Friday, May 1, 2020

Green Phoenix - Dr. Stone (Season 1) Review

Dr. Stone Season 1 | Dr. Stone Wiki | FandomBefore my passion for filmmaking and film criticism had fully crystallized, I was absolutely obsessed with science, technology, and mathematics. I've always fancied myself as a futurist, looking towards the latest scientific and technological advancements and imagining how our world could be improved by the widespread introduction of certain technologies.

This passion played heavily into my love of science fiction and alternate history, and it makes me deeply excited about any form of hard science fiction.

So when I saw advertisements on Crunchyroll for a new shonen anime early last year whose main protagonist wasn't a muscle-bound meathead, but a scrawny scientific genius struggling to rebuild a collapsed world. I was immediately hooked on the concept.

I ended up watching the show, spellbound at the portrayal of not only science and technology, but the depth of the characters, the moral philosophies and ideologies at play in the background, and a genuinely excellent mix of personality and humor from nearly every orifice of the show.

In truth, I wanted to talk about this show last year, but I wanted to finish the show in its entirety and make sure that we would, in fact, receive a second season. But it is, so...

...let's talk about the first season of Dr. Stone, one of my favorite animes in recent memory.

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  • Based on the manga by Riichiro Inagaki
  • Directed by Shinya Iino
  • Produced by TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.
  • Number of Episodes (Season 1): 24 Minutes
  • Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation

***

SUMMARY

3700 years before the start of the series, a mysterious flash of light petrifies every human being on Earth into stone statues. In this new "Stone World", the scientifically minded Senku Ishigami, his dopey but loveable companion, Taiju Oki, and Taiju's crush Yuzuriha Ogawa commit themselves to restoring human civilization and discovering the source behind the mysterious light. Along the way, they find themselves in opposition to the muscle-minded Tsukasa Shishio, who likes the "Stone World" as it is and wishes to purge it of any potentially modernizing influences, including adult stone statues.

As the battle between Senku and Tsukasa heats up, a mysterious band of seemingly Neolithic humans who somehow survived the stoning will be drawn into their fight between the power of science and the power of might.


***

REVIEW

Dr. Stone is a fun and refreshing shonen anime that actively bucks many of the conventions of the genre, whilst still maintaining much of the spirit and pacing of the genre. I was initially drawn to the series from the concept alone, what with its use of real scientific and technological ideas as the underpinning of its narrative.

But as the series continued, I found myself drawn into the passion of the characters and their personal struggles, the humorous and touching interactions therein, and the deep philosophical conflict between Senku and Tsukasa's ideologies that really make this first season. To say nothing of the high-quality visuals and music that just draw you into them.

Speaking of...

VISUALS - 8/10

In my experience, most shonen anime don't tend to have all that much of a focus on the visual aspects and elements of the show. Much of this stems from the time and money pressures placed on shows that have 100s of episodes, with a new one released every week. Your Naruto's, One Piece's, and Dragon Balls. Of course with the advent of computer animation and coloring, many of these issues have been mitigated somewhat, as seen in some of the stellar animation seen in shows like My Hero Academia and, naturally, Dr. Stone.

But where the visuals of My Hero Academia are magnificent due to how they seamlessly weave in visual storytelling into their fight, Dr. Stone manages its fantastic animation and visual elements to help promote its subtle educational lean and keep its underlying theme always on the viewer's mind. That theme is the power of science and technology and how it can be both beautiful, dangerous, and a transformative positive on the world.

ℳℯℎ⚜飛べ on Twitter: "Ep 11 of Dr. Stone let us finally see the ...
As someone with vision problems, this was emotional.
The three visual moments that I think best encapsulates these feelings are the Sunflower field scene with Suika, the Sulfuric Angel of Death, and the final message of Senku's father to his son (though this last one also relies heavily upon the soundtrack). Dr. Stone is absolutely amazing at making science and technology, normally subjects that come off as esoteric and dry in most fiction, seem dynamic and an integral part of the narrative.

The real-world science doesn't detract or derail the story like in most educational television but seamlessly weave itself into every moment. Whole episodes and arcs are devoted to figuring out a single concept or technology and it is due to the immense amounts of research that the visual artists went in to portray real-world science and engineering that truly sets the show apart. Many of the experiments and machines built in the show could be built in real-life, even if the show does take liberties with regards to the timing on some things (though this can be forgiven).

That being said, there are moments when the show does seem to cheapen slightly, but these moments are ones that are shared with most anime (including generic dialog moments) so I will only dock it a few points, leaving Dr. Stone with a perfectly serviceable visual score of 8.

SOUNDTRACK - 8/10

Much like the visuals, Dr. Stone uses the soundtrack to masterfully weave its underlying conflict and theme into every facet of the show. As you can imagine from a show whose primary setting is in the largely prehistoric "Stone World", much of the instrumentation of the soundtrack has a largely tribal feel. There are heavy focuses on drums, other percussive instruments, and basic woodwind instruments (like reeds and recorders) to provide the core motifs of the show. That being the ever-present nature of the "Stone World" and its ability to consume everything around it.

But in the songs which heavily feature either Senku or some thematic moment which is tied to the Kingdom of Science, there is a sudden rush of more complex instruments and musical ideas, especially strings and rap, which cut into the heavy tribal music. This evokes the idea that science is literally shining through the darkness, illuminating the world and fighting back against the "Stone World". So many beautiful musical moments and montages result from this war between simple and complex instruments.

