Dr. Stone: Stone Wars
Episode 1-2

by Richard Eisenbeis,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Dr. Stone: Stone Wars ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Dr. Stone: Stone Wars ?

“In which our heroes make a long-distance call.”

For 99% of movies and TV shows, the old storytelling adage "show don't tell" is a good rule to follow. After all, in a visual medium, showing something tends to have far more impact than unnatural-sounding expositional dialogue that exists solely to give the audience the next piece of vital plot information.

However, Dr. Stone follows a different pattern—one of “tell, then show.” Over the first two episodes of Stone Wars, there are two big examples of this.

The first is the immense tactical advantage afforded by instant wireless communication. In the back end of the first season, Senku told Gen and the villagers that it was the cellphone—not guns, bombs, or swords—that was the ultimate weapon and the key to winning the impending battle against Tsukasa. Now we finally get to see why this is.

When Momiji discovers that the bombs were a two-tiered attack—one aimed at capturing her while also hiding the existence of the phone delivery team—she heads off in pursuit of the delivery team. From her point of view, she has the advantage. She is much faster and more agile than anyone save Kohaku and has a sizable head start over any reinforcements. Moreover, she's chasing a target burdened by heavy gear and she doesn't even have to fight them to win—all she needs to do is confirm what the delivery team is up to and report back to Tsukasa.

However, with instant communication, the delivery team is able to coordinate with their reinforcements and bait Momiji into a trap. This shows us through a real and desperate situation what Senku told us before—that communication is more important than raw physical power.

The second “tell, then show” is a bit more subtle but just as important. Early in the first episode, Senku tells everyone that freeze-dried food is vital to their plans. Momiji's pursuit effectively demonstrates this as well. Neither the delivery team nor their reinforcements have to worry about food. Freeze-dried food is lightweight, physically tiny, and all they have to do to prepare it is boil some snow for water. While it's not directly shown, we can assume that Momiji is either wasting energy by hunting/scavenging for food or is simply going hungry during the pursuit. Either way, when Momiji enters the trap, she isn't in the best condition physically or mentally—which only makes her more susceptible to it.

This style of “tell, then show” would be redundant in many anime, destroying all the tension by spoiling its own plot points in advance. However, it works in Dr. Stone because the show is concerned with more than just telling a fun adventure story: it's trying to teach its viewers about the wonders of the science they see all around them and take for granted. After all, “tell, then show” isn't really a storytelling rule; it's a teaching technique—and one we've all experienced in many science classes.

Outside of showcasing the merits of the series' story structure, these first two episodes also hint to us about Tsukasa's glaring weakness. As Momiji's capture shows, Senku can out-think and out-maneuver any person of Tsukasa's through science. Gen can do the same in a psychological fashion. Tsukasa knows this, but he also knows that he can't risk reviving thinkers on par with Senku and Gen without the very real risk of them defecting to Senku's side—or, worse yet, making their own faction.

Thus, Tsukasa is confined to worrying about what Senku can do from his own biased viewpoint. Tsukasa believes that science is inherently destructive—and therefore the final battle will be a physical one. He and those like him fear the military applications of science—guns and swords and the like. But these are not what he should fear.

Senku and Gen are aiming for the soul of Tsukasa's tribe—the idea that they are better off in Tsukasa's no-tech world. Of course, in a no-tech world with Tsukasa as king, it's not like they have any choice. However, by proving that there is a better option—a more comfortable life out there that Tsukasa will be unable to destroy—they may switch sides as easily as Gen. And both Senku and Gen realize that they don't even need to really prove it. All they need is a lie and a bit of hope to see Tsukasa's kingdom come tumbling down.


Random Thoughts:

• I'll be taking over Dr. Stone reviews this season and I have to say, despite myself being well outside the “Shounen” demographic, it feels like this show was tailor-made for me. Every “science is so great” bit hits me right in the feels and I love watching Senku MacGyver together modern-day technology in a Stone Age world.

• At this point, I feel I really need to see Momiji's backstory to understand her loyalty to Hyoga. Cuz, I don't know about you, but in a world without technology, the moment I find out the enemy has bombs and a cellphone, I'm switching sides.

• I don't believe for a second Taiju can keep his big mouth shut about the existence of the phone.

• I like the fact that, as amoral as both Senku and Gen pretend to be, neither can take a life—even when it is the best option pragmatically.

• The invention of the flashbang was a good touch—as was the UV light. I like these surprise inventions we get that come as byproducts to those we see made in the main story.

Dr. Stone: Stone Wars is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.

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