Title: Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? / How Many Kilos Are the Dumbbells You Lift?
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Sports, comedy
Year of release: 2019
Edutainment is neat little portmanteau made up of ‘education’ and ‘entertainment’. Giving the audience something to learn from, while also making it educational, is an artform that shouldn’t be dismissed. This here Dumbbell anime is an edutainment blessing, because it doesn’t stop at these two things combined; Dumbbell seeks to inspire, too, by making every little step feel worthwhile.
One might be surprised how many edutainment ‘cute girls’ anime are out there, though few are as blatant as Dumbbells. Most of these cute girls anime have a niche and show a (typically otaku) audience how cool these hobbies or activities can be. Hibiki, the protagonist of Dumbbells, is putting weight on, so joins a gym. It’s hard to deny that there’s little else to this show, but it’s the execution that matters, and that execution is spot on.
From name-dropping exercises and showing brief skits on how to do them, to the post-ED sequence which breaks the fourth wall to ask you – yes, you – to get up and do 10 squats with Hibiki in real time, Dumbbells is stuffed with advice for beginners. But it doesn’t say this stuff is easy, just that getting started is easy. By contrasting the different abilities, and a whole lot of different fitness-types, Dumbbells shows that fitness shouldn’t be something to be scared of and everybody can work at their own pace. Perhaps the way it influences us to want to do exercise features a bit of fat-shaming, but this is largely offset by Hibiki being a shallow protagonist so it can be written off as her being mean rather than an attack of overweightness. She’s just fine the way she is (in fact, her large appetite is seen as a great thing for bodybuilding), but it’s her own drive that’s driving her to be fit. So I’m half-letting it off.
It helps, too, that this show is darn funny. Fit-freaks are both utterly hardcore and loveably dorky. My favourite sequence is definitely the personal trainer, Machio (you can’t make this stuff up), mishearing something as an excuse to flex those darn muscles. And, of course, his pee-head atop his gigantic body. Beyond that, Hibiki’s facial expressions are truly exquisite as she is put face-to-face with raw muscle men, and her shallow attitude is honestly played for laughs. The little skits showing how to exercise take the muscle freak and play up sexuality, but the constant lampshading by Hibiki gets away with it – just another joke in this very funny show’s pool.
Dumbbell is going to continue in this vein and I hope it doesn’t stop. Edutainment like this is something of an acquired taste, that I understand, but this a winning formula crafted with love (and a tiny bit of fat-shaming).