Welcome to This Week in Shonen Jump, in which a rotating duo of Multiversity staffers take a look at two stories contained in each installment of Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump. For the uninitiated, Weekly Shonen Jump is an anthology that delivers more than 200 pages of manga of all varieties. We hope that you’ll join us in exploring the world of Weekly Shonen Jump each week. If you are unfamiliar, you can read sample chapters and subscribe at Viz.com.
This week, Darcy checks in with “Dr Stone.” If you have any thoughts on these titles, or “Seraph at the End,” “We Never Learn,” “Black Clover,” “Robot X Laserbeam,” “The Promised Neverland,” “Food Wars,” “Inishe No Horobimon,” or “My Hero Academia,” let us know in the comments!
Dr. Stone – Chapter 53: Hard Knocks Crafting Club
Written by Riichiro Inagaki
Illustrated by Boichi
Review by Darcy Forrester
This newest chapter of “Dr. Stone” continues directly on from the end of the previous chapter, as Senku and Asagiri praise Chrome and old Kaseki for making a hydroelectric power plant. After that, the group makes a series of logical steps to efficiently utilise this invention, which in turn brings about more new items for Senku and the villagers to work with. While this concept for a chapter may seem a little basic, it is undoubtedly vital progress for the ‘Kingdom of Science’ to make, and so Inagaki is right to include such material. The most impressive thing with Chapter 53 however, as has tended to be the case with much of “Dr. Stone” thus far, is the presentation of that material. Once again Boichi manages to demonstrate his artistic prowess, through wonderfully vibrant character expressions and stunningly detailed backgrounds. It really is a wonder just how Boichi and his assistants manage to put out such splendid artwork consistently, despite working on a weekly series, which is sure to have a rather rigorous schedule.
Anyway, after re-establishing the creation of a hydroelectric power plant at the beginning of the chapter, Senku declares that the group must find a way to store the electrical power it creates. This then leads to an interesting and informative sequence, wherein Senku uses five sets of lead plates and sulfuric acid in glass containers to craft a battery. This achievement is confirmed in a striking fashion, like all of the other key milestones in the series so far, with a style that clearly emulates that of obtaining a key item in a video game. This imagery is utilised later on in this chapter also, but in a slightly different way, so I think this is certainly being exploited by the creative duo behind the series, as a means of better connecting with their audience. These kinds of aesthetic decisions are certainly something I’m on-board with, for a series such as this that seems to prioritise enjoyment. The pair then don’t miss out on the opportunity for a gag, only ever enhanced by Boichi’s penchant for wonderfully exaggerated reaction faces, as Ginro is comically electrocuted when testing out the newly made battery.
The next page of the chapter though, I believe to be a very pivotal one in the grand scheme of things. Senku’s affirmation that the ‘Kingdom of Science’ has indeed entered the ‘Age of Energy’, built upon the combination of the hydroelectric power plant and the battery, could have meant a number of things for the series and its characters. For example, such advancements could have led to some characters adapting a more nonchalant outlook, leading to an overreliance on the new technology and a lazier demeanour in turn. This possibility is turned down twice during the chapter though, with the first time being here, as Ginro and Kinro are encouraged to use their newly found free-time to train with Kohaku instead. Given the target demographic of this manga, and the magazine in which it is published, I personally think pushing a positive mind-set such as this is something that should be applauded.
Another point that was raised in this chapter, that I appreciate Inagaki for including, and Boichi for depicting with a combination of hilarity and sincerity, is the power of curiosity. Given the hard work that Chrome and Kaseki have undertaken recently, it makes perfect sense to show their growing fatigue. Yet this isn’t enough to keep the pair down, as Senku’s plans for the waterwheel pique their curiosity, and they are sufficiently rejuvenated to go at least one step further. Given the primary audience of this manga, the pull of scientific curiosity is something that could have been easily overlooked in this moment, but is instead highlighted here with aplomb. Moments like these really do demonstrate how “Dr. Stone” manages to resonate with many who pick it up.Continued below
The next stage of this chapter relates to two of the points I’ve made previously. The first is the use of video game terminology to enhance the material’s appeal, as the use of gears to better harness the hydroelectric power from the waterwheel allows the villagers to ‘level up’ their puffer system to ‘Level 3’, in Chrome’s words. This greater automation then brings the manga’s approach to mentality to the forefront again, only for Senku to reiterate that these advancements aren’t for making the lives of the villagers any easier. Instead, the village is now able to better distribute its resource of labour, with the non-warriors free to focus on foraging and stocking up for the winter. The double spread used to depict this image is truly fantastic, with the backgrounds here deserving special mention.
Beyond this, various other achievements are relatively sped through: bottling, wine and light bulbs. These three are played off as luxurious by-products of the other creations seen in this chapter, but in reality, the later is shown to have real utility. While its first use is something relatively trivial, although beautiful (in regard to celebrating Christmas in the village for the first time), the second proposed use brings the narrative back round to the wider goal of the arc, which is creating communication devices in the vein of cell phones. Interestingly though it is actually Chrome who proposes this other use for the light bulbs and batteries, wherein they can light caves, thereby allowing the group to extract key ores and minerals. The fact that we often see characters other than Senku leading the scientific charge really is a testament to the engaging cast of characters, in the village anyway, that Inagaki and Boichi have managed to bring to life.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Chapter 53 is a thoroughly entertaining and beautifully drawn instalment, where progress has been made toward the group’s wider goal, and the positive impact Senku’s scientific curiosity has had on the village and its inhabitants was highlighted effectively.