Bread. Bread everywhere.
Aw yeah, now we’re talking: the science of bread! Mmm, just look at how Senku and Francois are sinking their teeth into delectably sumptuous baked treats. If there’s one thing I celebrate about my Italian heritage, it’s our famed affinity for leavened wheat, so you better believe I’m all in on Dr. Stone‘s adventures in bread-making. Granted, my sensory issues means I probably won’t be digging into Senku’s juicy sandwich anytime soon, but just one look at Francois’s massive chunk of crunchy heaven makes my mouth water. And those breadsticks Senku is holding…whew, I can’t contain myself! Say what you will about Boichi’s failures with the female anatomy: not since Yakitake!! Japan have I had such a positively visceral reaction in reading manga. (I guess you could say the proof in the pudding; or in this case, the baked dough.)
Anyway, yes, Dr. Stone Volume 11: it’s good stuff. It’s yet another round of edutainment prep-work — we haven’t even begun working on that ship Senku dreamed up in the last volume, but there’s still fun to be had in navigating wind currents and cumulonimbus clouds, drawing maps, inventing radars, cameras, and metal detectors, opening mines, plowing fields for wheat, locating oil, and even a ghastly encounter with the possible mastermind behind Earth’s petrifaction. Yes, that particular event doesn’t occur until the volume’s latter half, but not once is Dr. Stone ever resting on its laurels; as evidenced by the Kingdom of Science’s heavy work schedule, the series’s modus operandi in step-by-step problem solving means we are never once bored: their manic antics operating in tandem with realizing dreams within the pursuit of science.
As always, the cast’s infectious ambition is what endears us; in this volume’s case, Ryusui has truly come into his own as a core member of Senku’s inner circle. The self-proclaimed greediest man on Earth, the character’s much like Gen in that while he’s hardly a villain, he represents a necessary evil from pre-Stone world; in this case, an unfettered allegiance to capitalism. Senku’s pragmatism has no qualms with Ryusui’s priorities; after all, the man’s sense of adventure and desire gradually co-align with Ishigami Village’s more rustic members, not the least in Chrome’s scientific sense of discovery. (That, and as we saw last volume, our titular character certainly has the smarts to rein in the captain’s ambitions) As we learn by the volume’s end, Ryusui’s passion readily dissolves any practical pretenses — might this be the noble desirability Francois admires in their master? As we learn with the fate of Suika’s pet boar, it’s certainly a humbling quality echoed across certain members of the cast.
Indeed, as this volume hops from invention to invention, it’s these wholesome foibles and burgeoning connections fostering a genuine sense of community within the Kingdom of Science. The cynic may claim Taiju’s boilerplate motives for reviving stone statues — sympathy, we learn, hailing from having lost his parents at a young age — indicates writer Riichiro Inagaki’s continued struggles in elements the character to prominence, yet he is but a steadfast rock unperturbed by Yo and Magma’s field-plowing competition; in turn, Taiju’s successful harvest cools their self-centered struggles and instead yields pride towards the fruit of their labor. (Might Magma’s brimming joy at his precious plant babies be the key to soothing his murderous tendencies?) From Chrome and Ryusui’s reconciliation to reporter Minami Hokutozai’s camera recovery, it’s a riveting concoction courtesy of Riichiro Inagaki’s for character-building.
But I was getting to the bread-making! Volume 11 gets all in on cultivating food supplies for Ishigami Village, and Boichi’s art — immaculately detailed as ever — ensures the salivation of our taste buds. (Actually, just between you and me, I kinda wanna sample the initial charcoal-colored batch…) Not that there aren’t other artistic aspects to enjoy: the cast’s off-the-page energy — right to Kaseki’s spontaneous wardrobe malfunctions — is but an artistic manifestation of Inagaki’s scientific passion, and when fused with Boichi’s own passion for the methodical studies, it’s just plain fun to read. (Still, I brought the female design thing up for a reason — I can’t be the only one physically recoiling whenever Minami pops up, right?)
Of course, things do move along with Why-Man’s abrupt introduction. Without Tsukasa or Hyoga, Dr. Stone‘s relatively idyllic intermission couldn’t dawdle without an antagonist brewing behind the scenes, and we get just that with Petrifaction Suspect Numero Uno. Named after his never-ending barrage of furious interjections, this anonymous individual is but a nebulous goal for our heroes to decipher — for all their ambitions in crossing the seas and harvesting crops, all of that is but a prelude to the ultimate mystery: who is this character, and what is his purpose? Is he truly behind the petrifaction? Only now can Dr. Stone‘s endgame can vaguely be realized, but this tantalizing mystery leaves us eager to piece the puzzle together chapter by chapter.
This is not among Dr. Stone’s most stellar volumes, but that’s fine: as the next act continues fermenting itself, the series steadily leavens our own engagement. Even now, the secret ingredients within Inagaki’s kitchen have yet to be divulged, but as anyone reading the current serialization knows, anything that emerges from his weekly-tuned oven is a delectable delight indeed. Now, where’s Boichi’s bread-based artbook?
Final Verdict: 4/5
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.