How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 02 – Protein Punch

Hibiki is mortified to learn that even after getting into a routine of training, she’s actually gained weight, but she makes a common fitness rookie mistake: weight is not always a good indicator of health. What percentage of your weight is muscle as opposed to fat is far more useful, and muscle is denser and weighs more than fat.

After some lat pulldowns that work her back (she’s still too green for deadlifting), Hibiki heads to the gym’s fully-equipped protein bar, where a dickie-sporting Machio serves up delicious shakes during the 30-minute “golden time” after a workout. Still, that’s not enough for Hibiki, who wants more protein and so drags a weary Akemi to a steakhouse. Old habits die hard!

That said, Hibiki seems to be making mostly good decisions about her body, including taking a rest day when her body is telling her (through soreness) that she should. But she doesn’t want to just laze around the house either, so she and Akemi head to the pool. Hibiki stares with envy at Akemi’s figure, while Detective Akemi points out all the muscular people’s sports by the muscle groups they’ve defined.

Hibiki starts static stretching before activity, but Akemi stops her, citing a University of Zagreb study that indicates such stretching actually decreases performance, not to mention is bad for joints and tendons that haven’t warmed up. She suggests a series of dynamic stretching exercises instead, not too dissimilar from radio calisthenics. Unfortunately, an overeager Hibiki rips her too-tight swimsuit.

Hibiki spends the next day by visiting her best friend Uehara Ayaka’s house for the first time—the two became friends through mutual love of film, and only ever hung out in theaters up to now. Suddenly, Ayaka’s sister needs her help, and Hibiki learns the Uehara family business: an elite boxing gym!

The sisters’ dad was a champion boxer, and trained his daughters; Ayaka has the abs and muscle memory to show for it, but she still prefers movies. After successfully holding a planking pose for 30 seconds, Ayaka’s sister suggests Hibiki have a go at the heavy bag. Hibiki gingerly approaches it, then delivers a devastating right hook that breaks the bag, shocking everyone assembled. Looks like she had a hidden talent!

Dumbbell remains zanily good fun with some useful advice about weight training mixed in. Hibiki remains an utterly charming protagonist. It even eased off the ecchi fanservice this week. Guilty pleasure or no, the show just works—much like Hibiki’s punch. And then there’s that infinitely catchy OP. Keep it up!

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How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 01 (First Impressions) – Feel the Burn

Sakura Hibiki eats too much of the wrong food and doesn’t exercise enough. That’s what brings us to her initial motivations: to slim down so she can snag a hot guy. Of course, this is not a finger-snapping affair, but a brutal, exhausting odyssey that will challenge every aspect of who Hibiki thinks she is and of what she’s capable.

Of course, Hibiki doesn’t have the willpower to undertake such a quest alone, which is why it’s surreptitious that another girl at her school, the rich, beautiful, and 16% body fat class president Souryuuin Akemi joins the newly-built Silverman Gym the same day she does. She soon learns that not only is Akemi a health and fitness fanatic, but cultivates a strong muscle fetish.

Thus we have our comedic duo for this edu-taining aspirational slice-of-life: Akemi as the wilder comic, Hibiki as the straight man who reacts similarly to how most of us would in the midst of all the intense musclery on display. Their coach at the gym is Machio Naruzou, who is always wearing a bright smile and whose Prince Charming good looks immediately persuade Hibiki to join despite seeming way out of her element.

But that’s the thing about trying any new thing: you can easily come to feel like you have so much to learn and catch up on that you put far too much pressure on yourself from the start, rather than trusting in a healthie, more incremental process. You’re so afraid of failure, and success feels impossible. In something like weight training, the body will follow the mind’s lead and you’ll get nowhere.

Where How Heavy excels is on how carefully and gradually Machio eases Hibiki into the basics of lifting weights, all while maintaining a supportive demeanor that never comes off as patronizing. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but Machio makes it easy.

Heavy is also fully aware that some of the explanations of the routines look and sound pretty…erotic, but hey, we’re dealing with sculpting the human body here, and the production values are more than up to the task, so the ecchi element is not just unforced, it’s executed splendidly. You’re not mean to leer at the bodies on display, you’re supposed to regard them with awe.

