by Andy Pfeiffer,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Dr. Stone ?
The real treasure… was the friends we made along the way. Thanks Dr. Stone for doing in twenty episodes what One Piece still hasn't after nine hundred. And for having the wherewithal to know it's incredibly cheesy and dumb while also true and good.
Picking up where the last episode left off, the majority of this episode is centered on the unlikely expedition trio of Senku, Chrome, and Magma. With a further focus directly on Magma as he completes his face turn. It's kind of abrupt to suddenly humanize the guy that was bragging about taking a wife by force and then offing her, but Senku is a man of practicality and I guess the audience is supposed to be as well. I appreciate that we aren't given a tragic backstory or anything to excuse his prior actions because that would fall completely flat, but rather an insight into the reasoning of the village brute.
Magma is not a complicated character. Which isn't saying much positive or negative in this series. Most of the cast is pretty singular, and it really comes down to how that drives their actions. In Magma's case he's a man that has lived in a world that completely valued raw strength. That this led him to arrogance and callousness isn't much of a surprise, but it turns out that arrogance wasn't his defining trait. Magma honestly believed that the strongest should lead the village because it's how the village would survive. When bested by technology and seeing the improvements in the lives of the villagers he doesn't rebel against this new concept, but rather accepts it while internalizing that his strength is unnecessary. It doesn't exactly redeem his prior actions, but it absolutely marks him as more aware and interesting while giving him a chance to be a better person from here on. That Chrome is slow on picking this up while Senku seemed aware of it from the beginning of their expedition further fits, as Chrome has lived much of his life alongside Magma the Brute, while Senku has been paying attention to the humbled Magma as a fellow villager, and leads to the defining moment of Magma's reversal.
After he saves Senku by quickly pushing him out of the way, Magma attempts to draw himself as the villain one last time. He voices all the old thoughts he held, all the reasoning that would make perfect sense to Chrome to leave him to die, and tries to bury all of those laws of the old Stone World with him. It's a pretty bad acting job once you know what's up, but Chrome is conditioned otherwise. It's also a sacrifice built on misunderstanding. Magma may feel sorry that his old ways have been proven wrong, but that doesn't mean his usefulness to society is over. While Senku does give a satisfactory explanation as to how brains and brawn require each other, the episode is thankfully more a literal one, and the several scenes of Magma's brawn being an essential part of the plan, and I honestly believe that doing these acts did more convincing than any of Senku's talk.
The last part of Magma's redemption is his continued mistrust of Gen. His overhearing Gen's sadistic glee at Senku being away from the village puts a strict time limit on the excursion, and one he manages to enforce despite Chrome and Senku's tendency to get lost in geological exuberance. It really hammers home that he believes in Senku to save the village, and how much he really cares for the survival of it and the people that live there. Or at least it would if this framing wasn't a setup.
To be clear, the setup works because there's no reason to believe that isn't Magma's goal. There's absolutely no reason to go along with Gen's plan if those feelings aren't real, and that the show plays coy with this only works because of how true it is in the end. This scene also confirms my earlier suspicions that Gen was never on Tsukasa's side. As long as he's known of Senku he's had nothing but admiration and allegiance to him, and that his initial layered gambit to become their ally was fully intended. That he cared enough to take Senku's throwaway comment on how long he'd been alive to figure out his birthday and get the whole village to create a reminder of Senku's personal dream in the midst of rebuilding civilization speaks to a deeper understanding of Senku as a fellow human being rather than a savior. That's the true friendship here.
Because at the end of the day it's OK to be cringy when it's honest and heartfelt, and when you both know the thing that keeps you going forward when you've hit a wall, the hardest and strongest thing there is the Stone World, the real treasure you found along the way. Tungsten.
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