by Andy Pfeiffer,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Dr. Stone ?
A complete victory for science! Which, while the same note the last episode ended on, is somehow very different this time!
While we learned that Kinro with glasses trumps Magma, we had forgotten that his honor makes him easily tricked, and though that quality is what originally helped pressure him into the Kingdom of Science, it sadly cost them this time. With his downfall, the plan quickly devolves into a hodgepodge of questionable science time. Ginro experiments with Senku's secret stuff and the combination of caffeine and placebo effect does a lot to someone who's never really experienced either, and gives a nice dichotomy of shots from his inner perspective to the horror show that is reality.
The one spot this episode falters though is in its portrayal of Magma. While he's clearly a gross and egotistical villain I'm not completely on board with the idea that he's a simple meathead. Sure, he's no Tsukasa, but part of why the tension in this tournament arc works is his behind the scenes plays. Tricking Kohaku away and then forcing Mantle to forfeit in order to disqualify her is a simple play, but it's still as much a strategy as the next. Magma is a good foil not simply because his imposing figure is hard to overcome, but because of his complete lack of morals in fulfilling his ambition, and that's why pairing him off against Chrome works thematically.
Although Senku is up next, the framing of the narrative really understands that this is Chrome's fight more than his, and thankfully this episode follows suit. While Chrome so far has kind of existed as a replacement Taiju and Senku understudy, we do have a solid grasp on his character, but what we didn't have was him being forced to apply it. Chrome's true strength is one that is really hard to grasp in concept, and that's because it's the ability to bring others together and rely on them in times of need. The way this is translated to a one-on-one bout is a bit fantastical but perfectly in line with the rest of the logic in the show. He takes what he's learned from Senku and with a little ingenuity finds a way to take advantage of science in order to win, but also benefits from the rest of the Kingdom of Science in less direct ways. Suika's melon is the instrument, Gen Asagiri makes a triumphant return to buy time, and Kohaku's training helps him deliver the final, and much practiced blow. While it lacks the directness and action oriented flow of what should have been Kinro's victory, that difference is what makes it truly fit Dr. Stone. After all this isn't a battle series, it's a science one!
On a non-narrative note we've got a brand new OP and ED! I'm still undecided on if I'm happy with this as I really liked the last ones, but at the very least the OP has me psyched for some new characters and mysteries, while the ED maintains the more sentimental aspects that the last had to cool down after the run time ends. I'll give myself about three weeks of them to see how they truly compare to the firsts, because as of now those have some in-built nostalgia with how fun this show has been.
Rating:(4 whenever Gen is on screen)
How would you rate episode 15 of
Dr. Stone ?
I don't know whether to count episode 15 as the penultimate or as the final episode of the Village Arc but either way it's certainly leaving off on a very strong note.
First off, we've reached the end of the grand bout! While everything goes mostly according to plan after Chrome's win over Magma, Ginro's stupidity manages to throw things off just enough. While it's based in absolutely scumbaggery it's still nice to see that even after his courageous turn during this arc that some aspects of people don't change too much. It'd be easy to take this sequence as pure comedy, especially with Senku's display of the power of simple machines, but this time delay is enough to sell Chrome's exhaustion. Had things gone as planned and Ginro and Senku quickly conceded then Chrome and Ruri would've been wed as planned, and no outsider would've seized control of the village. Which, as good as that would've been for village politics, would deny us Senku's complete lack of them.
As much as it's played for comedy, Senku's blasphemous decision of making as newly appointed chief was vital for Ruri's survival. Had he stuck with tradition, or had Chrome won as planned, then the all night celebration certainly had a chance of trading away Ruri's remaining time. It's small details like this that really show the strength of Dr. Stone's plotting. That this episode also features quite a bit of recapping yet does so to show just how purposeful this half a year has been is another very strong display of that. All the hard work and various science experiments we've witnessed haven't just led to this moment, but had been decided by this. That's how science works! You recognize a problem, find the solution, and then work towards it in incremental ways. It truly fits the shonen formula in a unique and charming way, and while other episodes have shown that on the individual scale this is the very first large scale experiment. That tying it to the Grand Bout and the mystery of Ishigami village works so well is a sign of how strong a writer Riichiro Inagaki is. It's easy for shonen stories to fall into a loop, but he manages to exponentially expand that loop from single episodes to full arc and what I hope will be full story.
