The Stone Wars end, but at what cost?
“If the Earth can’t support seven billion people, then all seven billion of us just have to figure out a way! That’s how science works!”
As Dr. Stone Volume 10 opens with a dirty back-stabbing, we’re treated to this stirring quote from Senku. Think on this: how often have you seen the likes of overpopulation, climate change, or a certain ongoing pandemic bringing doom and gloom to the prospect of our future? It’s easy to throw your hands up and go “welp, we’re doomed” at the sheet weight of it all, instead choosing to stoically go about your lives as the world teeters towards oblivion, yet Senku isn’t interested in such cynicism. Dr. Stone‘s brand of science is perhaps what renders it the most thematically authentic serial in Weekly Shonen Jump today: it’s not something that merely grants hope; nay, anything’s a realizable goal so long as people work together.
A hackneyed age-old message, to be sure, yet merely observe how events unfold here: some folks like Tsukasa — our former antagonist, who just found himself on the other end of Hyoga’s spear — aren’t quite as idealistic, believing only those worthy enough can rebuild the world from extinction. Meanwhile, Hyoga shrugs off any such values and only seeks to exploit Earth’s crisis for satisfying his own blood-lust, selfishly scheming for a genocidal culling to bump off the weak. It’s here where Senku’s earthbound pragmatism vindicates itself yet again — for all his stone-cold objectivity, his left-field inventions all spring from a genuine desire to benefit even those we hold in disdain. (Let’s not forget it was his desire to revive everybody that turned Tsukasa against him.) It’s a benevolence proving itself this manga’s rock, all culminating into putting a certain villain into cold sleep.
All this feeds into an energizing battle that puts a permanent end to the Tsukasa Empire, yet its aftereffects still linger throughout the volume. Really, as much as we know Tsukasa and Hyoga’s methods for reviving the world are utterly wrong, it’s not hard to imagine why the former distrusted humanity’s capability to revive itself; really, let’s say Senku and co. succeed in their efforts to de-petrify humanity from their stone prisons and reboot civilization — who’s to say mankind won’t revert to their greedy, man-eat-world ways? If anything, our latest revived recruit in Ryusui Nanami may prove Tsukasa’s worst fears, as this former ship tycoon’s willing to lend his navigational skills for the sake of rebuilding the world…for a price.
Hot air balloon, a-hoy!
Let’s face it: it was only a matter of time before money re-manifested into the Stone World, with Ryusui’s demand for “Drago” currency in exchange for oil driving primitives and pre-Stone World denizens alike into concocting mad schemes for cold, hard cash. The back-half of Volume 10 goes all-in on Dr. Stone‘s trademark comedy, with everything from gag manga to cloth tailoring marching to the tune of a man who, in less than a day, already establishes himself as a Stone Age millionaire. Not that I hold it against Ryusui: he’s hardly as cold-hearted as the corrupt elites Tsukasa feared, and if nothing else, he’s not to be unchallenged: might the mighty tycoon’s reserves be steadily utilized for the purposes of a pair of sneaky tricksters?
Not even a dose of sobering capitalism’s enough to douse Dr. Stone‘s fire, with its passion for wild gag faces and persistent theatrics bleeding into its earnest blend of edutainment: not once is the series patronizing in its how-tos of making hot air balloons or boat crafting, instead reveling in the cast’s passion of introducing basic societal know-hows to curious Stone Agers. We know by now that reinventing something as old-hat as a loom are life-changing conveniences, yet it’s the passion of dream-chasers in Chrome and Kaseki that beat Dr. Stone‘s heart in the hot air balloon episode; time and time again, the series’s most electrifying scenarios involve our band of science re-realizing humanity’s far-flung aspirations, and what better example can you ask for in the final double-spread of a panoramic balloon ride flight? Kohaku’s speech to Hyoga says it all: superstitious miracles and outdated conventions may’ve the old ways of Ishigami Village, yet Senku’s painstaking problem-solving through science is what truly makes the impossible possible through progress.
If there’s one message I can glean from Volume 10, it’s yet another reminder that Dr. Stone won’t have a complete fairy tale ending. Yes, we know this rambunctious group will ultimately rescue humanity, but not everything will revert to the way they once were; why, with the loss of everything from The Beatles to beloved pets, the post-Stone Age will become the new normal. With how much you’ve probably probably heard that during COVID-19’s quarantines and life-threatening illnesses, Dr. Stone asks you this: even when all seems bleak, what are you doing for your fellow man?
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.