Did you know that president Nixon had a speech prepared just in case the Apollo mission went wrong? It’s a pretty good speech but in the context of history it becomes downright haunting. I tear up every time I read it. You can sort of feel the weight of history and the searing pain of hope behind the simple words. If your interested, it’s at the bottom of this article here.
As I watched this week’s episode of Dr. Stone, that speech kept coming to my mind. I am not ashamed to say, I teared up yet again.
There shall be spoilers and if you haven’t seen the episode, you should watch it first. It’s worth experiencing unspoiled.
What I thought Would Happen
As the last episode left us on a flashback cliffhanger, it was easy to guess where the story was going. A sort of Robinson Crusoe adventure for the surviving astronauts.
I figured we would have learned the the crew of the international space station reproduced (since all the villagers look so much like them), left some wisdom and tech behind then disappeared. Leaving their ultimate fates nebulous and maybe even allowing for the possibility of Byakuya still being around somehow.
I also thought they would sort of split up the flash back, giving us parallel scenes of Senku coming up with inventions and something similar having been done by his dad millennial earlier for the rest of the series. A sort of running theme, tying past and present together and showing us the cycle of humanity.
What Did Happen
What should have happened. The only way this story could have logically evolved. Simply, without magic and artifice. It was obvious really and it took me completely by surprise.
Despite some serious complications, the crew do manage to make it back to earth in one piece and even find an island but that’s where their luck ran out. Soon enough, they had to come to grasp with the fact that they were the only humans left and had to start from scratch.
Which they did, slowly. Creating new families in the process. But in a world without modern comforts or even ancient medicines, life expectancy isn’t what it used to be. Disease picked off some of them, and the harsh elements a few more. Constant fights against depression and despair left them exhausted. These were all people who became astronauts. All of them capable of fully grasping the full extent of the situation and not used to simply idly accepting things.
In time, the few remaining started to turn their sights to the future. With the likelihood of undoing the personification within his lifetime getting smaller every day, Byakuya writes the 100 tales, which are really technical guidelines to help humanity survive and evolve, dressed up as fables. And happily, he does manage to finish them before his own time comes. His very last tale directly addressing his son Senku, who’s survival he never once doubted.
With the flashback over, we catch up to Senku who takes a minute to process everything before returning to the village where Gen let’s us all know that it’s finally time for the kingdom of might to make their entrance.
What About the Characters
There was no need to make me like the crew more. I already liked them all a lot. The episode gave us just enough to show that Shamil was a pretty good guy and Conni was vulnerable but doing her best. Yakov and Darya are prudent but unable to accept suffering of others. It wasn’t much in way of development really but it was just right. Just enough to make us care about these characters. Just enough to get the gut punched when Dr Stone decided to not sugar coat just how horrible their situation actually is. Just enough to miss them….
Once gain, Byakuya and Lillian took centre stage. Both of them were consistent to the people we had already gotten to know which is a great thing. Oddly, we found out that Byakuya and Senku are not blood relations, a fact that is insisted upon, but they sure could have fooled me. Senku is so much like an impatient and immature version of his dad. I guess nurture really is important.
In a way, despite seeing very little of him throughout the episode, this week was probably the most character development we got for Senku so far. I’ve mentioned it before but Senku has been essentially a static character since episode one. He is well established and quirky but he hasn’t changed at all and we’ve seen nothing to make us think he ever will. Until this week.
The mournful and shaken young man asking to be alone by his father’s grave is not a Senku we’ve ever seen before. For a second there, he looked so lonely and somehow, small. Like the child he really is is this huge stone world. Like the boy who misses his dad. Of course he already knew. The second he realized his dad had not been petrified, he knew he’d be long gone 3700 years later. But he didn’t want to admit it to himself. He hadn’t quite assimilated it. How sentimental and illogical.
What I Liked
I might have been too subtle. I liked almost everything. I liked that the show didn’t shy away from some harsher realities but didn’t glorify pain or sink into melodrama in the least.
I liked that the narrative balanced plot and atmosphere enough to deliver emotional moments and still move quite a bit forward.
I really liked that the shuttle landed in water prompting Byakuya to offer to swim to their rescue, fully clothed. It was a call back to all that effort he had made to pass the astronaut test, which he had dome for the sake of Senku. It sort of ties everything together in such a neat way.
I think that Byakuya turning his knowledge into stories and legends that can easily be past down through generations and calling that his scientific gift to his son was both inspired and inspiring. I’ve made no secret of my respect for dedicated teachers and stuff like this really speaks to me.
The pacing of the episode was fantastic, punctuating the flashback with glimpses of the present to give the narrative a rhythm that made the story just flow naturally.
These 100 tales and the mystery of why the village was named after Senku has been a long time coming. It’s a puzzle that was dangled in front of the audience for weeks now and they could easily have botched it. In my opinion this reveal was just wonderfully executed. Not only was it not what I was expecting in the least, it was also genuinely touching to me and proof that the writers can create a measured and emotional story.
What I Liked Less
I’m really going to have to scrape the bottom of the ol brain barrel here, let’s see…
Lilian’s singing got a bit cheesy at some point but then they interrupted it with a pretty powerful moment so I was fine with it.
Oh, like I said, they insisted on telling us twice and in detail that Senku and Byakuya aren’t blood relations. The fact that they are so alike is fine, and sweet even. I do like that a lot. Father’s aren’t sperm donors. But why did they have to make their character models so physically similar? Senku is pretty unique looking, with his hair and eyes being the main distinctive features and Byakuya is visibly similar in both of those. The could have made them a bit more different in design without it being too obvious.
The fact that they are not blood relations is treated as a big reveal but I’m not sure why it matters. Or rather, I’m afraid it matters only because the narrative is trying to avoid a future incest story line and well, that means romance.
Finally, this isn’t something I disliked, it’s just a mild worry. Tsukasa is bound to upset the group dynamic, especially if this means the return of Taiju and Yuzu. This worries me but this episode gives me hope.
I don’t care what anyone says, I think this week’s episode was beautiful. I am so grateful that I didn’t let a couple of rocky episodes at the beginning discourage me. I have been having a great time with Dr Stone for months really, since the village arc started, and now this. Honestly, this episode would have been a worthy payoff even if the show hadn’t been consistently fun lately. As it is, it was a wonderful gift.
Mood: Delicately wistful