Real-life bodybuilders stand in for anime weightlifters in otaku community’s favorite workout anthem.

Anime in the “teenage girl starts a new hobby and is surprised to find how deep her passion is for it” genre are a dime a dozen, but 2019 weightlifting series How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? stood out from the pack. By picking a fitness activity that isn’t nearly as mainstream in Japan as it is in the west, but still something that people can easily dip their toes in by buying a day pass to their local gym, How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? landed right in the sweet spot of intriguing and relatable, becoming an unexpected sleeper hit.

But the “sleeper” qualifier isn’t at all necessary when it comes to the anime’s opening theme, “Onegai Muscle” (“Please, Muscles”), which has an official live-action video that (as of this writing) has racked up 115,379,386 views!

While the vocals come from the series’ lead voice actors, Ai Fairouz and Kaito Ishikawa, the live-action video has bodybuilders Reika Saiki and Naotaka Yokokawa standing in for How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? main characters Hibiki and Machio. The video is purely composed of clips of the two of them working out together in a gym, but it’s hard to think of two more appropriate ambassadors for a series that’s so focused on the joy of building muscle that its catchphrase is “Nice bulk!”

▼ Yokokawa would fit right in on Japan’s new muscular men stock photo site.

So what’s the secret to “Onegai Muscle’s” success? It’s got an infectiously upbeat tempo, but without going quite as hyperactive or squeaky as some otaku anthems. It’s easy to sing along to, since “Onegai muscle!” appears in the lyrics over and over, and as a two-singer song, it’s easy to drop in just on the parts you know. But the song’s biggest gains in popularity might come from how many people, according to online comments, were inspired to start working out because of How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? and quickly put its theme song on their exercise playlist, drawing energy and inspiration from the way it makes exercise feel fun and inviting, especially when you pair it with scenes of Saiki and Yokokawa smiling and cheering each other on.

Speaking of cheering, the series’ official Twitter account made a commemorative post on September 9 celebrating the video passing 100 million views, accompanied by a new illustration of Hibiki and Machio.

▼ By the way, if Saiki looks familiar to you, it might be because you recognize her from our previous discussion of Japan’s “muscle idol,” or perhaps her amazing Chun-Li cosplay.

Saiki and Yokokawa also appeared in a new video reflecting on their video’s success as it hit the 10 million-view mark. “This sounds mean, but I honestly didn’t ever expect for it to get this big, so I was really surprised,” says Saiki. “When we made the video, I only expected it to get about 10,000 views, so it’s done 99,990,000 better than that” added Yokokawa.

And even though How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? has an obvious appreciation of beefy builds, “Onegai Muscle’s” final message, as expressed by its closing lyrics, is simply “You’re beautiful when you do your best,” which is a positive message worth hearing 115 million times.

Source: Twitter/@dumbbell_anime via Otakomu
Images: YouTube/KADOKAWAanime
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where exercising and watching anime are two of his favorite things.