Friday, August 31, 2018

REVIEW: Dr. Stone Vol. 1

Dr. Stone is the new manga by Eyeshield 21 writer Riichiro Inagaki. One fateful day, all of humanity is suddenly turned to stone. Many millennia later, high school student Taiju frees himself from the petrification and finds himself surrounded by statues. The situation looks grim—until he runs into his science-loving friend Senku! Together they plan to restart civilization with the power of science!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Dr. Stone Vol. 1 courtesy of Viz Media.
Opinions are my own.

Dr. Stone does something I really appreciate every time I see it in a manga. Instead of throwing a complex mythology or magic system at us, we get a super simple premise that’s explored in a complex way.

Everyone turns to stone one day and then a few survivors are going to figure out how to reverse it. That’s it. There’s no explanation for how or why everyone turned to stone (yes) and that’s a good thing. There’s so much you can do with this simple premise and I love seeing it explored without getting bogged down by some rock magic conspiracy monsters.

While the front and back of Vol. 1 feature Senku, our real protagonist is Taiju, a totally normal high schooler with an unending determination and endurance. That’s it. Another thing I love about anime and manga is characters with one single trait that gets fleshed out and explored to make them complex characters.

Taiju was on his way to confess his love to a girl in class when everyone turned to stone. He spent the next few thousand years thinking about nothing but saving her. This determination makes him the perfect first member to join Senku on his quest to restart civilization.

Let’s talk about Senku. He’s on the cover and if you search the manga’s name he’s all that comes up, even though he’s technically a secondary character. Senku is a young mad scientist, the kind you want on your side in this situation. Just like Taiju, “good at science” is Senku’s only trait, but it’s written in a way that makes him more complex and interesting.

Senku is the first person to escape the statue state that has plagued all of humanity. He’s spent the time since experimenting and studying the new world. Every single thing that happens, Senku views it like a scientist. He figures out how to free people from the stone, develops crude and simple machines, and even identifies how subtly flora and fauna have changed after thousands of years without humans. All traces of human civilization are gone, so humanity’s hope for survival is all in Senku’s head.

Each chapter of Dr. Stone is also a simple premise with a complex story. They have to collect wine and bat guano to create the stone cure. They have to escape an attack by lions. They have to find seashells for a variety of uses. There isn’t a lot of twists or ridiculous backstories, but it manages to take something simple and make it complex.

Dr. Stone does a great job at taking a tiny premise and going all out without going too far. It’s never convoluted or confusing, but it always keeps you interested. All of the characters we meet are interesting and the way it tackles what would really happen if humanity vanished from the world shows a lot of dedication and research by the writer.

You can catch the first volume of Dr. Stone in stores and digitally. Click here to order your copy today.