That’s exactly what happens when training wraps for the day, and when Machio says the word “besides” he suddenly becomes compelled to bust out of his tracksuit and strike a classic “side chest” pose, presenting his Arnold Schwarzenegger Mister Universe physique. Hibiki fell in love with his face, but is somewhat put off by the excessive muscles, while Akemi, she of the fetish, almost has a crisis.

After her first real workout probably ever, Hibiki feels ruined, and can barely stand in class the next day. As she and Akemi walk home and she continues to voice her reservations about continuing at Silverman Gym, Akemi tells her how happy she is to be able to train with a friend from school. That convinces Hibiki to stick with it. After all, this is already more about getting a hotter bod, or gaining joy and confidence in one’s increased strength and stamina…it’s about making a lovely new friend. Akemi certainly challenges her preconceptions about her “rich girl” status.

The next day, his “secret” revealed, Machio doesn’t bother hiding his tank of a body, and gets right into introducing Hibiki to squats, which are much tougher than the bench presses Hibiki thought were already plenty tough.

Hibiki is such a relatable protagonist because she approaches things realistically within her established modus operandi: try a bit, and quickly give up. As we all would if we were in her shoes! But with multiple motivating vectors including not wanting to let Akemi or Machio down, and yes, wanting to look hotter for the beach, she perseveres and blows past those old boundaries. That’s what the slogan “becoming a new you” is all about.

While walking home after another grueling workout, Akemi notices Akemi snacking and asks her how many times she eats a day. When Hibiki honestly replies “around six or seven, sometimes more,” she fully expects a stern scolding, like she normally gets from her best friend Ayaka. But instead, Akemi is duly impressed that Hibiki has been blessed with such a powerful appetite. After all, building muscle requires fuel.

Where the critical Ayaka sees the expanding Hibiki as a bomb ready to go off, Akemi sees great potential, not a threat—a diamond to be cut and polished from rough stone. While Ayaka’s concerns are legitimate and her heart’s in the right place, the tone is wrong. If Hibiki is going to make progress, she’s going to need positive voices, including her own. I look forward to her and Akemi’s iron-pumping journey!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 03

When Takagi spots Nishikata and suggests they walk home together, Nishikata offers her some of his drink, thinking she won’t go for an “indirect kiss.” Of course, she’s fine with it; it’s Nishikata who wigs out at the prospect.

Nishikata then makes a fluke shot with the empty can in the garbage can and gets all cocky when Takagi misses. Turns out her miss was a trap; her next shot goes right in, then interrupts his shot by saying she’ll give him her first kiss if he makes it. He misses.

The next day Nishikata estimates he was teased fifteen times by Takagi, so when he hears form a sports figure on the TV that he trains ten times harder when he loses, he begins doing pushups. At school, he’s all sore, and Takagi takes advantage by poking his arm.

Nishikata keeps up the training, despite the fact Takagi teases him more and more with each passing day. However Takagi later admits that she’s starting to notice the effects of the training, saying he “looks pretty good;” while she may be sincere, she’s also trying to make him blush, and she succeeds.

Finaly, on a rainy afternoon Takagi forgets her umbrella, so asks Nishikata if he can share. He tries to scare her with a frog, but it doesn’t faze her in the least, and when she notices his wet shoulder, she scoots closer to him, causing his heart to race even more in such an awkward situation.

In all three segments, Takagi is both testing and expanding the limits of contact with Nishikata, all while inducing the priceless reactions she lives for. It gets to the point where she tries to get Nishikata to say “I love you” in both Japanese and English.

He bristles as expected, but some day, perhaps a couple years from now, he might not think all this attention from and contact with Takagi to be so torturous.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 09

The “Desperate Fight in the Macro Zone” concludes in epic, massively satisfying, and surprisingly moving fashion, proving that splitting it into two parts was a smart move. Hellsalem’s Lot gathers on rooftops to watch the pandemonium unfold, confident the world’s largest individual, Gigagigafutmassif will put the Rielmonster in its place.

