by Andy Pfeiffer,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Dr. Stone ?
What a good run that was.
It feels odd to say goodbye to Dr. Stone. Not only because it ends with a message that it'll return for another season, but because the series itself represents a kind of constant progress and building that fits so well week to week, growing as a whole each time, and the reminder that cycle is subject to the hard stop of seasonal anime airing is a bit too on the nose for how our own world gates culture and progress despite how much we wish for it.
I wondered how the season would end after last episode finished the cell phone, as there wasn't really time to insert yet another large invention, and any small one would certainly feel underwhelming to end on after the amount of time and reasoning for the phone. While the expected gag of a second phone was cute, I'm glad the focus on the episode did actually turn out to be something smaller, simpler, and far bigger than the phone. The show has never shied away from pushing that the key difference between Tsukasa's Empire and Senku's Kingdom of science isn't one of power, but of culture.
Turns out that was obvious all the way back to the founding of Ishigami village. Byakuya's 100 stories ended up hiding more secrets than expected, as one with no clear message or moral to impart to future generations appears. While Senku was able to receive his father's dying wish and what we thought was his final gift back upon becoming village chief, it turns out that final gift was actually more physical than metaphorical in the end. Well, in some ways at least.
While the whole bee speaker thing is clever, I gotta make at least one shout out to Gen in this last entry because it takes a cheat to notice a cheat. While Senku is quick to tone out the story as Byakuya being Byakuya, it's Gen that calls out the obvious problems with the story. The villagers' obliviousness to why it's odd is a great touch on how well crafted and pointed this message from the past is. They've successfully assimilated Byakuya's final message and are primed to reveal it when the precise circumstances for it finally exist. Any doubt on if he truly believed that creating the village was for Senku or simply using that hope as an excuse to continue humanity is gone with this revelation, as no one else could possibly not only decipher the message but create the circumstances required to reveal it, and while this does lead to a physical object the essence it contains is so much greater.
Music! Movies! ANIME! In a world where once there existed so much, the loss of entertainment can at first feel like a fresh start. I'm sure Tsukasa is grateful that the world was cleansed of the glut of commercialized products that drown out our current existence, but there's more to it than that. The existence of art and culture is important to any society. The systems they were made under can have any number of problems, but the ideal solution to that is not to eliminate culture, but the systems that exploit, abuse, or eradicate it. As Tsukasa has fallen into this last one and seeks to condemn the Stone World to it forever, Byakuya's final gift sends a clear example of what The Kingdom of Science is fighting for. Senku's promises are one thing, but a concrete combo of creating the record player and the song that it brings forth does more than any amount of cotton candy or water wheels have so far. It gives more than hope. It gives ideas. Senku isn't just bringing back objects from the past, he's giving them new and interesting avenues to explore for themselves. He's promising a way of life where the struggle to survive becomes secondary, and each and every one of them will be able to pursue hopes and dreams specific to themselves. It's a world of creativity and compassion. One that is hard for anyone to stand against, and more importantly one worth fighting for.
That's where we're left at the end of season one. Remembering not how Dr. Stone uses physical contraptions from our world to tell its story, but how it uses the same hopes and dreams we have to fight for a better world.
So long, and thanks for all the stone.
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