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.

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Shoukoku no Altair – 03

We left Tintin Mahmut in dire straits last week, but still with an ace in the hole: his trusty eagle Snowy Iskender. As Zaganos, outnumbered 10-1, considers using poison to pull out a victory, the female Imperial officer stopping Shahra from cutting any more tent ropes, and Mahmut straight getting his ass kicked by the male officer, it’s all up to the bird.

I must say, this show’s clever (if sometimes credulity-straining) use of Iskender and the eagles to lend Mahmut a hand in times of great need add a sheen of destiny to his story, as if nature itself would prefer he succeed in his endeavors.

Or rather birds, plural: scores of them descend on the hostage tent and pull it away; conveniently dropping it on top of the Imperial soldiers standing by for orders to burn it. Instead, they are the ones who burn, in a nice bit of irony.

Iskender him(her?)self comes to Mahmut’s aid against the big guy, who after all has only one eye and thus has a depth perception shortfall that results in a rather creative death: Mahmut and the eagle work together to wrap a chain around the guy’s face and throat, and Mahmut snaps his neck.

Thus Mahmut’s would-be tormentor is dunzo, and so is the Imperial plot to take Hisar. Ibrahim Vali opens the gates to Zaganos and his forces, and Mahmut makes the call to release all of the Araba, despite their rebellion. For that, and for all their roles in the brief Hisar rebellion, Mahmut, Ibrahim, and Zaganos are all brought before the Divan of the other 11 Pashas to testify and be judged.

To Ibrahim and Mahmut’s shock and delight, the former is not executed, but restored as Vali of Hisar. Zaganos is reinstated as Pasha. But Mahmut, as I figured considering the outcome of the other two verdicts, isn’t so lucky. He is stripped of his rank of Pasha, and demoted to Binbashi under Halil Pasha. He couldn’t have ended up under a nicer commander, but it’s still a huge step backwards for Mahmut, for whom duty is life.

Having tasted the sweet top only makes the demotion all the more bitter, but Mahmut does not contest or even disagree with the Divan’s judgment. There were always risks Mahmut exposed himself to by becoming the youngest Pasha, and that included letting emotional detachments make him forget that the role of Pasha is far more than going off alone to save one’s friend.

It’s just as bitter to think that by accomplishing so many great and noble deeds in Hisar, thwarting those who threatened peace while saving thousands of innocent people, in this case, was the wrong move, at least in his position. Being a Pasha must mean being more detached, more aloof from personal concerns, while far more attuned to the greater needs of the state as a whole.

It’s a big picture position, and Mahmut simply wasn’t ready yet. But he’s learned his lesson, and is eager to see more places, meet more people, and be reinstated as Pasha as quickly as possible…but not so quickly that he doesn’t do it properly.

Judging from the scheming of both Minister Louis and Lelederik, and the fact Louis is aware of Zaganos’ spy network (which Z gave Mahmut the means to contact) and is taking them out one by one, Mahmut can’t get back in the Pasha’s seat soon enough.