How would you rate episode 20 of
Dr. Stone ?
We're back to a full science episode, and I couldn't be happier with the result. From now on the Stone World is no more, because with recent developments it can now be classified as the Meme World. Thanks to Byakuya for making sure that important bit of culture was passed down for millenia! Though now I have to wrestle with the idea that Ginro sees himself as the resident memer and I hope beyond hope that Senku doesn't invent social media anytime soon.
If Meme World doesn't take off then I suppose we could go with something more befitting the recent inventions of goldsmithing and hydroelectric power, but I struggle to find an encompassing term for those so for now I'll still default to Stone World. As for the inventions themselves this episode managed to do something normally off-putting for me in a really cool and clever way. Normally when Dr. Stone tries to quickly introduce an invention I feel let down that it doesn't fully delve into the aspects of it. I understand the need for this with the overarching plot taking more and more space in the show, but the earnest science is still a major draw. So this episode tackling something as basic as a cotton candy machine freed up space for more than one breakthrough, but it happens nearly entirely off screen, so why does it work so well?
The answer is that even though the physical construction is unseen, the actual pieces and character work to accomplish it happened entirely on screen. The only thing missing was Senku's explanation, and that plays perfectly into the end result. Chrome, still with that wonderful character animation of the lit up wire as his idea bulb, puts all the pieces of the water wheel together himself upon seeing the gear. While he previously would understand each piece of the puzzle while working on them, in this case he independently connected their past experiments to the current one. Not only is this a large breakthrough for his character, but it's also the first time Senku wasn't thinking big enough.
While tossing out ideas like smartphones, Senku still didn't think of building a waterwheel, and I think this finally shows one of Senku's flaws. Even though he plans on bringing technology back, his main focus is still the task at hand, step by step. For now all he needed was a single gear, and so that's what he made. It took Chrome to think ahead of what the next application of a gear could be, and connected that to the creation of the waterwheel. This divide of Senku as past knowledge and Chrome as the scientist of the future is sure to continue in an interesting way and I wonder if this divide will ever become a conflict in the far far future. For now though, it's a nice little nod to how even though Senku is aware of the potential of those around him, he's not omniscient. He can be surprised. In this case he found himself impressed by an ally, but it also leaves open the possibility of being caught off guard by an enemy.
Speaking of enemies we got a little bit of character from Homura this week. It wasn't much, but it went along great with the other small moments we got this episode. From the textual ones, like Gen slyly changing his tone to encourage cotton candy making in order to raise everyone's spirits, to the visual of Ginro being dragged each time Kinro pulled his end of the rope. The new technique this episode was directly tied to Homura, as I don't believe we've had a pure auditory moment so far in the show. Upon her tasting the cotton candy we are treated to the sounds of a forgotten world. The hustle and bustle of a festival or fair. A place she once was, long before where she is now. We get nothing more than that sound as her silhouette is perched against the long dark night, grappling with this glimmer of her past. What consequences this small kindness has remains to be seen, but, as seen with Gen and a bottle of Coke, sometimes the smallest hints of a world that was are enough to sway those that miss them.
As fun as it is to see characters eating the usual anime censorship clouds, the more serious message from this is the juxtaposition of the experiences. Those eating the candy for the first time are experiencing the joy of something new and are hardened in their belief in Senku and his kingdom of science. While those on the Tsukasa side find a kind of bittersweetness, not the same as it was but close enough that, if not outright inspiring hope, it still causes doubt about their current life. This aspect of Senku's science, the culture surrounding it, is what I expect to be the true downfall of Tsukasa's empire. While Tsukasa sees Senku relying on the native populace as a weakness, his own reliance on revived humans has created a huge flaw in his power structure. Their past memories and experiences can be exploited, and a rule of strength and fear can never truly stamp out the underlying desire for culture. How he plans to combat this or how blind he is to it remains to be seen, but I expect to get some sense of that whenever we check back in on Taijuu and Yuzuhira, which, after this type of episode, I sure hope we do soon.
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