Dr. STONE is the story of a child genius, Senku, who gets caught in a mysterious catastrophe that transforms every living being in the world into stone. Generations later, Senku breaks out of his stone phase and finds that the world has been completely overtaken by nature, giving way to lush forests, serene skies, and clean water. After figuring out what led to his release from his statuesque state, Senku makes it his mission to save humanity and to understand how everyone turned to stone in the first place.
I left the first season of Dr. STONE thoroughly entertained and intrigued with the characters, the story, and the nerdy information. The exploration of science and the thrill of advancements appealed to me the most about the series. As a result, when the second season shifted more towards war and physical conflict, albeit still mixed with scientific elements, I found myself less intrigued. Anime Expo 2022’s premiere of the special episode, Dr. STONE: Ryusui, brings that original element back in full from the first season in just 50 minutes, despite my initial reservations.
With the main story’s antagonists temporarily out of the way, Senku turns his attention to sailing the open seas in the search for better resources, protection, and answers. He intends to revive the prodigal but scumbag sailor, Ryusui Nanami, the heir to a billionaire entrepreneur who owns an entire conglomerate. In one of the funniest scenes of the special episode, the group of protagonists engage in an ethical debate. Ryusui’s skills are unmatched, but due to his greedy, capitalistic attitude with no regard for anyone else, it is a push and pull to risk bringing such a terrible person to life. True to Senku’s nature, one that calculates and decides only on the accomplishment of goals with little care of anything else, he revives Ryusui as the group continues to contemplate the pros and cons. They proceed to scream in anger and panic as Ryusui wakes up and immediately demands for money, women, and businesses to go under his name.
Senku’s the protagonist, but he’s by no means heroic. With every person he helps, Senku calculates for their contributions and efficiency to reach his goals, and with the exception of Taiji – his best friend and only friend in school – Senku’s quite the manipulative bastard. He only flew under the radar due to his scientific advancements benefiting humanity as a whole, but moments like that scene are a blatant reminder of Senku’s morals.
However, that’s also what makes him interesting. People love watching protagonists with dubious morals, and people love confident protagonists with dubious morals the most. Through a terrible combination of Senku, Ryusui, and Gen (the con artist from the first two seasons), the trifecta revive the foundation of capitalism – something many people in the audience cannot help but laugh in pain at.
It is important to remember that humanity advances culturally, politically, and societally through a trial of errors, as history has shown. Capitalism began because it created something good in people’s minds, and we see that through three terrible-minded people who enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor to advance science, but are also motivated to reach the answer behind the petrification of humanity.
The crown jewel of the episode ultimately rests on the shoulders of flight. After Senku realizes the shape of the entire continent had changed in the centuries they were asleep, he decides they needed to navigate the skies to discover what “Japan” looks like. He shifts his attention from building a sailboat to building a hot air balloon instead — one of the first inventions that allowed people a view from the clouds and helped map makers through a bird’s eye view. Through a new mapping of Japan, Senku believes they have a better chance of locating resources accurately to properly advance their construction of a proper boat.
My heart pounded against my chest as Senku, Chrome, and Ryusui rose to the skies and found themselves caught in the middle of a storm. The episode blends both an educational explanation of meteorology with shounen style battles. As the storm cloud looms over the protagonists, the cloud turns into a monster. Through the use of excellent CGI, the cloud retains its texture while it transforms into a creature with gaping jaws that is both formidable and frightening. I experienced the thrill of racing against nature while still learning the science behind why this fight was so important.
We also get to witness Ryusui’s skills for the first time and breathe a sigh of relief that, despite being a scumbag, he is the prodigal sailor and navigator that people (and he) have claimed. At the end of the storm, when the sun rises, triumph fills the air, and Dr. Stone’s famous and recognizable theme blares through the showroom.
The voice actors gave it their all to these dramatic characters, though admittedly Ryusui sounded a little too similar to Tsukasa despite having different voice actors — Ryusui’s voiced by Ryota Suzuki and Tsukasa’s voiced by Nakamura Yuichi. Kengo Kawanishi as Gen decidedly had the most fun in a series of flurried emotions such as confusion, excitement, fear, anger, and lust all in a matter of a few minutes. Ultimately, the entire cast sold the characters, and I was fully immersed in the world and the plot.
Prior to the screening, I sat in the showroom expecting myself to scrutinize the special episode, methodically list out the pros and cons in my head, and leave the room lukewarm. Instead, I was laughing with the crowd, sat on the edge of my seat during the storm scene, and relaxed with a grin when I saw the protagonists triumph. I left the showroom with a bounce in my step and a single thought in my head, “I can’t wait for Season 3.”