On the character side of things I'm really glad that time is taken to show Senku's concern that, although this was very thought out, he still hadn't had the opportunity to examine just what Ruri's ailment was. All that work had the chance to go disastrously wrong and he had an appropriate amount of concern and worry not just that his Kingdom of Science hinged on this, but for the actual human life that he was now responsible for. It's a tense moment and although we've seen him celebrate success time and time again, this was the first time held the gravity of months of work from all those he assembled. Also of note is much like when Senku first punked Chrome in their science-off, and instead of looking down the series looked upon Chrome's attempts with respect and admiration, we get a moment of acknowledgement for Kohaku's efforts. Ruri's disease would've progressed and killed her long before Senku arrived if not for Kohaku's constant care. The way the series acknowledges the small, continuous, hard, and seemingly thankless endeavors these characters have done is extremely important to the heart of the series.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the man whose recent contributions and personal risk in all this has been greater than others are aware of. I am of course talking about Asagiri Gen, who, after being cruelly punked by Senku for thinking of selfishly getting his reward while others worked to save a life, did actually get a taste of his promised cola. Because in Dr. Stone no one is truly overlooked, no one's efforts go unrewarded, and no friendship is left unfulfilled.
How would you rate episode 16 of
Dr. Stone ?
We cap off the Village Arc with the stunning revelation that Senku has a family name. No really, for the first time in anime this is actually relevant information and not just a detail to look up on a Wikipedia page for some obscure trivia. Personally, this one rides the line of being a little too cute and clever for me, but it's a fun twist on how many shows get by on first names alone, and the revelation itself would probably land a little soft if not for the great job the episode does fleshing it out.
We already knew that Senku's dad was very supportive of his son's interests, but now we finally get a glimpse of him as his own person. It's of little surprise that his son shares his passions as we watch his struggle to reach space, and how it reflects on the young Senku we already know adds a bit more to the old flashbacks we saw of him, Taiju, and Yuzuriha. The main draw here though is the time he spends away from Senku, and what ultimately leads to the creation of Ishigami village. Aboard the ISS we meet a very small crew with designs that can be extrapolated directly to the current residents of the village. I'm gonna ignore the amount of inbreeding that occurs over 3,700 years and have high hopes that the series does the same, because the part that matters is more about why the village exists as it does than the exact details of how it's populated. We now know why Ruri knows who Senku is, how their stories have such a close relation to those of the old world, and part of why it was so important to always have someone to pass them down.
As for the astronaut team themselves, they're a rather eclectic bunch who I'm sure we'll get more of a grasp of either in more flashbacks or through Ruri's stories. For now though it's a fun game to trace each one's personality to the villagers we currently know, and I highly encourage everyone to come to their own conclusions on those. The most important thoughline to all of this is Byakuya Ishigami's determination. We know the eventual village will take his name, and it's easy to see why. His resolve to be the one to help everyone else is something we've very much seen in his son, and it stands to reason he saw his own limitations, but knows that Senku's abilities are far beyond them. That everything we've seen so far has been part of a multi-millennium gamble suits Dr. Stone perfectly. Science requires the right tools in the right environment, and the problem of the Stone World now has Senku in his.
On the other side of things this revelation completely changes the current backseat dynamic of the show. After all it's probably only a matter of time until either Gen's deception wears thin or Tsukasa decides to investigate the natives he encountered on his own accord. After his encounter with Kohaku he dismissed the native humans as a primitive tribe that was managing to survive. A trifle to either be incorporated or destroyed at his convenience. The revelation of its origin changes the village to something fundamentally at odds with his empire because of one very powerful thing. Culture. Tsukasa desires a new pure world, and Ishigami village is not a group of mere survivors, but curators of the past. Without this knowledge he may have simply seen Senku and the Kingdom of Science alone as his enemy, but the reality is that Ishigami village has been against him from the start, and that Senku's arrival is merely the culmination of their way of life. What will have to be done to keep this information from reaching him, or what will happen if it does, has now amplified the stakes of the Stone World.
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