We’re all gonna make it.
Danberu nan kiro moteru? (ダンベル何キロ持てる？) is a manga with a title that is surprisingly difficult to translate. You see, in Japanese it’s fairly quick-sounding and not really a mouthful. 9 syllables, cute-sounding, nice. If you wrote it in English, Danberu nan kiro moteru? most accurately translates as For Dumbbells, How Many Kilos is Popular? 12. 12 syllables, and it doesn’t sound too great either. When this manga first began earlier this year (2016), people translated the title as What Weight is Popular?, which feels similar to the original title, and is probably my favorite interpretation, but it loses the “kilos” part and more importantly the “dumbbells”. Then there’s the translation of How Many Kilos are the Dumbbells You Lift? One less syllable than the most accurate translation, and it sounds better, but it loses the “popular”, and adds “lift” (which isn’t actually in the Japanese). Finally, there’s Do You Even Lift? which is flat-out wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t adore it. Basically, it’s got a tough title to work with, but most people just refer to it as Danberu so let’s go with that.
But enough about the title, what about the manga?
Well, I fucking love it.
Danberu nan kiro moteru? is an exercise-focused comedy manga written by Sandrovich Yabako (サンドロビッチ ヤバ子) with art by MAAM (just MAAM) that seems designed to appeal to certain people, certain people of which I am a part of. Yabako is a hard worker, apparently, because he’s actually writing two series within the same publication, Ura Sunday (of Helck, Mob Psycho 100, Yuusha ga Shinda!, and Criminale! renown), and is actually ahead in work by months (allegedly about half a year ahead). One of his series is this one, the other is one he had been working on first, Kengan Ashura. I haven’t read Kengan Ashura yet, but it has more in common with Danberu than just the author. We’ll come back to that.
Danberu nan kiro moteru? is really, really great though. It’s a fanservice-filled hilarious romp with (almost) completely accurate explanations of fitness (exercises are explained with 100% technical correctness, but there may be some so-called “broscience” in regards to things like dieting). In any case, Yabako is actually a burly martial artist himself, and it’s obvious that he knows what he’s talking about and researched quite a bit nonetheless. Furthermore, Danberu avoids a whole lot of pitfalls of “interests” manga. The girls within it have many different body types, they aren’t gay for one another (not that I mind that in most slice of life series), they openly voice their desires to get hot guys, and most importantly: they want to get FIT. Reading this made me want to get fit, too! I used to work out years ago, but this re-lit the fire within me. It helps a ton that the girls are incredibly attractive, and yet still nonstandard to the medium. The amount of appeal this comic has is through the roof. I’ve been wanting to review it since it began, and now that volume 1 is out, I can finally tell people how to buy it. Now then, shall we?
The series stars chubby gyaru (a term for hip and fashionable girls, AKA “gals”) over-eater, Sakura Hibiki, who is happily munching on takoyaki at the start of the manga when her best friend mentions, “hey girl, I think you got fat”.
And she has. Hibiki has gotten fat.
So forget the stuff about exercising: this series had my attention in three pages. The fact that the manga opens up, page 1, by giving our rather cute main character an incredibly ugly face for comedic effect already was winning me over. It’s not just a “wacky” face, it highlights outright “negative” aspects about her while still being funny, and I think it takes balls to do that in your “pretty girls” manga. Furthermore, the main character’s design immediately struck a chord with me. Brown/Dark skin with blond hair is a wonder combo for me, as it’s not only aesthetically appealing in my opinion, but it indicates that the character is probably a gyaru — an archetype I’m quite fond of. Her best friend looked cute too, for that matter. And finally, I’ll just admit it, even though Hibiki is indeed “heavy”, that kind of pudgy body type is A-OK with me. Healthy (not really)!
After failing at dieting and attempts at exercise, Hibiki decides to enroll at the Silverman’s Gym, an homage to Gold’s Gym, being a famous and well-renowned chain of gyms. A branch recently opened in her area and there’s a free admission campaign, so she figures why not. When she’s there, she meets a seemingly stereotypical “ojou” (rich girl) type lass who is one of her peers in school, but far above Hibiki in terms of prowess and social standing (best grades, great body, student council president). Her name is Souryuuin Akemi. Hibiki wants to not get involved with her so as not to feel worse about herself, but Akemi is very friendly. At any rate, they head into the gym and
So it turns out that Silverman’s Gym is a hardcore training gym. Hibiki, who expected a lovely and modern-feeling “sports lab” style gym immediately wants to leave. Akemi, though…
Akemi has a muscle fetish. She knew about the truth of this gym, and basically wanted to ogle the male customers while getting fit herself. She has come to be affectionately referred to as “machoujo” by fans of the series and yes, she does indeed use the word “macho” (マッチョ) a whole lot.
