By Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Caleb Cook.
It’s always difficult to judge these Jump titles because the beginning feels like a prologue even when the series takes off, as this one has. Here we have the new series from the writer who brought us Eyeshield 21 and the artist who brought us Sun-Ken-Rock. So they’re both seasoned veterans, and there’s no doubt the new series feels confident. I’m just not sure who I’m supposed to be focusing on. The guy on the cover, Senku, starts the book as the seeming “intelligent sidekick” type to the classic idiot Jump hero-type guy, Taiju. That said, Inagaki has learned his lessons well from his days at Eyeshield 21 and knows that no one read that series for Sena, likeable as he was. No, Eyeshield’s popularity was entirely due to Hiruma. As such, it’s pretty clear the the intelligent, verbally abusive guy is who we need to keep an eye on. (I’m fairly certain he’s not a real doctor, though.)
Our story begins with Taiju, for whom the words ‘lovable lunk’ seem to have been invented, finally manning up and preparing to tell the cute Yuzuriha that’s he is in love with her. Sadly, as he’s about to do this, something flashes across the entire world and every single human on it is turned to stone. Their consciousnesses survive, they’re just… trapped in stone. (It’s not just humanity, some birds are caught as well, but most animals seem to have survived. Fast forward to the year 5738, and Taiju finally is able to escape his stone body. It turns out Senku, his science friend, has been awake over half a year earlier, and has big plans. Together, they’re going to find a way to un-stone people and revive humanity. Naturally, Yuzuriha is one of the first revived, as, well, you need a cute girl in a Jump series. Unfortunately, their other revival proves a bit more unfortunate.
I’m going to leave aside the likelihood of everyone being turned to stone yet alive and conscious for over four thousand years and being mostly fine when they are revived, because that’s clearly handwave plot powers. I’m also going to leave Yuzuriha aside, because as I said earlier her sole purpose seems to be pretty and female – hopefully the manga will get a few more well-defined women in it soon, but honestly, Eyeshield 21 wasn’t great on that front either. Senku and Taiju are much better defined characters – despite his Dragon Ball hair, Senku is clever (and knows it) and pragmatic, and is ready to rebuilt the world with the help of Taiju’s muscle. The antagonist is also interesting, as he points out this is the perfect time to only revive the best, while Senku, our hero, thinks they should revive everyone regardless of whether they’re evil or not. I’m not entirely sure how you can guess the morality of a person from their stone statue self, but given our antagonist seems perfectly happy to break apart little kid’s stone bodies, I suspect he’s not really meant to be much other than ‘the bad guy’.
The art here is good, and I do like Senku, but it feels very much like a prologue. I think I’ll need one or two more volumes before I see where Dr. STONE is going. Till then, Jump fans should like this. Also, Boichi seems to have studied at the Masakazu Katsura school of female character design. Yuzuhira could have stepped off the pages of Video Girl Ai.