「バーベル何キロ持てる?」 (Barbell Nan Kilo Moteru?)
“How Heavy Are the Barbells You Lift?”
In the finale for Dumbbell nan Kiro Moteru, we’re given a slight breather as the Nikunoshima Tour gives the girls an opportunity to relax in a lush tropical island off the southeast coast of Japan. But as they are roped into the women’s division of the Nikunoshima Tour competition, it aims to display the level of growth and maturity that both Hibiki and Akemi have experienced ever since they began working out at Silverman Gym together.
The tone of the episode might not be weighty or serious, and the fitness tips emphasize simpler work-out routines such as push-ups or exercises to strengthen traps, but in a way, that’s what makes the final episode special. The Nikunoshima Tour brings out each of the girls’ competitive sides as they all aim to find their ace-in-the-hole to gain the upper hand and walk away with the grand prize. Even though Akemi would be getting the most out of the prize itself, each of the main girls has good-natured fun that they try to inject into the competition. Gina’s plan is hilariously devastating as her desire to sweep the competition with a Cossacks Dance is thwarted by an identical Russian transfer student who just so happened to appear in the competition out-of-nowhere. Similarly, Ayaya faced the unfortunate fate of having her routine canceled because her swimsuit was revealing enough to be outright censored. Despite the anti-climactic nature of Akemi’s victory, it was funny to see how much of their friendly rivalry was built up with the cinematic flair that the barbell tie-breaker had up until it was revealed that Hibiki tapped out from hunger long before she could even lift a single weight.
Through this victory, however, we see the biggest strength in the show in that it empowers the ability to enjoy the experience of working out, especially if it’s with a close friend. Hibiki might not have walked away with the grand prize, but she had a greater deal of fun just lifting weights next to Akemi and reflecting on how far she came since she had a hard time budging the lowest tier of barbell around the beginning of the series. The barbell contest and the scenes after the epilogue ballad hit hard because it helps solidify just how much Hibiki and Akemi cherish the experiences they’ve had together and how valuable their time together has been in changing their lives for the better. With Akemi, her friendship with Hibiki gave her the chance to have a friend circle that she has a lot in common with. The beginning of the series may have positioned her as a wealthy girl in love with muscles, but by teaching Hibiki about fitness and sharing a mutual interest in fitness with Ayaka and Gina, she broke out of her shell and found people she can connect with on a deeper level. Similarly, Hibiki’s bond with Akemi had pushed her to find fulfillment through exercise and working out. As rigorous and difficult as it was for her, Hibiki was increasingly excited to go to Silverman Gym to achieve her personal fitness goals for herself. At the same time, her dedication to an active lifestyle gave her and Ayaka more to relate to and introduced her to Gina. And in a heartwarming final goodbye, after our last training section with Machio, we see that Hibiki has lost weight as she finally walks away from the scale ecstatic about the positive results she’s getting from weight-training.
Dumbbell nan Kiro Moteru is easily one of my favorite shows this season aside from Season 2 of Takagi-san. It wasn’t just a fun diversion that made for a pleasant lunchtime ritual to watch on Wednesdays but came with productive and valuable lifestyle lessons. Although it’s tricky to vouch for every piece of advice they had, it provided a reasonable blueprint to start with for those looking to get into shape and achieve their ideal body goals. The tips that are given in Dumbbell help make it less intimidating to get started on trying to gain muscle or lose weight when many of the segments on the show understand that its a slow and steady process that requires dedication, gradual endurance, and further research. It has the patience to let viewers comprehend fitness tips at their own discretion, allowing us to go at our own pace as we work our way up to being as committed to working out as the characters in Dumbbell.
Speaking of the characters, this anime has my favorite cast in a slice-of-life this year. Hibiki is an endearing protagonist to follow as her unbridled dedication and untapped potential make it easy to cheer her on as she tries to compensate for her poor diet by working out and gaining muscle. Her friends are also very charming with Akemi’s obsession with muscles, Ayaka’s resolve to pursue her interests, Gina’s interest in absorbing a culture different from her own, and Satomi’s efforts to live her best life with the help of a workout plan. One thing that sticks out to me as someone who loves slice-of-life anime is how well the cast synergizes with one another. It’s like pulling teeth to find an anime where each of the girls could be left alone with one another without feeling out-of-place. It’s honestly one of the first ones I’ve seen in a while where I could imagine any pair of the girls hanging out together without feeling incompatible. Hibiki is able to enjoy Silverman Gym with Akemi, absorb a film with fellow filmaholic Ayaka, act as emotional support for the mutually out-of-shape Satomi, and nurture her friendly rivalry with Gina. Akemi’s love for muscles and fitness also makes her highly compatible with her friends as she is more than happy to either help her rustier friends get the most out of their workout or share a mutual interest with her physically fit friends in bulking up. Ayaka’s martial arts prowess also gives her some equal footing with Gina as they bond over fighting as smoothly as her bond with Hibiki over action films. There are also some fun segments where Gina’s love for anime and cosplay has her automatically swoon over Satomi after recognizing her as a professional cosplayer. And how could I forget about everybody’s muscle bro, Machio Naruzou? The dashing good looks while he’s in his tracksuit are on-point, but no one comes close to him as soon as he flexes out of him. For an anime where we get a healthy amount of ecchi and fanservice from the anime’s girls, it doesn’t shy away from the male form and finds male muscles, especially Machio’s, to be equally captivating.
Dumbbell nan Kiro Moteru is absolutely the complete package as it has constructive exercise tips to make your fitness goals all the more accessible, a lovable cast of characters who are as invested in working out as they are pursuing their own personal interests, a vibrant and expressive art style that is appreciative of both the male and female form, and an eccentric sense of humor that contrasts the rough and tough lifestyles of a bodybuilder with the girls’ individual reasons for exercising at Silverman Gym. As a film-buff, the characters of Barnold Shortsinator and Jason Sgatham, and other callbacks to film were quite a treat as well. It’s also amusing to imagine how a show like this could exist within the same universe as the grittier, edgier Kengan Ashura. But above all else, the fusion of all of these ideas together is as ambitious as it is successful in executing all of them in a way that feels perfect together. Personally, it is hard to examine an anime I enjoyed subjectively until months in advance, and though hindsight has me seeing that even some of the shows I loved at the time could have been better, I feel like Dumbbell really hit the spot in being funny, engaging, and entertaining for as long as it did this season. I’d definitely be interested in continuing to follow this series into the future and see how the manga is shaping up. And as always, NICE BULK!