by Andy Pfeiffer,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Dr. Stone ?
“You may have been my first friend.”
Man was this a good episode. Picking up where we left off, Tsukasa and Senku's race for superiority was fast and direct. This is a surprise considering how shonen series are known for stretching out plot points, but it sure isn't an unwelcome one. Not that we don't get an example of that anyway, with Taiju deciding to put his confession on hold until civilization is restored. I've never been a fan of the idea that girls are too dumb to realize when a dude is waffling around with their feelings, and since Yuzuriha clearly isn't, all this does is make me like Taiju less.
Speaking of Yuzuriha, it sure was nice for her to get some development this episode! The haircut line was pretty great, but the self-sacrifice coming across as “one girl versus the fate of humanity” was a bit much since the actual choice is still Senku's, not her own, and as Tsukasa already pointed out, Senku had already made that decision when he chose to revive her rather than keep her petrified form hidden. It's important that he did so for the sake of both Taiju and Yuzuriha's feelings, which speaks to the heart of Senku's character.
During his stand-off with Tsukasa, Senku plays the part of the science character, making choices according to statistics and logic for the most efficient outcome. However, the message of this episode is that Senku, and science itself, is more than that. Beyond just logic and numbers, science is made up of dreams, hopes, and failures that stem from taking emotional choices sometimes, but never giving up. The highlight of this episode is the flashback to Senku's childhood. We see the full progress of his dream of space travel, his father's sacrifice to allow his child to explore that dream, and the friends made along that journey of highs and lows. In choosing to continue the smoke signals, he chooses the emotional risk for the sake of discovery. In choosing to revive Yuzuriha he chooses a risk for his friend's happiness, and in choosing to be honest with Tsukasa, he chooses his own death to affirm his faith in all these decisions and his way of life. It's a stark contrast with Tsukasa, who I fully believe is honest that he doesn't want to kill Senku, and that he would have loved to have him as a friend. However, Tsukasa is unable to affirm himself in the same way Senku does. He believes he is choosing the world above himself and therefore his actions are automatically just. He's so unwilling to allow the old world to return that he eliminates the possibility of overcoming his loneliness, and that's the true difference between the two. Senku, seeing the smoke signals, knows that eventually humanity will live on and grow. Civilization has already begun to germinate in the Stone World, and no matter how strong Tsukasa is, he cannot forever use force to stop the wheel of humanity's progress, because it's not solitary strength that defines society, but the bonds between others.
Killing off your protagonist four episodes into the story sure is a bold move, but it's also one I don't fully buy at this point. There's some tricky editing at play here for one thing, but I also can't see anyone else taking up the emotional reins of the show. I know I said earlier that Taiju has the qualities of your typical protagonist, but this story so far can't really move forward with his archetype at the helm. Either way, even being 99% sure Senku isn't dead, that cliffhanger is very effective and I applaud the direction involved. This was a big moment that hit hard, leaving plenty of options open for where the story can go from here.
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