by Andy Pfeiffer,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Dr. Stone ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Dr. Stone ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Dr. Stone ?
Science is fun! If that simple phrase means something special to you, then Dr. Stone is right up your alley—and mine! While its dystopian premise will probably take a long time to fully develop, these initial episodes of Dr. Stone manage to turn basic levels of science knowledge into a convincing narrative where simple experiments shape the future of its characters and world.
So far, character is Dr. Stone's main selling point. As a Shonen Jump product, there's a decent amount you can extrapolate about its tropes from the surface. You've got your special protagonist, a loud child, a girl, and a rival. Where Dr. Stone immediately differs from its peers is that Senku's genius intellect or Tsukasa's monstrous strength aren't there to place them above the masses, as the incredibly isolated world around them doesn't allow for much comparison. While we're still meant to marvel at Senku's brilliance, the tone struck is closer to a Danganronpa game than your usual story of teenagers surviving a dystopia. Tsukasa's first introduction as the “Strongest Primate High-Schooler” is nearly word for word something you'd see from Kazutaka Kodaka, so props to Inagaki for hitting that specific vibe of tongue-in-cheek comedy right away. This makes the main draw of these initial episodes the ways in which these two immediately recognize each other as equals in personal ability, but rivals in general ideology. Sadly, this means the other two principal characters so far, Taiju and Yuzuriha, have been mostly used to supplement Senku's talents. They obey him without question and act as a sort of audience proxy to have the neat science bits explained to them. They feel like lesser characters than Senku or Tsukasa mostly out of convenience, and I'm hoping with a clear conflict established now, they will be given a chance to shine on their own merits.
That brings us back to the main gimmick of the series: the science! Senku being a child prodigy who can literally count seconds for millennia should make him feel mostly alien, but he actually comes across more as a child that was super-into Bill Nye the Science Guy or Beakman's World, and then continued that love of learning to the extreme. Rather than talking down to the audience or sounding like he's reciting wikipedia pages, Senku delivers science in a way that you feel his own excitement for it. Yūsuke Kobayashi does a wonderful job portraying this side of Senku while also nailing his more childish side that enjoys being around friends. His more sociable nature is mandatory for this premise, because science in Dr. Stone is not a solitary effort. It's a collaborative endeavor that takes more than just knowing how chemical processes work. It involves guesswork, failure, and plenty of time even if you know the theory behind what you're attempting to make happen. This type of honesty and accuracy around the topic of science is refreshing, and it's probably why each episode ends with a disclaimer that while the story is fantasy, the science involved is not, so please don't follow the instructions to make gunpowder in your parent's home.
On a final note, there's also the technical merits of this show to discuss. Boichi's art style on the page isn't particularly to my taste, but TMS have done a wonderful job adapting it into motion. We'll see if this continues as time goes on and more characters are introduced, but for now, from the sinewy muscles of Tsukasa battling lions to Senku's stink-faces at Taiju's simplicity, I have been thoroughly captivated and entertained. Likewise, the sound design for this barren and natural world has done a standout job of conveying the scale and atmosphere of its setting alongside the sprawling environmental art, and the OP&ED have both already entered the never-skip portion of my brain. If all you're interested in is an anime's audio/visual quality, then these first episodes should give you something to chew on, and hopefully they'll get you invested in the story itself as it develops.
From here on, I expect each week to feature its own bit of science and character work, and I hope the show can maintain the fun balance it has established. I'm slightly worried that as more complicated concepts or experiments are introduced, they may hurt the story's pacing, but I admit those fears are currently unfounded due to the quality of these first three episodes. Next week will be a race against time between Senku's science and Tsukasa's tenacity. I can't wait to see the results of this newest experiment!
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