A Blast From the Past: Get Caught Up on Dr. Stone Season 1by Nicholas Dupree,
This winter there's an insane number of sequels coming out. From long-awaited follow ups for Log Horizon and World Trigger to highly anticipated second seasons for That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and The Promised Neverland. Hidden among all those titles though is a series that's been quietly biding its time, counting the minutes until the perfect time for its return before it bursts from its slumber to change the world once again: Dr. Stone.
Based on the hit manga by writer Riichirou Inagaki and artist BOICHI, Dr. Stone is the story of what happens after a mysterious light engulfs Earth, turning every human on the planet to stone. 3700 years later, through chance or fate, the first human to emerge from this stone hibernation is Senku Ishigami, a teen prodigy who sets out to use his vast knowledge of science and engineering to not only reawaken the rest of humanity, but speedrun the entirety of human invention in the process. Faced with the seemingly impossible, Senku begins the methodical, painstaking path from Stone Age to Space Age, one invention at a time. One might think that would make for a tedious, laborious process to follow; one person trying to rebuild human society from the literal ground up shouldn't make for an engaging TV experience outside of a Discovery Channel reality show, but Dr. Stone has an almost scientifically perfected formula for turning the process of invention into something you can't put down. Whether crafting stone-age soap bars, building an iron forge, or the excruciating undertaking of making modern medicine from scratch, every new discovery comes with the thrill of learning something new and the satisfaction of a job well done for both the characters and audience. Edutainment is an objectively terrible word, but it's honestly the best way to describe the quirky mix of informative and fun energy Senku and his allies bring to every episode. But of course, even that wouldn't be enough to fuel an ongoing series on its own, which brings us to…
Strength Vs. Science
One of the first people Senku revives – after his friends Taiju and Yuzuriha – is Tsukasa Shishio, a legendary brawler and delinquent in the pre-stone world, who serves as their burgeoning society's muscle to ward off predators and hunt down large game. But Tsukasa is far from your typical musclehead – he's shrewd, observant, and most of all has very strong feelings about the nature of society at large. And he sees this rebirth of humanity as a chance to fix the ailments and corruptions of past human nations. So what better way to begin anew than crush some defenseless stone humans and only revive those you personally trust and can command? And if your new brilliant scientist friend has any issues with that, what's he going to do that could stop you? Fake his own death, search out a village of people descended from survivors of the apocalypse, and win them over to found a kingdom of science to oppose you? What are the chances of that?
Indeed, through ingenuity, luck, and the ever-present power of friendship, Senku manages to escape Tsukasa's newly founded empire and ingratiates himself with a village of stone-age humans, including amateur scientist (or as he described it, Sorcerer) Chrome and powerful fighter Kohaku. It's here where the scientist's quest to rebuild the world comes into its sharpest focus, as he is no longer just rebuilding what was lost, but introducing advancements to people who have been living at the bottom of the tech tree their entire lives. From simple pleasures like reintroducing ramen to Japan, to literally life-changing creations like eyeglasses and curative medicine, Dr. Stone demonstrates the power science has to move hearts and minds.
Minds, especially, in the case of Gen Asagiri, a Mentalist (read: Conman) from the modern age who's resuscitated by Tsukasa to sniff out of Senku's whereabouts and plans. Ever the opportunist, Gen cozies up to Senku and the other villagers to ascertain which side is more likely to win in a potential conflict. He's initially given pause by Senku's seemingly insane plan to harness electricity and create steel weapons, but what truly wins him over is the promise of a far simpler creation: a nice, cold bottle of cola to enjoy in this harsh and grueling stone world. With that sugary, bubbly promise assured, Gen fully joins the team as their spy, and even helps Senku win the village's tournament to determine their next chief. Now with an established seat of leadership, Senku is finally in place to truly establish his Kingdom of Science with the fine and varied citizens of Ishigami Village. Wait, Ishigami?
A Blast from the Past
As it turns out, while the vast majority of humanity was encased in stone, a few did manage to survive – specifically a handful of astronauts aboard the ISS, and among them was none other than Senku's adoptive father, Byakuya Ishigami. After braving the descent back to Earth, the crew of scientists – along with the celebrity guest voyager Lillian Weinberg – were faced with the prospect of being the last people left on the planet. Ever the forward thinker, Byakuya realized that the person who would save the world wouldn't arrive for generations, even millennia, and set about building the foundation for whoever would encounter his and the other survivors' distant descendants. And through either fate or a coincidence so astronomically unlikely as to strain reality, his message found its way to his own son, 3700 years later.
Byakuya's team also left behind a more literal record: a glass recording of Lillian performing one of her most famous songs, and it's here that the core of Dr. Stone's dedication to science really finds its emotional footing. Science is indeed powerful in how it can affect human life and society, but also in how it can preserve ideas and art, connecting people who would otherwise never have known one another. Be it a song heard millennia after its singer is gone, the passion of a curious kid learning about the cool rocks around his home, or the desire to light up the night sky, there's proof everywhere that the history of science is simply the history of people, and in his quest to rebuild, Senku is working to save that all from being lost to time and disaster.
Of course, there is still the slight speedbump of a growing kingdom of powerful fighters led by a passionate ideologue who wants Senku dead.
Even faking death has its limits, and while Gen's ruses and false info managed to buy the Kingdom of Science time to prepare, conflict is fast approaching, with Tsukasa's army having had just as much time to grow their ranks. We see this not only in his muscle-bound foot soldiers, but in his devious and ruthless allies. Hyoga, a skilled martial artist with a special skill for the spear acts as his lead general, and is as conniving as he is dangerous; fighting toe-to-toe with all of Ishigami Village's strongest fighters while acting as a decoy for his subordinate to burn their entire village to the ground. Through quick thinking (and some terrifying use of natural gas) the Science citizens manage to fend off their attackers, but it's clear that if it comes down to a straight-on battle, they will be on the losing end. But there are more ways to win a war than sheer strength, and it's through a different type of strategy that Senku plans to come out victorious: information warfare. Gen may be exposed, but there are still two agents ready to help them infiltrate the enemy in Taiju and Yuzuriha, and to reach them Senku finishes out the season with a nearly unbelievable plan: construct a pair of cellphones in the stone age. In classic Dr. Stone fashion it works, though the resulting creations are just barely portable, but now they stand ready to build an information network beyond anything Tsukasa's muscle and bone can conquer.
And that's where we stand on the cusp of season 2. It's a classic story of brain vs brawn, but also the tale of dueling determination. Can Senku and his ragtag group of science warriors take down the all-consuming might of Tsukasa's fledgling empire? Even with guerrilla chemistry and engineering, is there any answer for the shrewd power of an ultimate fighter aiming to remake the world? The only thing we can be sure of is that finding those answers will be exhilarating.
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