Dr. Stone

4 out of 5

Directed by: Shinya Iino

Covers season 1

It sounds like one of those setups that’s too dumb and simple to really be of much interest beyond the setup itself: the entire world’s inhabitants turns to stone; only a few survivors make it through.  A survival story; sort of a spin on isekai, since it’s reg’lar folk thrust into a new world.  Y’know, one in which we wear loin cloths and go all primitive because people can’t operate without all of their modern day conveniences…

These were my assumptions.  Crunchyroll was pushing the show hard, though, so I gave it a go.  And pretty much right away, my expectations were shattered: yes, the start is the same – all of humanity turns to stone – but the series’ approach to this is to take a hard sci-fi, logical point of view: instead of wildly spinning out Lost theories on what mysterious mystery caused this, our first waker-uppers are concerned more with what they can and should do with the state of the current world, which, by the way, has aged thousand of years in the meantime.  So not only are there no people to run our shops and create our technology anymore, but all that stuff has since been swallowed up by time: it’s a “stone world;” we’re starting from scratch.

Thankfully, Senku is one of the guys who woke up, and Senku is a damn genius.  He was counting while he was en-stoned, and so knows approximately how much time has passed.  He’s paid attention to the clues that suggest how and why he and others have woken up from their encasings, and though he’s got the stereotypically bratty attitude of a know-it-all, he’s not self-serving: he serves science and he’s overjoyed to help spread that around with the small crew he starts to gather.  The step-by-step way Senku and his companions then begin to advance their available technologies is damned fascinating and mostly legit, it would seem, or at least it’s presented pretty damn convincingly.

Our first real conflict comes when the need for protection encourages Senku to awaken a bodyguard, Tsukasa; we then have a classic splinter in ideologies: Senku wants to save those still stone-d with science, while Tsukasa too clearly remembers class divides and haves and have-nots; surely, he suggests, they can afford to be selective with who is saved.

And the show extrapolates and evolves from there.  The tension comes from the ticking clock of needing to invent more and more to counter a likely coming confrontation with Tsukasa, and as such, Senku’s inventions become more and more complex and less easy to summarize, and we make some pretty big time jumps in order to move past tedious aspects of the work.  All of this is understandable for keeping a rhythm going, but it’s also slightly disappointing: the show maintains its science- / logic-first approach, and so I kept wishing we could slow down and revel in some of these details.  We’re also, due to plot machinations, eventually focused solely on Senku’s point of view, even though we got to know some of his other awakees early on.  There’s definitely a story reason for this, and I wouldn’t doubt this divide was in the manga as well, but there were several points late in the season where I was suddenly surprised that they had hardly even mentioned these characters again.  I very much assume we’ll see them again in the forthcoming season 2, however…

The voice acting and direction is absolutely aces on this: a lot of personality and individuality in the voices, and a very distinct sense of place and attitude for the settings and various characters.  The funny beats are funny; the action beats tense.  Animation Studio TMS has handled a lot of large titles with a kind of respectable reliability, but Dr. Stone has a lot more style than I’ve come to expect from them, and it looks great.

Due to fan-service being at a wonderful minimal, and the intelligent – and often quite funny – script, Dr. Stone is an easy recommendation for anime newcomers.  But it’s also incredibly pleasing to a more ingrained viewer like m’self, both as a popcorn, invention-an-episode viewing, and due to the exciting ongoing storyline.