Dr. Stone – The Next Big Thing
Let’s face it we’ve seen almost everything covered in Shonen. From Ninjas to Pirates to many, many variations of Shinigami; if you name something it’s likely been done to death. However, not many series have looked at the Stone Age.
A mysterious event causes everyone in the world to turn to stone. Fast forward a few thousand years and we find a High School Student named Senku, who de petrifies via Nitric Acid, another boy named Taiju de petrifies and joins Senku in his quest to restore the world to what it once was. With science. The first few chapters of the series mainly focus on Senku and Taiju’s exploits as they attempt to recreate the cure for people still in their stone state, while restoring Taiju’s childhood love Yuzuriha, they free the strongest primate high-schooler – Tsukasa. The series then becomes a clash of ideas. Senku wishes to restore Modern humanity while Tsukasa desires to maintain the status quo of young adults and begins to destroy stone statues of old people. Senku splits off with Taiju and Yuzuriha and begins to build his own village of Science via the help of some of the earth’s descendants.
The appeal for this series comes not from the action but from the Characters, gags and actual science traversed throughout the series. Each chapter we discover new things about the world in which the characters live and each serves as a new step in discovering something new. Senku’s ambition to recreate the modern world has him rediscovering numerous technological advances from Glassmaking to Medicine to even recreating Cola and Ramen, the series goes into what each step is required for to create these while going at a pace that will suit most readers. It is neither too complex (this is a shonen) but it doesn’t leave you needing too much more explanation, the advancements are explained in detail enough that they become memorable rather than just listing things off. Other advancements are used for gags or to gain favour with the villagers.
The writing structure by Inagaki Riichiro is what one would expect if they had read his previous work, Eyeshield 21. The writing can be serious when it needs to and we do have ‘badass’ moments while also maintaining the amount of visual and spoken gags that he is known for. Rather than being on one side or the other, we get a series that manages to perfectly blend humour with science and a light shonen story. While the story has yet to produce anything groundbreaking it is good at its job and the unique setting allows for the writer to play around with things.
Artistically the series stand out, done by Boichi (Sun-Ken Rock, Terraformers Gaiden) well known for his Seinen males and ecchi females. (yes. He was a hentai artist at one point) He manages to make the series stand out amongst others in the weekly jump, each page of Dr. Stone is a welcome breath of fresh air and feels unique amongst the competition. In this series, he doesn’t go over the top in sexualization although eagle-eyed readers will notice some things and the character reactions are ridiculously over the top when needed. (Although Boichi has mentioned that he designed one of the females characters with Merchandise and Cosplayers in mind). His character design is simple yet effective and people will have an easy time identifying Senku and his friends in a line-up of Jump heroes, the importance of family comes into play and it can be seen how characters are related rather than other series in which we are told of relations yet barely see a thing.
The world has been designed well visually, however, we don’t see much in the way of variation, we have yet to explore the world fully or see much of the old world. We’ve yet to see much of the setting of the far future and we can expect plenty of flora and fauna. Yes, the forestry and village can get a little bit tired but as this is still an infant manga it isn’t too damaging. As for writing, we have only seen things from Senku’s point of view with mentions of Tsukasa and Taiju’s groups only when absolutely required. While at the moment there has not been much mention of other potential survivors, however, it is likely that there are others that we don’t know of. This enables plenty of scope for a huge world to be developed in the future.
The series, so far, has moved back and forth that aside from the first arc it feels like the series hasn’t stopped for air. While most Shonen will stop and pause in between arcs this particular continues to throw stuff at us as it continues, each chapter advances the story in a meaningful way via the development of technology, or how technology can affect people. Interestingly, unlike a lot of other series it doesn’t show technology as something bad, while the village is still stuck in the stone age (somehow, its not really explained how people still haven’t discovered anything as the characters don’t seem to be stupid), the invention of technology is shown only to be good thing for the villagers. Showing that no matter what happens the development of the world has been a luxury. Although things may change as the goal is now to develop Gunpowder and weapons in preparation for the upcoming war.
The amount of detail in the series has been good food for discussion, with the list of interesting facts and observations taken away from each chapter showing how much effort has been expended. While other series can have a namedrop it’s seldom seen that a series will have so many tiny little references that become important later on. The amount of love and effort that goes into each chapter is certainly up there with some of the bigger profile titles. This series is becoming a true labour of love.
Unfortunately not everything about Dr. Stone is great and the first handful of chapters can put people off. The pacing is slow and you can really tell that the series was potentially going to be axed unless a major shakeup was produced. Fortunately, the change was done for the better and we got a great series – even in its infancy. The series is standard Shonen, however, with its fun characters, comedic timing, great artwork and a unique world, Dr. Stone may just be the Shonen title we all need. As of right now, there are only around 50 chapters and you can easily catch up in a sitting. But it’s one to certainly keep an eye out for, as personally, I feel it’s been a stronger title than some of the more established titles in the past year.