A fresh-faced sci-fi epic with strong fantasy sensibilities.
Dr. Stone is a new manga series from Viz Media that has a good mix of sci-fi and fantasy themes. It’s also written for teens, so expect some sideways glances at girls and lots of action. In this first volume we’re introduced to two lead characters, the world becomes stone, and a lot of time passes. Prepare for a stone cold age of action-adventure!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
One fateful day, all of humanity was petrified by a blinding flash of light. After several millennia, high schooler Taiju awakens and finds himself lost in a world of statues. However, he’s not alone! His science-loving friend Senku’s been up and running for a few months and he’s got a grand plan in mind–to kickstart civilization with the power of science!
Why does this matter?
This is a fun manga due to the dynamic between the two lead characters. One is very smart (Senkuu who self proclaims himself as Dr. Stone) and the other is very resilient and loyal (Taiju). Together they must take humans out of the stone age and save the world one discovery in human history at a time.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The discoveries in human history I was just referring to are some of the most entertaining elements in this series. Dr. Stone is super smart and he uses those smarts to relay to the reader key things that early humans discovered to advance their status in life. We learn things like how to make a corrosive agent and the many uses of calcium carbonate. That may sound boring, but their uses are key in a world that is empty of any technology at all. Dr. Stone talks early on about where they are when it comes to science and technology in human history, and he uses these discoveries to explain how he’s getting his buddy and himself further along for the sake of all the humans still trapped in stone.
That element of the series is left quite open-ended, which keeps the reader guessing and awaiting a big reveal somewhere down the road. No, instead this first volume focuses much more on the developments during the calamity (they are trapped in stone for thousands of years) and then the immediate work to be done to not die in a Stone Age-like period. Buildings are now gone, there is no tech at all, and Dr. Stone is stuck with Taiju to somehow save all the humans still stuck in stone shells.
Stone and Taiju’s relationship is similar to two brothers who are kind to each other but are very willing to tease each other too. For two guys waking up after thousands of years asleep, they sure are calm about the state of the world, but that makes you like them even more since they are so heroic. Eventually an enemy arises to mix things up, and their point of view is askew from Dr. Stone and Taiju’s to the point where a second volume could get very interesting. There is also a love interest, though she enters the story rather late.
The art throughout by Biochi is detailed, especially the environments, and it’s more than willing to increase the dramatic effects to eleven when need be. Impossible facial expressions and dramatic poses are used to increase the empathic nature of a moment, which gives the book a cartoony sort of feel.
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s a teen manga, but it’s still a bit overly done with the sexual poses of the female characters. Hell, the very first page (see above) has seemingly naked women cast in stone. It’s relatively minor since the female supporting character doesn’t appear for a good chunk of the book, but it’s worth noting.
Character-wise, Taiju is rather boring. He’s a handful of clichéd traits as he’s tough, handy, and more than open about how dumb he is in comparison to Dr. Stone. He’s like an overzealous dog to Dr. Stone, making their dynamic rather flat and boring.
Is it good?
A good first volume that sets up its premise and interesting character dynamics by the end. This book is juggling fun facts about human discoveries with action and big implications all in a well-paced package. As a whole, this is a fresh-faced sci-fi epic with strong fantasy sensibilities.