Ah, New Year’s Day! It’s a holiday pointedly associated with working out in the USA, as swaths of people swear to get in shape and pour into gyms, much to the vocal consternation of my exercise enthusiast friends on Facebook. So from that point of view, it is odd that the associated addition to Dumbbells canon is pointedly lacking any actual gym time. It’s another volume of all outside and at-home exercises, with a surprising amount of retreading as the show eschews the New Year’s-themed opportunity to try something new.
That’s not to say that this episode of Dumbbells isn’t interesting, just that it’s mostly laps around courses we’ve run before. The girls of course head to a shrine for the New Year’s holiday, only to be confronted with a collection of stairways that would make Rocky proud. We can guess by now that we’re going to learn something about exercising on these steps, but it’s also prefaced by an amusing continuation of the appeals to Hibiki and friends’ thirst, all of them hoping to wish for a boyfriend once they ascend to the sacred summit.
This supplemental stair-climbing section is surprisingly simple. There are some basic pointers, but the show seems to understand that we all know how to climb stairs, so instead time is spent articulating just how effective the benefits can be from making time to take those things during your day. This is another point I can regard from experience, as I for worked in an office that took multiple flights to access for a while, but this is nice simple encouragement from this series. It’s a supplement to the overall lifestyle the show is selling, making this a small step that can keep you on the path to regular physical activity. Anyway, our reward for the climb is probably the funniest stretch of comedy content in this episode, seeing Machio as the Muscle Priest of the Muscle God of the shrine. He’s even licensed!
After all that comes potentially the weakest sequence Dumbbells has delivered yet. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, just repetitive. The girls once again find themselves without access to Silverman Gym and have to figure out how to make do with their own resources. There isn’t much fresh humor to this, even as the absurd Toshio Ozu returns for more of his ridiculous home exercise descriptions. I swear his voice acting has gotten even more outrageous. Honestly, the most interesting parts are the informational content, which isn’t even limited to exercise this time. Gina initially wants to lead her friends in performing ‘street workout’ reps using park equipment, only to discover the lacking state of Japan’s parks. I hadn’t heard about this issue before, but the show’s commentary led me to do some quick googling, and it turns out that a combination of complaints and resulting regulations have led to play equipment in Japanese parks being phased out over the past five years or so! It’s not exactly uplifting news, but it is interesting to learn new things I wasn’t expecting from a show like this.
Fortunately, more encouraging info arrives in the return of those isometric exercises from last week. Apart from just form-fitness flexing, it turns out you can use those principles to pull off resistance and strength-training if need be, absent any equipment at all. Of all the knowledge Dumbbells has dished out, this was definitely one of the most mind-blowing tidbits. It does make perfect sense in hindsight, but the idea of using your own body weight to pull off arm curls and simulate pressing weights is an incredibly fresh revelation to someone with such basic exercise experience like myself. It’s yet another point in the show’s accessibility favor, going out of its way to show that you’re able to work out anywhere just by using your body in creative ways. More than anything, it encouraged me to remember that I can get some reps in wherever I am, even if I’m spending time away from home and those hand-weights I definitely didn’t buy just because I was watching this show.
The issue with repetition does continue into the last section of the episode though, as the girls try out for a New Year’s talent contest in a pointed retread of their idol endeavors from episode seven. Except this time, it doesn’t work well as entertainment value, since the entire gag is predicated on the anticlimax of their performance being significantly less interesting than last time. The most amusing moment comes at the beginning, as the group gets to be introduced as Entry Number 69. The exercise in this sequence is kind of cool, but also pointedly not entertaining to watch: it’s the wrestler’s bridge, a strong-looking back arch that the show thankfully has us attempt a simpler version after the credits (even citing that attempting it without preparing properly could lead to injury). These ‘glute bridges’ (don’t worry, I laughed too) actually have reps to them, which might’ve made for more interesting viewing, and they also seem to work out your thighs pretty hard. I can see these leading to some leg cramps if you aren’t careful, though they apparently also lead to a well-toned butt, so they may be worth the risk?
This episode was fine, but it did feel like Dumbbells was starting to run out of gas. With that in mind, perhaps it’s a blessing that the next episode was teased as the finale, with one more major storyline to wrap things up. Regardless of my misgivings about some of this episode, I’ll still miss these good gym buddies, so I’m hoping they go out with a bulked-out bang next week!