Of course, using force against Riel only makes him bigger and stronger, leading Giga to beat a hasty retreat and leaving the crowd without a champion to save them from certain ruin. Chain and the Werewolf Bureau are in the midst of a week wine cellar-emptying girls’ “night” out, and miss the whole thing.

Riel has long since had his fill of his situation, but Gemnemo is unsympathetic; he wants his latest experiment to play itself out to its devastating conclusion, with him pulling the strings the whole way. Riel now knows how solitary it is “at the top” of the city’s food chain.

For such an action-packed episode, the first act is mostly Riel fondly remembering one fine day in Central Park (or whatever it’s called in HSL) with Leo. When a batted baseball breaks Riel’s arm, Leo goes to bat for him, not only standing up to the bully that hit the ball and laughed at Riel’s arm, but headbutting him.

Leo didn’t back down on that lovely, pastoral day (it really is a gorgeous memory accompanied by an appropriately wistful musical score), despite being small and relatively puny; Riel, on the other hand, is disgusted with himself for running away in a similar situation.

Now that he’s more lucid, he can see Libra members not back down even though their opponent is orders of magnitude bigger and stronger. And with infiltration expert Chain indisposed, it falls to lil’ Leo and Sonic to deposit Li Gado’s weapon into Riel’s giant body. Leo has to take his God’s Eyes to their absolute limit, but he’s not giving up on his friend.

Gado makes it clear that Riel is probably not even in control of his body any more, as Gemnemo is a control freak who responds to Riel’s second thoughts by starting an operation that will eliminate his free will—but not his senses, making him watch and hear all the millions he’ll kill.

Gemnemo, in the end, is just another bully who has exploited Riel’s need to be stronger for his own scientific gain. Thankfuly, Sonic gets to Gemnemo in time to stop him, and Riel’s giant body gradually shrinks, until he stumbles and falls into the Eternal Hollow.

In the aftermath, Zapp tries to excoriate a contrite (and likely hungover) Chain for being AWOL during the battle, but Leo steps in to remind Zapp that he was indisposed as well due to his attempt to swindle Riel when he was more human-sized.

Five days later, Leo has a walk in the park, still picturesque and tranquil, but seems lonelier without Mr. Riel by his side. All of a sudden, he notices something under his shoe: Gado’s weapon shrunk Riel to the size of a mouse!

But Riel is actually just fine being this size; for one thing, the view’s not bad (Leo now appears monumental to him, matching his bravery and loyalty to his friends); for another, he wouldn’t feel right being all the way back to normal after the fuss he caused.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 08

Leonardo Watch, and his even skinnier, more skittish friend Mr. Riel, are weaklings in the macro world, constantly falling victim to shakedowns from bigger, stronger bullies. Leo acknowledges and accepts his low strength and fighting ability as simply the way things are.

Then he’s hit in the head by the baseball-sized vehicles of microbial hyperdoctor Li Gado, who lives in a suit the size of a flea. Gado is after his scientific counterpart Gemnemo (also a microbe) whose super-dangerous experimentation on “hyperaugmented accelerated cell division” will affect both micro and macro worlds. He’s counting on Leo to help him.

Riel, who is upset with himself for running when his friend was in trouble, is approached by Gemnemo, who offers to perform the hyperaugmentation procedure to make Riel stronger; someone to take seriously, even fear, rather than be taken advantage of.

It just so happens that Zapp is the first person to (politely) try to extract some pocket cash from post-procedure Riel, who reacts quite extremely, throwing Zapp out of the diner with such force he ricochets off several cars in the street.

Riel isn’t seeking the bullies who mugged him and Leo before, but they find him, and immediately wish they hadn’t; he beats the pulp out of them all, even the guy with fractal fists. When the police arrive, they find that any offensive action only makes Riel bigger, stronger…and harder to reason with.

Klaus, on a low-key mission escorting the SS-level symbiotic prisoner Dog Hummer/Deldro Brody to the art museum, gets wind of the police battle, but learn of Riel’s special ability to absorb all force used against him a bit too late, after Klaus tries to contain him with a blood grid barricade and Dog/Deldro perform the “Hundred Crack Fist of Me”.

