Ever wondered what it would be like in a world where you can’t read blogs about manga? Terrible right? Well you don’t have to imagine any more, Dr Stone is a science themed Shōnen, where all of mankind has been turned to stone and thousands of years have passed. Slowly man awakens and it’s time for them to relearn all that was lost.
Serialised in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Dr Stone currently has 7 volumes released in the West.[mfn]as of October 2019[/mfn] First coming to my attention as an anime series, on Crunchy Roll and Funimation. I thought I would check out the first volume of the manga before viewing the series online. Luckily I’ve managed to grab Dr Stone Volume 1 in a 3 for 2 sale, then picking up volume 2 through 7 at the library.[mfn]Reviews coming soon![/mfn]
Dr Stone is written by Riichiro Inagaki of Eyeshield 21 fame. This is definitely a series I’ve had my eye on for a while as I do love some American Football.[mfn]I’m English, thus it’s American Football[/mfn] Artwork is by Korean artist Boichi, who I’ve not come across before, all though according to wikipedia he’s been quite prolific. Once winning the Gran Guinigi prize for It was all for the Tuna, about a scientist obsessed with bringing back extinct tuna?! Another title that stood out was called Sluthouse… oh dear. Let’s hope the content of this Shōnen is a little different to that.
Set in a world where all humans (and some birds) have been mysteriously petrified, we find hardworking and physically strong Taiju. He has managed to escape his stone prison and meets up with his genius friend Senku. Together they begin working on a way to revive humanity through science!
Dr Stone Volume 1 Spoilers
Senku soon finds a cure for petrification and they set off to release Taiju’s love interest. The pair are attacked on route by wild lions. In a panic they use the cure on Tsukasa, a high school MMA champ who defeats the lions. Tsukasa becomes the group’s hunter and for a while they prosper.
However over time Senku and Taiju become suspicious of Tsukasa, who seems to hate adults and wants a world without them. It is revealed that a drunken fisherman once beat him for collecting seashells for a necklace. The paper thin reasoning, Tsukasa never had a fishing permit. Wanting to defend himself by all means, he turns to MMA and soon becomes The Strongest High School Primate.
After releasing Yuzuriha they confront Tsukasa who it turns out is a complete psycho. The trio escapes the mad man but unfortunately have to give up the source of the Petrification remedy. They know one day they will need to confront Tsukasa, so they head into the unknown in hopes of starting their Kingdom of Science which will help balance their intellectual power against the hunters physical.
The book does a good job of setting up the immediate situation and characters while leaving you imagination to wonder where the plot will go next. The narrative is clearly stronger than the characters. Personalities are not immediately deep, I’m hoping that over multiple volumes they can become more developed than the cardboard cut outs they seem to be initially.
As Dr Stone is set in a world where nature has taken back over, the natural backdrops really shine. Jungles look lush with vines creeping over the stone statues littered around the landscape. Senku’s and Taiju’s home has a Swiss Family Robinson vibe. Modern day flashbacks really stand out too,
Boichi decided to give her a headband that looks like a pair of Beats by Dre that are made from Stone!
In contrast I think Senku’s is a blend of stereotypical scientist from films combined into a crafty but unique design. He someone what reminds me of a sneaky Young Einstein. The style flips from serious to playful at the right time and helps nail some of the humour. With characters being obvious who they are drawn in a more Chibi style.
One major issue I have with the series is the stylistic differences between the male characters and Yuzuriha[mfn]the sole female character[/mfn]. The poor girl looks like an anime sex doll! On top of that, Boichi decided to give her a headband that looks like a pair of Beats by Dre that are made from Stone! It’s such a shame that the lone female character really did get the short straw.
There is a really cool moment in chapter 3. Tsukasa’s punch is rendered with line shading and it tricks the eye into seeing the image in and out of focus. The fist sure looks like it’s flying. It makes me think of a low tech version of Murata’s version of One-Punch Man.
Is it rocket science?
There are moments when the dialogue really gets in the way of itself. Senku love’s an annoying catch phrase. Everything has a chance of 10 billion percent. Also Senku really loves putting poor Taiju down. It’s clear he’s not a genius but does he need to be reminded that he’s weak minded? It’s small niggles that really remind me I’m reading a Shōnen.
On the flip side, the book really nails that essential ingredient for my long term interest; an interesting world to build on. I know there is a thousand and one post apocalypse adventures, but generally they are based around survival. A setting based around reigniting the past through science is different. Long term it would be great if we find out the reason the petrification of humankind. Here’s hoping for a cool scientific answer!
On the topic of science, a nice touch throughout is the little interludes where scientific concepts are explained. I suspect that Inagaki’s writing process is come up with a cool scientific fact first, logical plot second. For that reason it can feel a little shoe horned into the plot, but they add to the charm of Dr Stone. It is a Shōen after all.
Is Dr Stone worth reading?
At this point I wouldn’t recommend grabbing a bunch of volumes. If you’re interested maybe pick up one or checkout the free chapters on Viz.com. I’d like to see how the series pans out, I’m not about to give up on it just yet. Having the next 6 volumes from the library does help though. Despite Dr Stone’s detractors there is the seed of an interesting story and I’m hoping by volume 7 it will have made some progress to overcome them.