The genre of shonen anime is overcrowded, often making it hard for new anime to break the barrier created by shows like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and more recently, My Hero Academia. However, summer 2019’s smash hit Dr. Stone broke the mold and became the most popular new shonen series of the year. Why is Dr. Stone so popular and what differentiates it from other shonen series?
Based off of the popular manga of the same name, Dr. Stone takes place in a world where every human being on Earth in the year 2019 was petrified for an unknown reason. The show follows Senku Ishigami, a science prodigy, as he wakes up from the petrification over 3,000 years later to a world no longer dominated by the humanity’s presence. Together, he and his recently awakened best friend, Taiju Oki, decide to save humanity and progress science and technology to where it was before the petrification.
Of course, it would not be a proper shonen without a rival for the protagonist. Tsukasa Shishio desires the polar opposite of Senku, wanting to only depetrify the young in order to reshape society. After being awakened by Senku and Taiju out of necessity, Tsukasa murders a lion with his bare hands. Who put a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure character in my science anime?
Tsukasa soon realizes that Senku’s science would pose a great threat to his future Empire of Might. In order to protect his ideals from Tsukasa, Senku decides to build his own Kingdom of Science out of a nearby village. There he meets Chrome who shares his desire for science, even if Chrome is not quite as educated as Senku. In order to bring humanity back to where it was before the petrification, Senku must convince others to join the scientific cause.
What separates Dr. Stone from other shonen is Richiro Inagaki’s writing, which is focused on character, drama, and developing its “magic system.” This is not to say that Dr. Stone does not have its fair share of shonen battles, but the science is usually deemed more important. The show would much rather show you how to make a cotton candy maker than show two characters fighting to see who is strongest.
The greatest strength in the show’s writing is the step-by-step walkthroughs of the scientific advancements Senku makes throughout the show. Whether you have experience with it or not, the science of the show is explained in such an understandable way that anyone could repeat it. Of course, Dr. Stone is still a fantasy shonen series, so the science is not always 100% accurate.
The character designs alone separate Dr. Stone from other anime, particularly with eyes. Similar to slice-of-life shows like Clannad, the yes dominate most female characters’ faces. To contrast this, male characters have strong definition around their eyes, and they are usually thin and sharp instead of big and rounded. However, the most unique detail is the cracks on the faces of those that have been depetrified. This allows for easy separation between residents of the village and the petrified. The show perfectly translates Boichi’s manga art designs into animation.
The English dub for Dr. Stone was one of the best dubs of 2019, which is due in no small part to ADR director Clifford Chapin (My Hero Academia, Darling in the Franxx). Aaron Dismuke, the voice of Senku, returns to voice a shonen protagonist for the first time since voicing Alphonse Elric in the original Full Metal Alchemist and bring his A-game. He perfectly sells the incredible intellect and overly sarcastic personality of Senku. However, the show would be nothing without its supporting cast. Whether it be Ricco Fajardo as Taiju, Felecia Angelle as best girl Kohaku, Ian Sinclair as Tsukasa, Matt Shipman as Chrome, Brandon McInnis as illusionist Gen, or Sarah Wiedenheft as the adorable Suika, everyone stands out and not a single voice actor drops the ball even slightly.
Dr. Stone is unlike any other shonen anime I have ever seen and I am extremely excited for season 2, which premiers summer 2020. I especially cannot wait to see Taiju and Yuzuriha get some much needed additional screen time and to see everyone’s favorite Jojo’s villain smash some heads. As Senku would say, “get excited!”