The force of both Klaus’ defense and Dog/Deldro’s offense causes Riel to grow to kaiju scale. All of these big, huge hulking entities stalking around, smashing into each other, ruining the city around them…and it all started with a microscopic conflict between a microbial mad scientist and the valiant hyperdoctor working tirelessly to stop him.

The usual ways of dealing with threats won’t work here; they’ll only make things worse. The fate of both worlds may depend on weak ol’ Leo, Li Gado’s hastily constructed super-weapon (that looks like an elaborate plastic toy), and perhaps Sonic the monkey.

Ore Monogatari!! – 12

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It’s the halfway point of Ore Monogatari!!, so did the show do what anime of every genre typically do around this time and throw a new wrench into the works; a new conflict for Takeo and Yamato to overcome? Well, yes and no. But first, it was a pleasure to see Takeo’s athletic prowess on display in areas besides Judo.

He’s a literal wall of flesh at goalkeeper (and scores a goal on the other end by throwing it baseball-style), and surprisingly graceful on the ice rink; like a penguin underwater. The point is, Takeo is physically gifted; extremely gifted, and combined with his kind heart, makes him socially gifted; he’s always surrounded by friends.

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Yamato is just as popular with her peers, though not because she can perform awesome feats of strength. In addition to her kindness and general affability, Yamato is also pretty good at academics. In fact, it’s one thing she’s much better at than the hulking Takeo. So the “conflict”, if you even want to call it that, is borne out of the fact that eventually these two will go to college.

They both want to attend the same one, but Takeo doesn’t want to make Yamato enroll at a substandard one, so he has to study; exercising a muscle he rarely needs to simply because the rest of his body is so extraordinary.

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He initially enlists the help of Suna, but Yamato also starts stopping by Takeo’s place. When Takeo tells his mother Yamato is indeed his girlfriend, Mom and Dad gradually start to spruce the place up, even though Yamato would be the first one to tell them not to go through too much trouble for her.

What I like so much about Takeo’s parents is that A.), they’re both alive, which seems like a minority in anime; B.) they’re still happily married, with a baby on the way; and C.) they genuinely love their son and are both grateful for and protective of him. In addition, as Yamato remarks, Takeo really is a composite of his parents, with nearly equal parts of both of them in his physique and personality. Dad is tan and handsome and flashy; Mom is nurturing yet no-nonsense. Both are badass. Takeo is all of the above.

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The parents are so excited about Yamato that neither she nor Takeo can actually study, so they go to Suna’s When Takeo suddenly passes out from too much studying, it isn’t treated like any kind of serious emergency, but rather another opportunity for Yamato to snuggle with him. This time, to her horror, Suna walks in on her, but true to form he assuages her guilt, assuring her didn’t see anything and slinks out, basically saying “as you were.”

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This halfway point also didn’t provide any indications Sunakawa has any ulterior motives about being friends with Takeo, but is really just a caring, loving friend; a brother from another mother. This, again, goes against the usual anime romance archetypes, for which I’m glad. While the show was a smidge more ambiguous earlier on, it is now officially patently ridiculous to think Suna will one day try to steal Yamato from Takeo.

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Not only does he not seem to mind that this is the case, despite liking Yamato (in a non-romantic way, as a good match for his bro), but he doesn’t mope about it either. Suna’s not the most social or open guy despite his popularity, but that seems like a conscious choice rather than any kind of impasse or struggle he has to overcome. The show respects how he lives his life. Suna also derives quite a lot of fun and laughs from being friends with Takeo, as we see again when he plays charades during English study.

So the day of a benchmark (read: practice) exam for the three colleges Takeo and Yamato are trying to get into arrives. Both are bundles of nerves, but Yamato gives him moral support before they get started.

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Looking at the various subjects he studied as various enemies to vanquish, Takeo goes into the exam like a warrior entering a gauntlet. But like Yamato did in a previous test, his multiple choice answers are shifted, a mistake he feverishly tries to correct, resulting in a blizzard of eraser filings and a pool of Takeo sweat.

