no problem with rope-climbing on its own; it was one of my favorites back in my wrestling-practice days, and I'm nowhere near as good at it now as I was then. But those methods seem barely applicable to the tree-climbing Tachibana tries to relate it to, and the show even ends up explaining that climbing a tree isn't terribly useful if you find yourself lost on the side of a mountain. Not that I'm expecting this show to dispense survivalist tips alongside all its home exercise instructions, but it feels like there might have been a more graceful way to get that rope-climbing content into the show. Then again, given the extremely flimsy logic that leads our characters to the performative punchline of trying to scale the tree in their underwear while the other characters watch from afar, maybe I should focus less on sweating the story logistics and more on sweating off some extra pounds.
About the only other criticism I can lodge with this episode is that between focusing on the new characters and all the special exercises and wacky situations, the main cast felt oddly sidelined this week. Hibiki gets a good part to play during the trip, but Akemi, Ayaka, and Gina are all left with little to do. Dumbbells has always been an informational gag series more than a character study, so this isn't a huge deal, but it's still notable that the series piles on more and more elements, which could end up spreading its appeal thin. At least there were still plenty of Machio antics this week, and the end of the episode teases an upcoming major storyline shift focused around him. So I'm not too worried that Dumbbells will keep finding new ways to entertain us.
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is currently streaming on Funimation.
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