Welcome all, to the 2nd new show of Fall Season, Dr. STONE! This is the continuation of the same season I covered earlier in the year, finishing up the Treasure Island arc. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, and we have a lot to talk about, so lets jump right in!
Starting off, can I just make it clear how happy I am that Dr. STONE is back? I had missed its special brand of Problem -> Solution -> Problem -> Solution. Something about how Dr. STONE specifically does it is just so good, like one big Humanity Fuck Yeah story. If I had to guess, I’d wager a lot of why it works is down to how the series solves its problems. The science behind it, while not perfect we can all admit this is anime-ified, works conceptually. Stuff like making air pockets under water to properly pour liquids, or crafting oxygen tanks out of existing pieces of metal and pumping them up themselves. Realistically, we know they couldn’t do this. But the way Dr. STONE portrays it, the effort they put in, the way it’s explained… It just sort of works. And like any good hard-magic system, that’s rewarding.
Getting into it, this first episode sees us return to the island, reminding us of just where we left off. We’ve found the platinum, we’re turning it into revival fluid, and planning out how to revive our friends. And the first order of business? To bring back Kaseki so that we have someone to help us build all of our shit! Makes sense, gives us a very simple goal for the episode: Save Kaseki. The problem? He’s been thrown into the bottom of the ocean and we not only don’t know where he drifted to, we can’t hold our breath long enough to to get down there even if we did. Thus begins Dr. STONE’s problem solving flow. Problem: Can’t reach the ocean floor. Solution: Air tanks. Problem: How do we make those? Solution: Cannibalize the mobile lab. It just works so well.
All that done, we have our air tanks, we find Kaseki and make it to the bottom of the ocean. Next problem? Turns out, stone is pretty god damn heavy, especially underwater! Solution? Use the revival fluid to bring back Taiju, our physical monster who can not only hold his breath long enough but can dig him out. Problem? How do you apply revival fluid underwater? Solution! Air bubbles. I want to be clear, I know that I’m repeating myself here. But I do so to drive home just how important this structure is Dr. STONE as a series. In so many other works there is only a single big problem with a single solution: A big bad guy? Go beat him up. And while that’s fine, I enjoy it, I’m a My Hero Academia fan, when done well this structure is… refreshing.
What I mean is, there’s nothing wrong with classic storytelling tropes. They are classics for a reason. They elicit an emotional response, they are fun, you can do a lot with them. But it doesn’t matter how good the steak is, sometimes I want to try something new. On the flip side though, novelty on it’s own is not enough. A show, a series, just being unique does not automatically make something good. Texhnolyze was unique, yet I couldn’t stand it. To be clear, I’m not saying Dr. STONE is treading new ground, if anything it’s just implementing more lesser used tropes and technique. However in the grand scheme of Shounen anime, this is novel enough to make for a unique experience in the genre. And I think that’s part of why I find it so fun. It has all the Shounen trappings and tropes, in a different structure.
Getting back to the actual show, we’ve discussed the heroes side of things so lets take a look at the villains. They captured everyone, tossed them overboard and took Ryusui back to their fort because his clothes made him look important. Their goal? To flush out the intruder by forcing them to break, effectively kill, their friend. It’s clever, Dr. STONE is making use of it’s unique “death” system to take what would otherwise be incredibly brutal ways to die, to torture cast members making them cut apart their friend, and instead turn it into a game of cat and mouse. Oh you captured our friend? Well we will just break him into pieces before you can, ensuring they are easy to put back together without missing anything, and then smuggle him out of town. Are you going to tell me that isn’t clever?! Because if so, you’re a liar!
Beyond all that, this episode also looked pretty solid. Dr. STONE has never been a particularly animated show, and it still isn’t. But it feels like the production has gotten more… comfortable with the designs. Characters are posing stronger, the linework is heaver, when they do move it isn’t as clunky. Dr. STONE definitely isn’t a production powerhouse, especially not this season with some incredibly strong contenders. But I do think it’s a solid middle of the pack sort of production. Nothing amazing, but no glaring flaws anymore. Hopefully it can hold to that as the season progresses. I’d be really sad if this season break lead to a weaker production after all.
So yeah, all in all Dr. STONE has made a strong comeback. I’m having a great time with it. Production is decent, pacing is strong, characters are fun, solutions are engaging. And on top of all that? It legitimately has one of the best EDs of the season. Much like the rest of the show, Suki ni Shinayo isn’t animated like… at all. But it’s presentation, this sand on glass medium, is fucking beautiful. Like Jesus Christ, look at this and tell me that this doesn’t look great? And the small touches of leaving in the artists hands, maintaining the human feel that’s so important to all of Dr. STONE’s inventions and narratives? Great choice. I absolutely adore this ED and I’m going to watch it every time, no skips from me. It’s kind of wild how consistent Dr. STONE is with the OP/EDs to be honest.
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