He gets a “D” in two of the three colleges he aimed for, and an “X” in the difficult-to-get-in one Yamato was trying for, but not only did she not get in either, in a nice bit of villainy from Suna, it’s a women’s only college anyway, so he was never going to get in no matter what!

Also, the “D”s aren’t even that big a deal, because it’s just a dry run. He’ll keep studying, Suna and Yamato will keep helping him, and I have every confidence he’ll get to go to college with Yamato, and maybe Suna too.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 11

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I used to dread beach episodes, but that was before I started watching great anime. I knew there was nothing to fear from an OM!! beach episode; on the contrary, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity for both Rinko and Takeo to take another step in their relationship: seeing each other half-naked.

One thing that’s so great about this show is that the straight-laced looking Rinko is the wild one, while the wild-looking Takeo is the straight-laced one. To him, the beach is about swimming and splitting watermelons and crabbing. To Rinko (and the rest of the guys), it’s mostly about the bods.

Rinko’s intense physical attraction to Takeo often overwhelms her, so it’s good she has a safety net of girlfriends who pick out an appropriate bikini for her, with the goal of getting his heart to skip A beat…not stop it!

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For all of Takeo’s words—both spoken and in his head—Rinko is convinced she must be at least as hot as she believes Takeo to be, or else she’s somehow not good enough. That inherent, presumed inferiority makes it tough for Rinko to reveal her swimsuit to Takeo. In fact, she reveals it to him when the sight of his rippling, sun-dappled muscles put her into a trance and she walks right into the line of fire of his watermelon-splitting stick. Thank God Takeo listens when Suna tells him to stop.

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When Takeo removes his blindfold to see what’s amiss, he catches a glimpse of his girlfriend in a bikini for the first time, and while Rinko doesn’t quite realize it, it’s Mission Accomplished. Takeo himself enters a wild hallucinatory episode, and only Suna’s calm words are able to snap him out of it. It takes effort for Takeo not to totally lose his shit over Rinko’s apocalyptic cuteness, and remind himself she’s dressed in clothes suited for the beach, just like him.

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Things continue to go bumpy for Rinko, though. When she daintily approaches him from behind at lunch, intending to snuggle up against him (something she both wants and her friends urge) his turn back at her causes her to execute Shunpo and retreat behind a column. Later, when she tries to casually grab his arm on the beach, she nearly steps on a sand castle.

Ironically, it’s Takeo who ruins the castle, when Rinko runs off, embarrassed. But thanks to Suna, whom the girls building the sand castle are more than willing to let take over, Takeo can go after his girlfriend.

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As the sun starts to set, Takeo finds her, sulking by the water. Rinko thinks she’s been “really bad” today, thinking only of herself and causing trouble for others. She’s obviously being too hard on herself, so it’s nice when Takeo sits beside her, she can stop worrying about that and draw one of those Japanese love umbrella things in the sand (which Takeo valiantly protects from the rising tide).

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Takeo doesn’t know if it’s the sunset, the swimsuit, or something else, but Rinko looks particularly beautiful to him there and then. The animation sells it, making great use of color, light, movement, and intimate close-ups. We see Rinko exactly as Takeo does, just as we saw how she sees him.

So in awe of the beauty before him, Takeo finally says not “I love her” in his head, but “I love you” out loud, to her face. She reciprocates the sentiment, adding the modifier “lots”, and if it wasn’t for Takeo’s asshole friends (not Suna mind you, who knew to stay the hell away), they’d have definitely shared their first kiss (with both of them awake) right then and there. That’s okay though; I didn’t feel cheated. That kiss will come.

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After fireworks, they board the bus home, and Rinko and Takeo make plans to hang out again, this time at a fireworks festival, where Rinko will try to get his heart to skip with a yukata, believing she failed to do so in a swimsuit. But she couldn’t be more wrong.

As Takeo looks on, he remarks to himself how these two are so rarely on the same page. Yet it likely doesn’t matter, because they’re both so happy. We the audience know that nothing in either of their heads would change that.

Part of what makes romance so exciting, especially early on, is not knowing everything going on in your lover’s head…and the later realization that what was in their head was everything you wanted anyway.

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