How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 11 – Bridge Over Troubled Ratings

After a string of ten straight solid “8” episodes, the eleventh came off as somewhat sparse. As the teachers celebrate New Years Eve by drinking at home, the girls head to the Shrine of the Muscle God, which has a truly epic staircase for training purposes and is also maintained by none other than Machio.

After watching the sun come up and descending from the shrine, the girls still have enough energy to train. Gina suggests they use the equipment at a local park, but to her horror (and my surprise) most of the equipment on which to train has been removed from most parks in Japan, so they do a number of isometric exercises that require nothing but their own bodies. Handy if you’re training (as I plan to do upon completion of this show) but lacking in excitement.

Gina tries to spice things up by registering the group for a live TV talent show (directed by Deire Kutarou, from the idol competition) but the sum total of their performance is some poses and a perfectly-executed “Wrestler’s Bridge” from a masked Satomi. Deire is surprised to find the girls boosted his show to second-best in the time slot, and the producer and president want to see more of them.

Jason shows up and takes Deire aside to propose a “Nikunoshima Tour,” whatever that is, which will be covered in the twelfth and final episode. But I couldn’t help but feel like this was the weakest of the Dumbbell outings so far; unlike the others it felt more meandering, even listless, like it was running out of gas. Hopefully the finale can restore the lost momentum and bring things to a satisfying close.

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How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 10 – Please Don’t Literally Crush Your Skull!

It’s Wintertime, the Silverman Gym Christmas Party is coming up, and Hibiki, Akemi, Ayaka, Satomi and Gina want to use the even to snag some guys Hibiki isn’t quite in the shape she wants to be due to overindulgence in delicious winter foods.

Machio suggests she try lying triceps extensions, or “skull crushers,” and Hibiki makes what must be a common mistake with any workout that brings a metal bar that close to your head. Still, by cramming in workouts prior to the party, Hibiki hopes to be the first among them to bag a boyfriend.

The big night arrives, and the young women arrive in cosplay in order to apply for a free training session. They fan out and mingle with all the handsome, fit young men who attend the gym at different times, but quite adorably none of them are quite bold enough to ask for any numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Machio drew them all over his muscles as a novel way to reveal the winners of the gym raffle, the first place prize for which is a pair of tickets to an amusement park, which Satomi wins. While posing with the other winners, she and the girls learn that beneath their slimming casual clothes, the lads are all macho-men like Machio.

That also means most of them are spoken for, so it would seem their mission to snag a boyfriend failed. When Satomi can’t use the tix due to Winter Comiket approaching, Akemi asks if she can have them…and asks Machio to join her! The ladies are shocked.

When Akemi and Machio meet up at the very not-Disney-affiliated-at-all “Tochigi Destiny Land”, Hibiki and Gina decide to trail the pair, while Satomi ends up coming along, wearing the same winter uniform as the high schoolers in order to hide in plain sight.

Part of me wished the tix were for Amagi Brilliant Park, but then I would not have met TDL’s mascot, Mockey, whose appearance Satomi’s inner thoughts sum up quite succinctly.

While observing Akemi and Machio reveals that they’re simply on a normal innocent date, things take a turn when the two suddenly sneak into a suspicious tend. However, the true reason for them coming to TDL is revealed: they’re there for a cosplay event.

Specifically, Akemi is there to see Machio’s sweet, sweet pecs (honed by the incline bench press), which, as she explains while temporarily transforming into Sawako, look even better when juxtaposed with leather armor. Finally, Satomi is skipping about in a high school uni without a care in the world until she runs into someone she knows, specifically her fellow teacher Aina, who is also wearing their school’s uni. They vow to pretend this never happened, but I remember, senseis…and I won’t soon forget!

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.

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 08 – Everything Will Probably Be Fine!

After discovering Satomi has been working out at Silverman Gym (she left her pass on her desk), her teacher friends Yakusha and Aina decide to join in the fun, and are surprised to find the four high schoolers getting into weight training. Aina is concerned about her abs, so Machio suggests side bends (bicylce crunches are also recommended).

