An Upbeat Post Apocalyptic Story
There’s no denying that six months ago, when Dr Stone first rolled out its early episodes, I was somewhat less than impressed. It wasn’t until around six episodes in that Dr Stone really got my attention. There’s reasons for that and I’ll get into those soon but the important thing is that once Dr Stone got my attention, it didn’t lose momentum again. This is a story that continually builds on past events toward a future outcome and builds on the characters and generally gets more and more interesting. The only real and glaring issue with season one is that it builds up to a war that hasn’t happened yet and now we’re all waiting for a season two.
The first episode of this anime is decent enough and sets up the story introducing three characters: Senku, the high school genius, Taiju, his goofy friend, and Yuzuriha, Taiju’s love interest. Each of these characters work well enough and Taiju’s attempted confession just as the world gets turned to stone is entertaining enough, but nothing in the first episode really grabbed me. Watching the interactions in the next few episodes as Senku and Taiju took their first steps to reviving other characters was interesting enough but I could have easily walked away from Dr Stone at that point.
Comparing these early episodes to later ones I can’t help but feel the issue is the chemistry within the cast itself. While I have no issue with any of the initial characters and find most of them interesting individually, though Yuzuriha being cast as damsel in distress a lot didn’t do much for her, as a group they weren’t really greater than the sum of their parts. They were just who they were on screen with the other characters. While this doesn’t feel like a big deal early on, the contrast with the interactions between these early characters and the characters Senku meets later at Ishigami village is dramatic. Characters like Kohaku and Chrome, Kinro and Ginro have beautiful synergy bringing life to the story and it makes things so much more fun.
While that is definitely a personal opinion, there was a tangible improvement in the viewing experience once Senku left Taiju and Yuzuriha behind. The story also seemed to gain momentum as there was now a clear antagonist opposing Senku’s goal of building civilisation again. This gave Senku more of a goal than just surviving and building technology. He had to prepare to deal with immediate threats and also win over a village that distrusted outsiders. Overall, things definitely picked up and just kept getting better from that point.
Now, the basis of the story is that Senku is trying to bring back science and there is plenty of discussion about how things work and how to make various bits of technology. By and large this is pretty accurate though some of it is overly simplistic and they most definitely improve in leaps and bounds without anywhere near enough set-backs given the scale of what they create. Particularly in the final episodes where there is a flurry of activity and invention after invention is churned out on the path to creating Senku’s ultimate ‘weapon’ for dealing with the upcoming war.
Still, it is exciting watching characters respond to innovations like glasses or even simple foods. Again, it is a little simplified with a lot of positivity and many pitfalls of the modern world kind of overlooked for the sake of narrative convenience, but the tone is consistent through the show and to be honest the enthusiasm for science that the characters have is kind of infectious.
Visually Dr Stone is a nicely made anime. Early episodes rely heavily on natural backgrounds that while beautifully drawn all look much the same and so it isn’t the most visually interesting anime to look at with one pile of rocks and group of trees looking much like another, yet the visual quality is solid. Movement is also pretty fluid and as the characters begin moving about there are some fairly interesting scenes that come along. My favourite was the personification of poisonous gas and ultimately it is those moments that stick with you once you are done viewing.
The character designs are all very nicely done. I’m still wondering where the villagers get their blue dye for their clothing but the characters are distinct and fun enough to look at. I still think Senku looks like a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park when he smiles but his design is fine. However this anime does like its exaggerated character reactions and you will some of the most ridiculous face and body contortions ever at times. It works and it is consistently used throughout the season with most the characters having moments of eye-popping, jaw-dropping, or withered looking appearance. It conveys the tone of the scene well even if reality is kicked far away.
Ultimately, Dr Stone is just a lot of fun. It delivers a lot of familiar sequences and puts its own spin on it or just embraces what it is. The science is pushed to absurd levels and speeds and the show just gives you a smile and dares you to criticise. The fighting tournament is over within episodes with each fight delivering an unexpected outcome (or at least gets to the expected outcome in an unexpected way). The cast continues to grow and each character contributes a different skill to the overall group in a way that feels perfectly natural even while it seems fairly unrealistic in reality that they would have exactly the people they need altogether. It all makes sense but doesn’t and you either embrace what Dr Stone does and enjoy it, or you could pick it apart but I think you’d miss out on a lot of fun.
A second season has been confirmed and I will definitely be watching. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the second cour of season one and feel this is an anime that took a little bit of time to set itself up but it was worth waiting through those slower opening episodes. Whether or not this anime continues to build on these successes in season two remains to be seen but there’s more than enough promise in the story and the characters to suggest that it will be worth waiting for.
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Images from: Dr Stone. Dir. I Shinya. TMS Entertainment. 2019.