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Monday, May 20, 2024

Dr. Stone Season 3 Premiere Review

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Dr. Stone season 3 is now streaming on Crunchyroll.


The problem with educational entertainment, much like horror-comedies, is that it often ends up sacrificing one thing for the other. You usually end up with either a rather entertaining story that doesn't teach you anything or bends facts, or a rather dull school lesson. But Dr. Stone is an exception to that: This anime has solid foundations, a relentless love of science, and an understanding of how best to blend lessons with moments of fun or even deep emotion. Now in its third season, Dr. Stone is starting a new chapter with yet another groundbreaking discovery, along with funny yet emotionally resonant applications for it.

We pick up right where we left off in the funny and poignant special episode Dr. Stone Ryusui (which is absolutely necessary to watch before this premiere), with Senku and the revived billionaire and greedy egomaniac Ryusui coming back from the first hot air balloon flight in millennia. With that gorgeously animated sequence and resonant achievement out of the way, the premiere uses the anime's signature humor and sheer love of science to balance the table setting that the premiere serves, as the members of the Kingdom of Science move a bit closer to setting sail to find the source of the beam that petrified all of humanity for thousands of years.

The big downside to the premiere is that it is mostly a recap of what’s come before and set up for the rest of the season. We are reminded of the stakes and the goal — to revive all of humanity — while slowly putting in place the pieces to achieve it. While not that much actually happens, it is nevertheless a good reminder of how fun Dr. Stone can be, particularly when it comes to science and comedy.

It’s fitting, then, that this episode suddenly turns into Minecraft at a few points.


This anime has always been good at using a game-like format for the progress of the technology on the show and the story itself. At its best, it serves to illustrate how science never stops or comes out of nowhere, it just builds on what came before and makes following the storyline a bit of fun. In the premiere, there is a great sense of achievement conveyed by the recap moments, as we see how Senku's need for oil leads to them needing to map the area, which leads to the hot air balloon and humanity reaching the skies again. We see how far the characters have come in such a short time, and particularly because Dr. Stone always focuses on what each discovery or invention means for humanity as a whole. In the premiere, Senku and Ryusui discover new places to hunt and even a field of wheat, which leads to agriculture that can support a larger population and avoid relying on unpredictable fishing seasons and prevent starvation.

It’s fitting, then, that this episode suddenly turns into Minecraft at a few points, with the characters becoming big, blocky figures exploring the land. The transition looks fantastic thanks to the animation team at TMS Entertainment, which makes it seamless, and the over-the-top designs fit the playful tone of Dr. Stone.

Dr. Stone Season 3 Screenshots

Dr. Stone doesn't just teach how farming or a hot air balloon works or the history behind them, it shows the practical ways these achievements and discoveries changed humanity in profound and also fun ways. Here, we get a rather somber reveal about why Ishigami Village (where the residents never really knew the pre-petrification world) remains so small, which makes the discovery of wheat emotionally affecting and hugely important. To see the faces of the villagers express huge relief over the knowledge that they won't risk starvation due to bad fishing seasons is powerful, and despite the over-the-top animation and exaggerated expressions, the emotions come across as heartfelt and sincere.

Dr. Stone's balance of tones is one of its biggest strengths and this episode is a good example of that. Characters recognize the perils and the stakes, but they still decide to put on a smile and have some fun. While Senku continues to be a fun protagonist to follow, the season three premiere of Dr. Stone smartly shines a light on side characters. Like One Punch Man and Saitama, this show recognizes that overpowered characters can often be best when playing second fiddle to other, more down-to-earth cast members and letting them shine.

In this case, Dr. Stone also serves to compliment one of the core ideas that the show explores – that even if you don't realize it, you contain thousands of years’ worth of human discovery and collective intelligence with you and you are always building on that collective knowledge. So to see Taiju steal the episode by making his wheat field grow not just by using his superhuman strength, but because he recalled a small but significant lesson from Senku and neutralized the pH in his soil is exhilarating. As we set out on a journey of discovery, Dr. Stone reminds us that science and progress – just like nature – find a way.

Verdict

Dr. Stone returns for a third season with a premiere that is mostly a recap with some setting of the stage for things to come. Nevertheless, this anime’s sheer love of science, relentless optimism, and over-the-top characters make for an entertaining premiere that sets up the next chapter of the story while still offering fun discoveries and endearing references to Minecraft.

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