Few titles running in Shonen Jump right now are as unique –or as exciting– as Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi’s Dr. STONE. The science-adventure series consistently impresses with its beautifully detailed art and penchant for making science the most fun it’s been since watching Bill Nye the Science Guy videos in grade school. Vol. 5 is out this week, and it depicts the conclusion to Ishigami Village’s battle tournament for chiefhood, as well as the start of a flashback to thousands of years in the past when everyone on Earth was mysteriously turned to stone. This volume covers a lot of ground plot-wise, but does it do so effectively? Is Dr. STONE Vol. 5 good?
The first two-thirds or so of this volume are devoted to the battle for chiefhood, which plays out a bit differently than a lot of other tournament arcs in shonen manga. While strategy usually plays a big role in these sorts of stories, it comprises almost all of the action here. The physical violence is mostly reserved for the matches involving Magma, the big brawler antagonist. A lot of the rest of the tournament is defined by lies, schemes, and withdrawals, with several competitors agreeing to work together but then stabbing each other in the back. This keeps things pleasantly unpredictable, and it’s a lot of fun to watch how the tournament plays out. The use of scientific principles in some of the fights is especially cool.
With that said, the volume’s final chapters are easily its best. The tankōbon collections have reached the backstory arc involving Senku’s father Byakuya, which is possibly my favorite arc in the entire series. It allows readers to see the manga’s catastrophic beginning from new perspectives, as well as features some fantastic character work. The dialogue is great, providing us with a strong sense of Byakuya’s personality and fatherly love for Senku in a relatively small amount of page-time. The art in this section is also stunning, with memorable facial expressions and gorgeous shots of Earth as viewed from from outer space. After roughly forty chapters with relatively few answers to the manga’s biggest mysteries, this arc expands the lore in exciting ways and is very effectively paced.
As great as most of this book is, there are a few drawbacks. While this volume doesn’t have as many creepily sexualized young women as past installments, there is one occurrence that’s notably bad. It involves Senku giving Ruri antibiotics, and the way she’s posed looks downright porny. Of all the plot points one could depict this way, it seems bizarre that the creative team chose a scene of someone taking medicine. There are also some occasional visual clarity issues, but never anything too major or long-lasting to hamper the narrative too much.
Overall, Dr. STONE Vol. 5 is a lot of fun. The art is fantastic, with wacky over-the-top facial expressions as well as gorgeous shots of nature and outer space. The plot also takes some big steps forward, both with the tournament and in the flashbacks. Though the art has a few weak or questionable moments, these hardly detract from how enjoyable the book is. Any shonen manga fan, or person who just likes science, is missing out if they don’t read Dr. STONE.