How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 09 – A Panoply of Pecs

In an episode that’s not only mad with muscles, but exceedingly bountiful with fourth wall-breaking, a back muscle workout by Machio is interrupted when his pectorals suddenly start twitching, sensing the “muscle pressure” of a potential adversary.

Turns out, it’s Machio’s massive bodybuilding mentor from America, Barnold Shorsinator, who looks and sounds a lot like a similar action hero from Austria whose name cannot be said lest Dumbbells incur the wrath of The Lawyers!

Hibiki and Ayaka know him well from the movies; the other three…not so much. As for why Barnold hasn’t so much as texted Machio since the latter left America, well, there’s a harmless explanation for that: he dropped his phone in the water and lost his number! Similarly, Machio accidentally crushed his phone containing Barnold’s number. Truly an estrangement borne from momentarily clumsiness and scarily strong hands.

It is hand strength that brings Barnold to Machio’s gym, as he presents his former pupil with a hand grip with a resistance he estimates only a hundred men could successfully squeeze. Naturally, Machio breaks the damn thing with minimal effort, passing Barnold’s test. He’s holding a huge international bodybuilding competition tomorrow (short notice!), and wants Machio front and center.

The ladies attend the extravaganza of musculature, with Barnold leading them to a VIP suite and providing instructive commentary on how competitive bodybuilding is split into different areas, the basic poses like Side Chest, and the way the muscles and their owners are scored.

The girls are not only smitten with the frankly insane amount of glistening beef on display, but surprised and educated by the amount of complexity and nuance inherent in a bodybuilding competition. The crowd feedback plays a big role too, especially during the exciting “pose down” segment.

But once Machio takes the stage, the competition is over; he is regarded by crowd and co-competitors alike as a god among men, his muscles emanating waves that figuratively tear the clothes off of every man, woman and child in the audience, including Hibiki, Akemi, Ayaka, Satomi and Gina. They then look down and realize their clothes weren’t really ripped off, but it sure felt that way!

So Machio claims victory, but he notices that the competition wasn’t quite as outstanding as less-informed observers might’ve thought. Thus, he passes Barnold’s second test: this competition was just the first round; there’s to be another, more intense competition in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Barnold, Machio is too devoted to his work and his clients to cancel all the appointments necessary to make the event…so that’s that.

Except it isn’t…not quite. Barnold leaves Japan, but leaves behind his personal secretary, whose name sounds like Jason Statham, but he’s not quite Jason Staham, if you catch my drift. Hibiki’s sudden anger at Jason trying to make “hustle that muscle!” happen is a fitting capper to a perfectly absurd and thoroughly fun outing of Dumbbell.

Astra Lost in Space – 09 – Beyond Vicarious

Before announcing Zack’s findings to Quitterie, Funi, and the rest of the crew, Kanata dreams about a training session with his father, who was also an athlete but was denied by injuries the opportunity to attain greatness. Kanata knew his father was trying to realize his own dream through Kanata; attempting to live vicariously through his healthy young son.

But knowing what he knows now, Kanata now realizes why his father was so intent on training him to become virtually the same person he wanted to be: because when it comes to DNA, they are the same person. That’s right: It isn’t just Quitterie and Funi who are clones of their mother; everyone on the ship is a clone of their parents.

Needless to say, this explains quite a bit: Why most of them had distant or loveless parents who drove them to follow in their footsteps, but also, more importantly, why they’re titularly lost in space: cloning is a felony, and a new law mandating the collection of everyone’s DNA would expose their clones—and thus, their crime.

If the theory sounds thin aboard the Astra, it’s confirmed by the parents themselves back home, as they all commiserate about how their dreams of extending their lives was thwarted. They bicker quite a bit more than their younger clones and don’t seem to have any remorse in sending them off to their deaths to save themselves.

Back on the Astra, everyone is in shock, and for some like Quitterie, it turns to despair. As for Aries, she learns she was almost certainly adopted by her loving mother, as they don’t look alike and, well, her adoptive mother actually loved her. Kanata, good captain that he is, tells them to lift their heads, and revises their mission: not just to get home, but get home and put their rotten folks in prison for what they’ve done.

After that, everyone gradually processes the news that they’re a clone in their own ways. On the whole, once calmed down from the initial horribleness, the overarching emotion is that of relief: that there was a reason they ended up in space, or that their parents were the way they were.

Charce left his family long ago so he wasn’t that messed up by the news. Luca is proud of who and what she is, and is determined to move forward as an individual beholden to nobody. Yunhua is happy she can now step out of the shadows and do what she loves. Aries loves her mother and knows her mother loves her, regardless of what person she was cloned from.

Finally, even Quitterie and Funi find comfort in the knowledge that nature and nurture essentially play a 50/50 role in determining a person. Quitterie, Funi, and their mother are three different people with distinct personalities based on their experiences, not just their DNA. The two of them are good people; their mom’s a goddamn monster.

And that’s what truly underscores the nefariousness, the straight-up evil of their parents for marooning them in space. Cloning yourself is one thing; to deny those clones their individuality and even their humanity by discarding them like used tissues is quite another, and the ultimate in delusion. Did they think they made clones so perfect, their experiences wouldn’t make them different people? If that’s the case they’re as stupid as they are evil.

In any case, kudos for the crew members to get over the pain of their asshole parents’ deep, profound betrayal, and their ability to come together as the new and loving family they are. Case in point: Quitterie and Zack announce their wedding plans to an ecstatic crew that’s also a bit flabbergasted in the wake of Zack’s talent for hiding his true emotions behind a granite facade.

After their party celebrating their escape from Icriss, the discovery of Polina, and congratulating the soon-to-be newlyweds, Zack activates the Astra’s long-range telescope, which he repaired using parts from the Ark VI, and for the first time in three months, the crew lays eyes on their home planet: a planet of blue oceans, white clouds, and green land.

But here’s the thing, and it’s not revealed until Polina notices the landmasses are all wrong: the crew’s home planet isn’t Earth. It is Polina’s home, but none of the crew have ever heard of “Earth,” and look at her like she’s either crazy or still suffering the effects of her long slumber. In any case, their home planet is called Astra, which means Polina didn’t just lose twelve years, but perhaps her entire universe.