Hibiki is about to give up on the gym, but then the gym’s trainer, Machio, shows up.
Good lord is it refreshing having girls with healthy sexual interest.
Anyway, thus the manga begins. We learn in chapter 2 that Machio is actually stupidly buff and loves to pose/show off his muscles, as well as tear off his clothes, but other than that we’re on our way.
The manga mostly follows a simple format of “exercise of the week” (actually, every two weeks — this is a biweekly manga) chapters, where the girls (who quickly become good friends) would like to exercise, and so Machio or Akemi (or others) explain something that would suit them. Explanations are usually highly erotic (with suggestive or tantalizing angels and skimpy clothing)…
…but highly accurate (except maybe the “broscience”, dubious claims based on hearsay or suspicious science). If you didn’t know this: form is absolutely key in exercise! Before anything else, you need good form! Danberu knows good form, and has some helpful tips for beginners, such as facing a wall when doing squats in order to be conscious of where your knees are. The manga is basically exercises, fanservice, jokes, and slice of life segments. The characters are splendid and fun, having interests beyond just weight-lifting, and they feel mostly believable. The series is lovely, though I worry about it…
You see, this series that appeals to me in so many ways — with its both healthy and also becoming fit, peppy and hilarious main character, its quirky and arousing deuteragonist, its funny as hell muscular trainer who’s just priceless, its titillating but also useful exercise explanations, its super cute tomboy best friend who becomes more prominent later on, its so-called “Christmas Cake” (single older woman) teacher who is introduced in the latest chapters, and its overabundance of good vibes feels like it couldn’t possibly last long.
By virtue of being a series with a clear format (new chapter, new exercise) as well as a goal (Hibiki getting fit), I can’t see how Danberu nan kiro moteru? could ever be long-running, so I’m bummed and a little worried. There are only so many exercises that can be explained, the main characters are in their second year of high school, and time doesn’t exactly move slowly in the series. I think that it’s likely to end within two or three volumes, and that makes me sad.
This manga has taught me, motivated me, amused me, and tickled many a fancy of mine. When it goes, no matter when that is, I’m gonna be pretty depressed. If the manga pulls a fast one on me and starts heading in an unexpected and new direction, however, I’ll be all for it. I love so many things about this manga. Along with what I mentioned before, I think MAAM’s art in the series is some of my favorite art I’ve ever seen.
He or she is able to draw crazy faces well and with great variety, bodies well and with great variety (muscle girls, healthy girls, toned girls, girls with sexy abs, UNF), and is still capable of drawing a good-looking muscular dude. They also draw a color page omake for each and every chapter, as well as a color cover page (one of those rare examples where the tankoubon/bound volume has the color pages as well! though it’s only in ebook form; only the first few pages are colored in the physical tank) which makes me respect and admire their work ethic. The artist is no slouch in this artist/writer pair, and I’ve already sang the praises of Yabako.
Yabako seems like a really interesting guy who’s led a VERY odd life (martial artist, businessman, ruin excavator, fisherman, mangaka (writer)), and considering this life and how fun he made Danberu I feel like I’m going to have to give Kengan Ashura a shot. He’s also been enticing readers lately by putting in direct connections between Danberu and Kengan Ashura, implying they take place in the same exact setting with fighters from the latter being pictured in the former, or characters being related to other characters (pay attention to Akemi’s older sister), or how at least one major character in Kengan Asura goes to the same girls’ school as the characters from Danberu. I’ve always loved this sort of thing, and given how much I seem to share the tastes of the author? Yeah, I’m definitely gonna have my eye on his works.
But god, I hope Danberu nan kiro moteru? doesn’t end any time soon. It’s been one of the highlights of my life, lately. Seriously.
Now that volume 1 of Danberu nan kiro moteru? is available, please buy it. This is a manga that definitely deserves your money: I highly recommend it. If you want to buy it, you can use any of the sites at the bottom of this article.
And hey, I told you I’d get this review done Friday! My life clears up significantly next week, so hopefully I won’t have another strange schedule again for a while. Anyway, thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy this manga. Until next time, peace.
Author Sandrovich Yabakov’s twitter
@yabakostardust (that’s a goddamn great name)
Artist MAAM’s twitter