Dr. Stone Breaks the Mold of Shonen Jump Adventure
by Andy Pfeiffer & Steve Jones,
Dr. Stone sees its unlikely heroes attempting to rebuild civilization from scratch with the power of science. This week, Andy and Steve analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this unique take on a familiar formula.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Andy Steve, now that the summer season is in full swing, I have one big question: do you wanna take this TWIA back to the Stone Age?
Steve I sure yabba dabba do!
Then let's learn what a doctorate can do in a primitive world, because it's time for Dr. Stone!
That abstract of "kid speedruns human history" is pretty much all I knew going into the show, but it's such a rich concept that I was totally on board even before it started. Then again, I grew up loving shows like Dexter's Laboratory and watching episodes of Bill Nye at every opportunity, so this little twerp was bound to prey on my nerd-fueled childhood nostalgia.
I'm so happy that line exists in this show and not an isekai where some potato brought along his graphing calculator.
Agreed, though it's funny that isekai has become such a broad category that I've even seen people analyze this show through that framework. I don't necessarily agree, but it is about a bunch of loud-mouthed teens waking up in an unfamiliar world, so I do understand how you could come to that conclusion.
However, this child is far too good for any rote isekai series.
Excuse me, I think you meant this child—they're not a named character in the show or anything, but that shirt is excellent.
It's a very good shirt. But seriously, I was surprised to see the show begin with Taiju and his crush on Yuzuriha. I assumed we'd start with the brainiac Senku, but I think focusing on this big lug actually ended up being the (ironically) smarter decision.
If not for all the promotional material, it wouldn't be out of the question to assume Taiju is the main character at the start of the show. He's got a well-defined goal, a decent design, and the usual Shonen Jump yelling syndrome.
Taiju even attempts to sacrifice himself to protect the girl he likes while Senku simply gets stoned with everyone else, which leads to some great apocalyptic imagery.
I sure hope that dog chewed through that leash...
It makes for a solid emotional beat right off the bat, as the earnest power of his high school crush helps keep him cogent as the rest of the world passes through literal millennia. It's ridiculous but also beautiful.
Strong-willed determination is a mainstay of shonen protagonists, so it's a real pivot on expectations to learn this is meant to contrast with our other protagonist Senku's revival. Turns out that wanting to tell a girl how you feel or counting millennia down to the second are equally valid ways to remain cogent while trapped within your own petrified tomb of a body.
To be fair, Taiju and Yuzuriha's apocalyptic romance is almost as good a love story as the one between Senku and chalk.
Speaking of romance...
Even in the darkest of times, it's good to have ambitions!
Senku's sexuality seems to be "horny for science", so maybe he didn't really think of the implication there, or maybe he's so horny for science that he figures he can make this a reality if he tries hard enough.
A true hero for shippers everywhere.
If there's one dude I trust, it's definitely the guy whose first priority after making clothes was to write E=mc^2 on those clothes.
It's nice that while Senku is the brainy smartypants of the show, that doesn't automatically equate to him being a dick! That's a trap far too many smart characters fall into, but he truly believed that Taiju's feelings would burn strong enough to allow him to escape from the Stone World. Similarly, he doesn't discount or look down on others for not being on his level. This comes across not unlike Bill Nye, where the point is that he's genuinely excited to explain his favorite science concepts in a way that others can understand.
They're both likable enough characters on their own, but the show really shines by pairing them together. Taiju's earnestness balances Senku's cockiness, and Senku's brilliance balances Taiju's bullheadedness. They complement each other really well, even when the result leads to underage drinking.
And on the "Science rules!" aspect, I also like that the show's not afraid to show Senku failing, because that's just part of the scientific process. He might be a boy genius with the knowledge necessary to rebuild human civilization from scratch, but he can still screw up distilling wine.
The Jump message of "repeated hard work and effort" gels so well with the scientific method that it's honestly a surprise no one's married the two before.
Sure, Senku's gonna blaze through things at an accelerated pace because the story needs him to, but it's not through pure plot magic. This is largely because he's working with concepts that are already understood by us today, but this also imparts a great message about how to address things we don't have a solution for. Keep working toward finding an answer, because if we don't give up, we will find it eventually.
