Instructional manga are one of my favourite genres, whether it be wine appreciation in the fabulous Drops of God, or cooking ideas from Food Wars and What Did you Eat Yesterday?, the grounding in reality with the ability to genuinely improve your skills is a tantalising mix. Now we can add How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? to this expanding oeuvre, and very welcome it is too!
The story revolves around Hibiki, a lover of food but not her expanding waistline. Seeking a solution, she joins a gym in the hopes of losing a few pounds, but gets sucked into a world of weight-training as she encounters her extremely eager class president, Akemi, and the slightly more enticing prospect of training with pretty-boy Machio. Convinced that this is the way forward, Hibiki embarks on the (highly detailed) process of weight training, come hell or high water (and mostly it's hell!)
So, what works so well here is a combination of genuinely helpful training techniques, including sage advise on dynamic stretching as opposed to standard stretching, and some gloriously detailed artwork. I suppose if you're going to write about training, you might as well make the visuals appealing, and MAAM delivers with some absolutely stunning artwork. There's some daft ecchi humour as Hibiki recoils at the artist using enticing imagery with instructions (with characters changing outfits or even exploding clothing from their body) which gives some much needed life to some very dry topics.
Hibiki's own initial chubbiness is also a good lead-in to the causal reader, and joining her on this healthy journey is actually quite inspiring (God knows I could lose a few pounds too!)
The introduction of Tachinbana Satomi, the cosplaying teacher who also falls for Machio's charms and joins the Silverman gym, is a welcome addition. Not only for the comedic potential, but also opening the book up to an older demographic and happily adding lots of cosplay to the end of the book. Machio dressing up as "Kinoh-sama" from "Lifts of the North Star" which ran in "Monthly Muscle Pump" (very nice puns there) is fantastic as well as fitting, all played out to an incredulous Akemi who has never heard of it. Honestly, there are more delights in this manga than a box of the Turkish kind.
Of all the manga I've read this year (and there have been a lot) this has been one of the most fun to read. With engaging characters, fabulous artwork and an easy, slice-of-life style, the useful information is easy to digest and genuinely adds to the story.
Whether or not I remain motivated to train along with Hibiki remains to be seen, but volumes 2 and 3 are already on pre-order. I'll be here to support Hibiki-chan's difficult training regime for the foreseeable future.