The oldest of the teachers (and very sensitive about that fact) turns out to be the best of all the women. She won’t reveal why she has such good muscle balance, but perhaps the fact her name is so close to the word yakuza has something to do with it?

The balance of the episode is spent on a school field trip to a very spooky mountain with a trail that’s “probably” fine, as the teachers put it. While Yakusha leads the way, exhibiting prime mountain climbing form (very different from walking on the sidewalk in the city), the other two teachers and Hibiki soon fall far behind, and by the time they adopt the right form, they take the wrong trail and get lost.

While Rumika and Hibiki are ready to write their wills and death poems, Satomi finds the tallest tree and starts to climb it, both so they can get their bearings and in case someone sees them. They pick way too big a tree, and decide the best way to climb it is to strip down to their underwear. That’s when Akemi, Ayaka and Gina spot them with binoculars, and Yakusha assumes they skipped lunch on the summit to continue athletic activities.

The addition of the two teachers made for some fun new dynamics, while Machio, back at the gym, apparently has a target on his back courtesy of a dude so huge and muscular even custom-made reinforced dumbbells are crushed in his fists like limp spaghetti. Perhaps the founder/CEO of Silverman Gym?

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 07 – Meat on the Brain

With the gym closed, the girls decide to take Gina out for a welcome party. Hibiki recommends her brother’s yakiniku (BBQ) restaurant where she works part time. As they chow down, Machio and Satomi hover between them and us, explaining that while beef is a good source of protein for bodybuilders, the cut of meat and even its source determines how much you should eat.

When there’s a slowdown in work, Hibiki takes a load off and tucks into a multi-thousand-calorie meal. Gina believes this is Hibiki’s secret to, among other things, beating her at arm-wrestling: the same ability to consume huge amounts of muscle-building protein as a pro wrestler, only she enjoys doing so! Of course, it’s just Hibiki’s “cheat day,” but she won’t be able to slack off on the other days.

When the others ask why Hibiki has to work five days a week in addition to school and the gym, she says it’s to pay her monthly membership fees and for all the food she eats. Akemi informs her that thanks to her older sister, chairman of the board of their school, gym fees and other training-related expenses are covered by the school! That said, Hibiki still needs to pay for her own food.

While sitting in class and half-paying attention, Gina notices that Satomi has a beauty mark beneath her eye that she’s sure she’s seen before. Sure enough, a quick check of her phone confirms that Satomi is “Yulia Riko”, cosplay sensation. When she tells Satomi that she knows, Satomi assumes Gina wants something in exchange for her silence, as, in Gina’s words, she’s “suspicious of altruism.”

So Gina comes up with a worthy payment: she gets to spend the day with Satomi/Yulia, including a one-on-one photoshoot and sightseeing tour. When Satomi complains of soreness after a nice workout, Gina introduces her to the concept of active rest, which actually helps you recover from fatigue faster than the passive kind (i.e. sitting on your bum and swilling beer). It’s all about aiding circulation of blood (and thus oxygen) throughout the body.

Their active rest for the day takes the form of a brisk but comfortable jog that isn’t overdoing it and enables them to carry on a conversation, all the way to Akihabara. When Satomi hilariously asks the tourist if she’s going there to buy electronics, Gina responds that due to her love of all things Japanese (and a few things that aren’t like Hong Kong and yoga), she’s determined to become an idol…and she’s taking Satomi and her new friends along for the ride.

The public idol audition they end up competing in is judged by a director voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki (nice cameo!) who is tired of normal-looking girls with a normal level of talent performing normally. That is, until the bikini-clad “Muscle Girls” arrive on stage, riding on the shoulders their burlier fellow gym members. All of a sudden, things are a bit too abnormal for the director…with emphasis on the ab!

Rather than sing, Gina and Ayaka deliver an impressive sparring demonstration, while Hibiki does bench presses with Akemi spotting. Their final act is Satomi, hiding her face behind a kendo mask, performing a perfect deadlift, the toughest and riskiest of the three major barbell exercises.

Despite enthusiastic applause by the crowd, they fail to make the cut…partially because they didn’t sing anything, but also because they were just way too weird. Normal, the director concludes, is fine after all. Too bad; I would have loved to see these guys on tour!