How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Hibiki Sakura’s love for food is starting to affect her size. In effort to slim down, she scopes out her local gym only to discover two problems—it’s a haven for intimidating body builders, and her classmate Akemi has a weirdly aggressive muscle obsession. After meeting her handsome personal trainer, Machio, Hibiki bites the bullet and starts her quest for a hot bod! (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Six episodes in and How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? remains one of the Summer’s strongest offerings. The series manages to foster an incredible balance between fun, easy-going comedy and informative segments that make up the bulk of Dumbbells’ episode run-time. Each episode offers sprinklings of fun comedy as our ever growing cast of girls heads over to the Silverman Gym and learn new tips, exercises, and important info for not only losing weight, but building muscle.
That balance between informative and comedic is essential, particularly as Dumbbells’ isn’t so solid in other areas. As character go Hibiki and Co. are quite thin. Each girl has a shtick, and rarely expands from it. This means each character is fairly standard episode to episode, save for Episode Six when we depart from formula a bit (more on that later.) This makes it difficult to latch onto any of the girls, outside of an appreciation for their visual design, but seeing as the series is more about doling out useful exercises it’s easier to forgive stagnant characters. Because the truth is Hibiki and Co. are merely dressing to make the exercise more enticing and interesting to watch. They’re there to ask the right questions, and make the informative nature of Dumbbells’ come out naturally, so you don’t entirely feel like you’re just watching a watered-down twenty-three exercise video, even if that’s actually kind of true.
The series does gradually seem to be shifting away from the heavy exercise info with Episode Six however. Episode Six is much more built around expanding knowledge of the body and maybe even allowing our characters to grow a little. Dumbbells’ mid-season episode sees Hibiki enter an Arm Sumo (Basically Arm Wrestling) tournament, as we introduce one of the last additions to our cast. This episode sees a significant departure from the series’s overall formula, foregoing exercise trivia in favor of a more standard battle shonen ‘tournament set up and tone. It’s all done tongue and cheek and makes for an excellent source of comedy, as well as a nice break so that Dumbbells’ overall formula doesn’t get too stale. The series also doesn’t entirely forgo that informative aspect, ensuring we learn a couple practical exercises before episode’s end.
The only major detractor to Dumbbells is its use of Ecchi content. Dumbbells, mostly, does a remarkable job of pandering to the male gaze with its sexy female leads, while remaining restrained enough so that it doesn’t put the rest of the audience off the useful exercise info. That said, there are several sequences where Dumbbells gives up any kind of pretense. On at least two occasions Dumbbells drops the act and positions several of its girls in playboy pin up like poses, without any clothing at all while talking about the muscles they’re going to be showing you how to work out. It’s in these parts that Dumbbells crosses a line, feeling truly like a pervy ecchi series and less so like the well-balanced mingling of comedy, ecchi and informative content it’s otherwise so good at. These moments have so far been fleeting however, making it easy to give the series a pass, for now.
Dumbbells remains one of the Summer’s absolute top anime, crafted with balance and care, most of the time, to make it a joy to watch every week. It’s one of the few anime that’s aired this year that I feel myself actively interested in owning once Funimation awards it with a physical release. If you’re looking for some light comedy, and you’re at least semi-interested in getting back into shape, than Dumbbells is a title you absolutely shouldn’t pass up.
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is available for streaming via Funimation.com