But of all the songs and tracks in the show, Dr. Stone's best track is, without question, One Small Step. A beautiful tribute to human ingenuity and performed magnificently by Laura Pitt-Pulford, One Small Step closes out the first season with Senku's allies fully committed to the cause of science and human advancement through technology. Named after Neil Armstrong's famous line upon stepping on the moon, this song truly is an anthem to the idea that people are at their best when they use their wits to lift each other up.

It is a theme that matches the underlying principle of Senku's philosophy and represents to me the very best that this show's soundtrack has to offer.

CHARACTERS - 8/10

Like most shonen anime, Dr. Stone boasts a pretty extensive cast. And based upon what I've seen from the manga, that cast is only going to get bigger from here on out. But on the whole, we can divide the cast into three major elements: Senku and his two friends, Tsukasa and his followers, and the Ishigami Villagers, which includes Kohaku and Chrome, alongside a few other major secondary characters.

It's actually really hard for me to summarize every character since this show is heavily dependent upon the evolution of character relationships for the majority of its narrative and thematic progressions. On the whole, Senku represents a sort of savant kind of genius. You get the sense that he does care about people, but he perpetually struggles to express it in words, preferring to let his actions speak for him. In this way, he compares and contrasts quite nicely with Taiju and Tsukasa, who both sort of exemplify opposing ideas of strength. Where Tsukasa represents a sort of dominating kind of strength, the harbingers of might makes right, Taiju fully understands his own limitations and weaknesses and elects to work alongside Senku so that they can benefit from each other. While not bright himself, Taiju's unwavering support and faith in Senku is symbolic of the need for both brain and brawn in civilization.

Dr. Stone Chapter 140 Release Date: Where to Read Online?
OMG! I love all of them!!!


When Senku and Taiju split up after Tsukasa's betrayal, Taiju and Yuzuriha are largely absent from the latter half of the anime, with the focus shifting almost entirely to Senku and his relationship with Ishigami Village. It is here that he meets Chrome, a local "sorcerer" who quickly becomes a disciple of Senku's science, and Kohaku who works with Senku in order to heal her sister and help the village in the process. The show takes its time to introduce us to each and every important player in the village and makes us feel for their personal issues and struggles. These struggles are each, in their own way, overcome by science and, in so doing, shows us how they are converted to Senku's cause.

Though a pleasant surprise in the second half is the introduction of the mentalist Gen, a man who exemplifies values that are counter to both Senku and Tsukasa yet manages to maintain a wonderful friendship and trust with Senku that helps give a great deal of levity to some of the more stressful moments of the latter half of Season 1.

The characters in Dr. Stone are just as much symbols which help to express the underlying theme of the show as they are narrative elements in their own right, but I think the fact that Dr. Stone doesn't actually rely on heavy amounts of flashbacks and exposition to explore its characters, preferring to keep them, much like Senku, focused on the future.

It really goes to show how different Dr. Stone takes its characters, and especially its story, compared to your typical shonen anime.

STORY - 9/10

In many ways, Dr. Stone's story has all the typical hallmarks of your classic shonen anime. A big muscle-bound warrior, a tournament arc, fight sequences, and exaggerated character interactions. But Dr. Stone does something really novel by taking all of the shonen classics and completely UNO reversing them. In your standard shonen, Tsukasa or Taiju would be your protagonist, and in the beginning, it actually looks like Taiju might be. Bu the series flips the script by making the character that would usually be the nerdy side character and makes them the series protagonist, with Tsukasa's brutish strength becoming a major antagonist and Taiju, the loveable and competent doofus sidekick.

Likewise, the tournament itself is not a major element of the arc, but a minor stepping stone that takes place over a single episode, with its conclusion laughably being almost completely ignored by Senku. And it is elements like this that really stand out to me about Dr. Stone's story.

Dr. Stone Episode #23 Anime Review | The Fandom Post
This show got me excited for a lightbulb filament.
The writers and animators really went into immense detail to integrate science and technology into the story in a very realistic way and I think the show is all the better for it. The show never relies on shortcuts to advance its plot and, much like scientific progress itself, sometimes slows down and speeds up based upon whatever resource or technological impediments might exist for the characters. The show makes every small discovery or invention feel like an absolute triumph.

In our modern world, it's easy to take many technological and scientific discoveries for granted, but Dr. Stone has a way of streamlining the sometimes complex and esoteric paths to create modern conveniences and amenities, while still making it engaging and tense to watch.

The result is a deeply dynamic and immersive world, filled with mystery and excitement. A show that makes you proud to be human by showing us a realistic portrayal of what it would take to bring modern amenities and infrastructure to our world. Dr. Stone is nothing less than a tribute to human civilization in microcosm.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As you can no doubt tell, Dr. Stone is one of my favorite animes of all time. I will wholeheartedly support this series for years to come and I cannot wait to watch Season 2 whenever it finally comes out.

As for next week, we will once again take a look at a very popular anime from the last few years. Though this one is decidedly more mature than Dr. Stone and much more controversial.

So that will be fun.


VISUALS
  • 8/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 8/10
CHARACTERS
  • 8/10
STORY
  • 9/10

 FINAL SCORE - 8.25/10

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