[Review] Dr. STONE – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser July 5, 20190 Comments
Senku and Taiju talking in a dark cave. subtitle: What future does humanity have with just us two dudes trudging on?

What’s it about? On the day that Taiju finally screws up the courage to confess to his crush Yuzuriha, a strange light encases the entire human race in stone. 3700 years later, Taiju’s prison erodes away, and he steps out into a world completely retaken by nature. The only other survivor is his mad scientist classmate Senku, who vows to unlock the secret to reversing petrification and bring human society back to its former heights.

 It’s been a while since I watched a premiere as tight and concise as this one. Dr. Stone is extremely aware that the title of “Shonen Jump manga” is a formulaic one, and it sets out to distinguish its skills in execution as quickly as possible. It sets up its apocalyptic scenario with a sharp eye for small details, like the teenager whose internal monologue continues in her unmoving body while her dog, still attached to her hand by a leash, barks frantically.

It establishes its fairly standard main trio dynamic of a straightforward idiot, a hyper-competent eccentric with a heart of gold, and the designated girl with clear and believable character beats that cut to the heart both of Senku’s ironclad trust in Taiju and Taiju and Yuzuriha’s shared slightly-doofy earnestness. It’s a broad sketch, but it immediately imparts to the audience why they should care once the high-concept stuff takes over. The show also, crucially, knows how to breathe, so that its wacky shenanigans don’t clash right up against its more haunting moments.

Yuzuriha smiling and holding a stone bird. Subtitle: Yup, and here's another embarrassing kid who didn't think things through.

That premise, which is essentially “science vs wild,” is bound to be catnip to many. Senku and Taiju’s give and take (after a token bit of eyerolling no-homo antics) is lively without feeling cruel. The writing is smart enough not to make Senku into a Cumberbatch Sherlock-type, where the plot exists to show off how smart and cool he is, logic and stakes be damned. Rather, it makes a virtue of Senku’s doggedness in the face of repeated failure and isn’t shy about knocking him off his high horse when he gets too boastful.

Taiju is in some ways fairly stock as the hot-blooded, brick-brained co-lead, but the fact that the writing owns up to it makes for a kind of strength. Taiju knows that his skills lie in strength and exploration, and he makes his share of contributions in addition to being a sounding board for Senku’s Science Corner. It remains to be seen whether Yuzuriha will be an actual character or a literal object to motivate Taiju—in general this seems like it will fall squarely into shonen’s usual problem with female characters, as there are a grand total of two in the opening credits (EDIT: apparently there are four, and I am simply incapable of telling character designs apart).

Senku stomping on a happily crying Taiju's face as the latter reached for him. Subtitle: Don't hug me while you're buck naked!

The visuals are solid, particularly in the backgrounds with their mix of lush nature and uncanny imagery. It can be a little hard at first to square those elements with the blocky character designs, but that wears off well by the end of the first episode, and the Science Corner segments are visually creative in a way slightly reminiscent of the stealth survival cooking anime Golden Kamuy.

While the series gets through its initial premise quickly, with Senku developing a de-petrifying agent by episode’s end, there are a lot of places for this to go, particularly in the ethical questions of what exactly “remaking society” entails. Whether it takes that road or strides merrily into a Stone Age fighting tournament remains to be seen, though I’ve heard the manga spoken well of for quite some time now.

Taiju staring intently at stone Yuzuriha, who's balanced by a large tree. subtitle:  I'm going to save you, Yuzuriha

I’m not sure how long I’ll personally be sticking with this one for, as long-runners tend to be a tough sit for me, but this is definitely worth peeking in on if you’ve any fondness for shonen or post-apocalyptic anime.

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