By: Yabico Sandrovich
Illustrator: MAAM (Illustrator); Courtney Williams (Lettering)
Translator: Wesley O'Donnell (Translator); Samn Mitchell (Adaptation)
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Seven Seas
Series: How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift #1
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
With an anime adaptation released at nearly the same time, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? Vol. 1 by Yabako Sandrovich and MAAM was a contemporary manga that certainly didn’t escape notice. Sakura is a teenager who loves food but doesn’t love her waistline. When she begins going to the gym, she finds student council president Akemi there as well. The duo quickly go from awkward and unsure to gym buddies under the tutelage of their trainer, Machio.
This is a manga that I am quite split on. Certain aspects are quite well done, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Other aspects are bit questionable, and some downright off-putting.
Sakura is noticeably unsure of herself and the very prospect of going to the gym when the manga opens, something many, if not most, people can relate to. Slowly, additional characters are introduced, all with their own reasons for wanting to start going to the gym. And, just as slowly, Sakura begins to feel more comfortable with going to the gym, working out, and herself. The manga makes it clear just how many different people are at the gym for many reasons, whether its to slim down, tone up, or keep up their physique for a specific sport.
Plenty of scenes are played for laughs. Faces and expressions can be drawn very humorously at times. Certain tropes are poked fun at or played with in interesting ways. Each chapter also has a bit of a how-to section. When Machio, the trainer, explains different work outs, the manga both shows and tells the reader exactly how to do this work out themselves. This is a fun aspect and, if both written and followed properly, can be quite beneficial to many people.
However, at the end of this section is a large spread of one of the female leads doing this work out in a very risqué and sometimes outright lewd manner. The first example of these in chapter one is largely played for laughs, following more poking fun at tropes aspect that can be found dotted about the manga. As the volume progresses, each chapter grows more and more lewd and increasingly fan-servicey.
This felt distinctly out of place within the manga at hand, catering to an audience that the rest of the manga didn’t seem to be aimed at. While I certainly don’t mind lewdness, the risqué, or fan service, I couldn’t help but find this instance tonally dissonant. With so much of the first chapter, and even following chapters, being centered on Sakura trying to feel comfortable going to the gym and trying new things, it is certainly a thematically poor choice. This doesn’t paint these young women as now comfortable with their bodies but reduces them to mere sexual objectification.
While there were plenty of aspects which were enjoyable, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? Vol. 1 by Yabako Sandrovich and MAAM simply isn’t a manga I will be continuing with for future volumes. Some aspects might feel shoehorned in, but there is also plenty of content worth reading here.