Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
One day a strange thing happened: all of the humans on the planet turned to stone. Since there was no one left to investigate, the reason remains unknown, by thousands of years later, two high school boys, Taiju and Senku, reawakened to find themselves in a world more similar to the stone age than what they remembered. With Taiju's brawn and Senku's scientific brains, the two begin the process of reawakening other humans and restarting civilization. But when circumstances force them to wake up someone who doesn't share their goals, will their plans end before they ever get off the ground?
Riichiro Inagaki is certainly not a one-trick pony. Best known in the English-speaking world for his football series Eyeshield 21, this time he tackles science fiction with Dr. Stone, a story about restarting the world after a mysterious event froze all humans as stone statues. It's a callback to the pulp fiction of the early twentieth century, both in its subject matter and its writing style, and while both of those do lead to the story being more masculine than some readers will like, it also works well to make this first volume a fun read with impressively high stakes.
The story begins contemporarily, with high schooler Taiju gearing up to finally confess his love to Yuzuriha, the girl he's had a crush on for five years. His best friend, school science genius Senku, is encouraging, and Taiju arranges to meet Yuzuriha under the large camphor tree on school grounds. What none of them expect is that a sudden flash in the sky will begin the process of turning humans to stone in a move narratively similar to the Medusa virus of King of Thorn. The difference is that everyone is affected, most so quickly that they don't even have time to process what's happening to them. Senku and Taiju are different, though – both, through sheer force of will, manage to maintain their consciousnesses even as their bodies are petrified. Whether or not this has any bearing on why they are able to shed their stony skins thousands of years later isn't clear (especially when Senku begins creating a cure), but it does give them a major advantage when they do wake up, because they know exactly what's been going on.
Senku is the first to awaken, but the primary point-of-view character is Taiju, although that is a somewhat malleable concept within the story. Senku, genius that he is, has figured out the basics of why the two boys were able to crack their stone shells, so there's an implication that it was, to a degree, dumb luck as to why they managed to return to flesh. More importantly for the story, this means that he's able to work on recreating the circumstances that allowed for it, with the goal of reviving more people and giving humans a chance to repopulate. Taiju is obviously set on having Yuzuriha, who thanks to their meeting place under the tree has come through unbroken, be the first one to be revived, and since they're going to need a girl eventually, Senku's fine with that. The problems arise when the boys are attacked by a lion and end up having to revive a local high school thug instead.
Thus begins the ideological heart of the series. Tsukasa has a troubled past, one which has led to him having a deep-seated distrust of adults. While Senku and Taiju don't have any strong feelings on bringing adults versus teens back to life, Tsukasa isn't only vehemently opposed to allowing adults back, he's willing to start ensuring that they can't be, going around smashing their intact stone remains. In Senku's mind, this is nothing less than murder, and Boichi's art goes out of its way to show that that isn't wrong – one scene has Tsukasa spotting a family of four with the two kids being elementary school age and systematically destroying the parents. It's a disturbing scene, made all the more so by the fact that we see the before and after without the actual “death.” This, combined with images of broken humans and people scattered across the landscape, consumed by plants and water, help to give the manga a clear sense of danger that's important to the plot.
This is not to say that the volume is entirely serious. Taiju is that special brand of not smart that in manga translates to him being impressively dense and powerful, and Senku skirts around obnoxiousness in the way he clearly cares about his friend. There are plenty of silly moments both before and after the transformation, and Yuzuriha is a character in her own right rather than just The Girl. That said, there are some glaring issues in her depiction, with implications about girls being inherently less capable than boys. While this isn't a rarity in shounen manga, it does stand out because of the situation they're in, and previous to her reawakening there was nothing to suggest that Yuzuriha was any less physically competent than Senku. That aside, she's also the only one of the core group to really emotionally understand what's happened to them, that they're all essentially alone in the world now, which is an important role as well, and one that will be particularly salient once Tsukasa sets about implementing his vision in earnest.
Dr. Stone's first volume is primarily set up, but it does a good job at fulfilling its mission of making the story interesting. The competing visions of the reborn world that the two groups are working with stand to develop in promising ways, and if there are some issues with both story and image at times, the whole largely makes those annoyances rather than major deterrents. Owing more to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs than manga titles like Animal Land or Cage of Eden (with which there are similarities), Dr. Stone looks as if it will be good pulpy fun in a world where the ruler of the world is no longer human.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Story recalls classic pulp adventure stories, interesting cast of characters. Art is detailed and interesting.
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