The latest creation of Yabako Sandrovich (Kengan Ashura), How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift?, has recently become somewhat of a cult classic among online anime and manga forums. From “Saido Chesto” to Jojo crossovers, no corner of the online otaku landscape seems to be able to escape the latest muscle-infused meme trend. Being a fan of weightlifting and having been a regular gym-goer myself for over a decade now, the first installment of How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift? seemed like a must-read.
Before I go much further, the art style, provided by MAAM, must be addressed. At first glance, the artwork is reminiscent, if not seemingly inspired by, the artwork found on the cover of countless hentai manga released over the past decade or so. This is assuredly deliberate and brings up the question of what age group is the title is targeting. To add to the confusion, many of the panels and character poses seem to be more for aesthetic purposes than necessity or art. This isn’t to say that the artwork is poor; there’s no doubt that the characters are detailed, organized, and expressive. So to answer the question, is this an adult title? No, and anyone expecting an adult title will surely be disappointed. Is this fan service? Yes, and it’s a big “Yes” at that.
With that out of the way, How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift? is a comedy that follows 17-year-old protagonist Hibiki Sakura who just can’t seem to muster up enough willpower to stop eating highly caloric foods. One morning, when chatting with her fellow friend and classmate Ayaka, she is told that she looks as if she has been suffering from the consequences of overeating. She’s gotten a bit chubbier. Thus begins the highschooler’s quest to shed a few pounds and obtain the figure of her dreams.
While taking a tour of Silverman’s Gym – an obvious parody of the real-life Gold’s Gym – Hibiki is mortified to discover that Akemi, her top-tier classmate, is also searching for a gym. As expected, the two end up becoming training partners, but much to Hibiki’s horror, Silverman’s Gym is not for amateurs but is intended for hardcore bodybuilders and professional fighters! Luckily for our heroine, handsome trainer Machio is there to give them personal training...as well as a bit of eye candy.
Volume 1 sets the stage by introducing what I expect to be the primary cast. In addition to Hibiki, Akemi, Ayaka, and Machio, teacher Satomi Tachibana, a female world history teacher with a deep secret, also joins the gym towards the later chapters. The female gym partners all have there own reasons for wanting to become “macho,” but they all have one thing in common: a love for Machio’s charm and sculpted body. The character interactions involving these eclectic characters are fairly engaging, typically revolving around shockingly believable body image issues to the not-so-shockingly realistic sexual jokes and gags. Dumbbells is billed as a comedy, yet the humor didn’t hit me hard. I did find some of the character's silly secrets entertaining even if they were not laugh-out-loud funny. I must also acknowledge that there are several references and parodies to old school manga that may tickle the right crowd.
It’s hard to say that the plot is introducing anything revolutionary in terms of plot, but for readers already entrenched in fitness or athletic culture, the manga might strike a chord. Anyone who participates in a sport that requires the monitoring of one’s weight will surely relate to constant calorie counting the characters suffer through, and will surely appreciate the “calorie count” next to the foods that the characters are ingesting as they refuel from workout to workout.
The manga surprised and impressed me with the author’s clear understanding of modern topics in athletic training. The breakdowns of exercises are well-informed, and while simple and incomplete, not incorrect. The pages are also jam-packed with discussions of current dieting fads and contemporary “bro-science” that I am convinced will excite anyone who has spent more than a few hours on a bodybuilding web forum. For those that do not belong to various fitness and sports communities, these references will likely go unappreciated.
As I alluded to earlier, it is impossible to escape the way the story and information are presented. While breakdowns of fundamental exercises like squats and presses are communicated effectively in terms of verbal output, the visualizations are usually used as excuses to show off female physical assets in exaggerated sexual poses. This isn’t unheard of in any other manga genre, but the illustrations are so over-the-top here that they become distracting. I understand that the female protagonists have been working out and sweating, but when their eyes roll up into the back of their heads as they stick their tongues out during a squat, absurdity begins to erode what could have been a more balanced blend of comedy, fitness culture, and fan service.
Perhaps this exaggeration of the human form was intended to be comedic, but after I was finished reading How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift?, I had a hard time deciding who to recommend this manga. I loved the satire of current training trends, and the dialogue was professionally constructed; however, the unbalanced use of fan service and lack of solid comedic moments hurt the title. This leaves me recommending Dumbbells to two groups of people: those after fan service who may or may not appreciate the topic and plot and those interested in a lighthearted sports manga that doesn’t quite live up to its premise. I fit into that second group, and it was entertaining enough that I might just read the second volume when it arrives. If you don’t fall into either of those groups, “saido chesto” memes might be all you need of Machio and Hibiki.
Hibiki is a teenage girl who loves to eat, but when she notices her waistline expanding, she decides to check out the local gym. The gym is full of buff dudes…and Akemi, the student council president?! When Akemi tries to convince Hibiki to take up weight training, Hibiki resists–until she meets pretty boy trainer Machio. Now, Hibiki is willing to do whatever it takes to get fit!Add to CartLearn More