I love the shonen science angle, but I'm also glad we still have Taiju around to represent another important aspect of shonen spirit.
There's no shame in grunt work! While the science is the driving gimmick, the actual heart of the show is the collaboration it requires between different types of people. Funnily enough, this ends up making our cast feel like Danganronpa characters who were lucky enough to live in a less murderous world. Senku is the Ultimate High School Scientist, Taiju is the Ultimate Sturdy Boy, and then of course we have...
Sometimes you just need a guy to carry some heavy jugs, but sometimes you need a guy who can punch animals apart.
This boy is gonna hunt stuff real good.
I was surprised at how Tsukasa almost immediately became the most intriguing character. When the boys unpetrify him, you expect him to be this big dumb walking weapon, but he actually turns out to be very intelligent and thoughtful—almost as much as Senku, but in complete opposition to his ideals.
Part of that is our initial reaction to the word Primate in his introduction. While at face value, we take this to mean dumb and bestial, it more alludes to the fact that he's absolutely fit to survive in this new world on his own. He's incredibly instinctual and self-sufficient, but in his own way, he's also incredibly empathetic about his goal of restoring humanity. The only problem is that he's decided that the old ways of society itself cannot be allowed to come back.
And you know what, in 2019, when wealth inequality is accelerating as fast as the polar ice caps are melting, it's hard to argue against the prospect of a do-over. Like, maybe we really don't need landlords this time around.
True, but I can't help but agree with Senku in the end.
Tsukasa's world is by far a simpler one, but it's also much harder on everyone. With survival at the forefront of everyone's mind at all times, it would never be a place where childish dreams and fantasies can become reality, which is what Senku dreams of.
Either way, the story takes an easy road out of this debate by also making Tsukasa a mass-murderer/statue-demolisher. Seeing him waltz up to a clearly happy family and crush the parents is a pretty cheap way to unequivocally villainize him. I just think the conflict between his ideals and Senku's could have been handled in a more nuanced and interesting way. You have good points, Tsukasa, but dial back the murder!
It really is a shame they immediately go to that extreme. Tsukasa would work just as well as a character who refused to reanimate adults, rather than stomping around smashing 'em. But we needed a quick way to divvy everyone into opposing factions.
Oh yeah, and the token girl is here now too. If I have one big complaint so far about Dr. Stone, it's her character's blandness and Boichi's style of drawing women that makes them look like weird aliens.
Lots of uncomfortable "early-2000s visual novel" energy coming off this character design.
Imagine being stuck in this pose on the right for eternity.
That dude on the left looking at his smartphone is actually just a Banksy sculpture.
I think you've just figured out who's behind this apocalypse.
Of course! So deep. Much social commentary.
"THIS IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU LEGALIZE WEED."
On that note, I'm so glad they finally explained this in the third episode, because I was dying to know what those lines on their faces were supposed to be.
I'm on the other end of that, because this reveal raises more questions for me than it answers. What happens if you get something wedged in your body cracks before you change back? Are they stone all the way through? Can a little cave lizard just live inside you?
Look, the important thing is that it makes them look badass.
I'm trying not to think about it too much beyond that.
It can also make them look sexy!
Or it can make them look like this!
Praise be to Senku's stinkfaces.
Also am I the only one upset that Taiju decided to shave?
He looked so handsome! It's the Stone Age, baby. Beard it up.
Yuzuriha will never know what she missed out on.
I'm much more upset by this unexpectedly dark turn of scientific progress. By "speedrunning human history" I didn't really mean "we'll get guns by episode 3".
Yeah, I'd rather go back to focusing on the different uses of lime instead of jumping straight to Zardoz.
I just hope our vegetable-haired lad understands that he's quite literally playing with fire.
At the very least, I don't think he's about to enact Rule by Fortnite just yet.
I mean, I get being upset that your crossbow didn't work, but honestly would it have been too much to start smaller instead of going bigger?
Is it so much to ask for a future with no guns, no landlords, and a beard on Taiju?
And can I also request no more creepy baby Senku? I'd like a future without nightmares as well.
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