How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? (2019)

Episode 01 – 12

Do You Even Lift, Bro?

Want to pump iron and exercise but can’t be bothered leaving home? Well, look no further, because How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? — or Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? — may be just the show for you!

A fun, energetic, motivational, and often educational (I’m not kidding) school-girl body-building comedy, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? offers practical tips on dieting, gym machinery tutorials, workout and warm-up routines, and hints on how to keep good form and reach peak condition, all while remaining light and entertaining. Not to mention, it has buxom babes in sexy sportswear and manly muscle-bros so buff you need a rock-climbing permit to mount. Heck, I’m not a gym junkie, but even I was compelled to try some of Machio’s Muscle Lessons (of the day) and post-credit fitness fundamentals, the muscleman counting reps and detailing training sets that can be done in comfort of your very own living-room.

Everyday I’m Muscle’n!

Based on the Japanese manga series written by Yabako Sandrovich and illustrated by MAAM, the series follows Hibiki Sakura, a blonde, tan-skinned teenage girl, attending Koyo Girls’ Academy, who has a bit of an insatiable appetite — the calories she eats are counted on screen, literally. When Hibiki is casually informed by her highly athletic film buff BFF/ classmate Ayaka Uehara that her waistline is expanding, she takes it upon herself to try and slim down; however, her solo efforts fail miserably, as Hibiki is unable to find incentive. With no other option, Hibiki bites the bullet and decides to scope out the newly opened local fitness center, the world-renowned Silverman Gym, hoping to get some inspiration there.

Although initially intimidated by the bulging bodybuilders beasting it up inside, Hibiki bumps into popular dark-haired peer Akemi Soryuin, an idol student (and school council president) with a muscle fetish, who makes the experience a bit more bearable for our gym newbie — basically, Akemi shows Hibiki the ropes. But it’s ultimately handsome gym instructor Naruzo Machio that convinces Hibiki to sign up and get membership, a charming personal trainer so ripped that flexing his muscles causes his clothes to tear off and reveal his herculean mass — when dressed in his white-and-blue tracksuit, though, Machio appears to be deceptively ordinary and not a hulking titan. Now, having bagged a dedicated PT and gym buddy, Hibiki makes it her mission to get toned by summer vacay. Let’s muscle!

Putin’s got the power!

Produced by animation house Doga Kobo, and zestily directed by Mitsue Yamazaki, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (2014), How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is bursting with energy, color and creativity. And, honestly, it has such strong production values — think solid animation and attractive artwork — for a series predominantly focused on cute girls doing squats and bench presses while showing off their curves, and beefy dudes, built like a fridge, dropping power moves to flaunt their tight pecs and biceps. What’s more surprising, however, is just how little lewdness is found here, with shenanigans like boobie bongo absent from the action — it has mild sexualized imagery at best.

But, it’s the zany, smart, and snappy script/ series composition by Fumihiko Shimo — who’s worked on both the Fairy Tail anime and Full Metal Panic! — that truly elevates the whole thing, transforming a rather goofy premise into something that’s both serious and side-splitting, balancing comedy and drama within a Beginner’s Guide to Fitness and Lifting story structure. And How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? manages to sustain and even justify its 12-episode length — I was legit never bored. Although a tad repetitive at first (there are stacks of muscle-building exercises and advice on protein shakes and pointers to help gain muscle mass), the narrative progresses with each passing episode, steadily focusing on character and story rather than just cutting it up — we get the obligatory beach trip *cough* bikinis *cough* and a Christmas-themed episode, too. Whether you’re rooting for Hibiki’s success, who competes in arm-wrestle challenges and participates in a whacky Idol audition in her quest for a smokin’ hot bod, or admiring the sheer execution and determination of Machio, who takes gymming so deadly serious that it often becomes hilarious, there’s so much to enjoy here.

Personal Trainer Flirt Alert

And you don’t need to be a body-obsessed keep-fit-fanatic to appreciate the series. There are a plethora of other non-fitness related gags as well — visual and verbal; from clever pop-culture winks (does the name Barnold Shortsinator sound familiar?) to shrewd observations on the cosplay hobby, the anime commenting on the stigma that often comes with playing dress-ups — particularly if you hold a high-status job.

On top of all this, the key players are excellently designed, each given a distinct personality with individual ticks, quirks, and ambitions — they’re not the token anime characters you’d generally find in this sort of throwaway series. Snaggle-toothed protagonist Hibiki, who’s drawn slightly thicker than her lady pals, is upbeat and bubbly, and though physically attractive, she’s still self-conscious about her weight and size and struggles with image and confidence, voicing some real-world concerns faced by young women today — I found her to be rather endearing. Moreover, she contrasts nicely against the slender, fair-skinned Akemi, who wears a light-blue tank top and black compression shorts vs. Hibiki’s red sporty shorts and loosish black singlet. Akemi is probably my favorite of the girls, from a design standpoint.

‘I don’t sweat, I sparkle.’

Other characters are equally as appealing, bringing with them different challenges and viewpoints on the wide world of working out. The athletic Ayaka comes from a family of boxers (her well-defined abs make her identifiable as the most disciplined of the gals), whereas history teacher Satomi Tachibana provides some spot-on observations on the awkwardness of running into students outside of school hours. And then there’s Machio, the well-informed, speedo-sporting trainer, who supplies much of the laughs with his absurd bro-science, ridiculous poses (Saido Chesto!), and comical physique — his shredded form is a complete contrast to his baby face. And, what school-centered anime would be complete without the transfer student; this time, it’s white-haired Russian darling Gina Boyd, whose competitiveness and general fascination with the Japanese culture (although, she’s always getting it confused with Chinese) infuses the proceedings with an extra dash of silliness.

Turning to music, the bouncy J-pop opening ‘Onegai Muscle,’ a collaboration single between Fairouz Ai and Ishikawa Kaito (the voice actors behind Hibiki and Machio) really gets the blood pumping, while the ending theme, ‘Macho a Name?’ performed by Ishikawa (again), aids to wipe the sweat away; of course, each of these is accompanied by vibrant animation and lively art. The overall soundtrack is pretty first-rate, too, as is the voicework and English dub by Funimation. So, it’s full marks all-around.

True strength comes from within.

All up, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? comes as a breath of fresh air; this is a series that has fun with traditional gym-archetypes while twisting familiar comedic anime tropes into something that feels novel and refreshing — it’s playful, informative, invigorating, and wholly worth your time. While die-hard gym rats might scold the series for being way too OTT or unrealistic, it may encourage those who’ve never before ventured to a health club to get off their backsides and purchase that membership they’ve been putting off. Nice bulk!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by S-Littner

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is released through Madman Entertainment Australia