This review will have spoilers and clips from the SJ app. All images are from Viz’s Shonen Jump App and are not my own.
Dr. Stone was one of the hottest summer animes of 2019 and rightfully so. Boichi-sensei opened a world of science “edutainment” that left us all with questions and piqued our interests. Our journey with Dr. Stone takes us from reality to petrification leading us into the stone world. This reboot gives us the story of petrification from the view of the astronauts – Byakuya, Senku’s father-figure – being one of them.
Byakuya and the crew of astronauts with him all had a front seat ticket to petrification event and the gradual shut down of society. His team try to make contact in several ways before putting their heads together and finding a way using their resources on the space station to go back to Earth.
For Byakuya, this means to find Senku and saving humanity.
As the entire teams departure from the space station, Byakuya’s robot REI-37 asks him if he would return, and is responded in kind unaware of the state mankind is in. While this Dr. Stone short is a spin off for Byakuya, for me it was more of the story of REI’s patience and perseverance in even the most unlikely of times.
It would be disrespectful of me to not mention the amazing work Boichi-sensei does with his art. While Dr. Stone was my first time seeing his work, the art style was so unique and interesting to me that I needed to find more of his works. I am no art expert, but the attention to detail and the sheer expansiveness of it moves me. It moves me so much so, I had to even stop and make a prayer for him. How he captures space and showing light piercing through darkness was enough to take my breath away.
REI spends his time keeping up the space station, so when the humans come back it will still be habitable. In every step that he takes to do repairs, find fuel, fix trajectory and everything in between he is reminded of what his goal is. He reminds himself of Byakuya, and even though years pass, the question always arises “I wonder when Byakuya will return,” and follows up with “I hope he is doing well.” Even for a human-robot relationship, it’s beautiful even for those moments.
As a reader, seeing the time span we know (or can estimate) what is happening based on the parallels with Senku. So when years go by and REI’s mind still reflects it inspires me to reflect on the reason I do any of what I do.
After watching his family take a shuttle to Earth, he constantly repairs himself and ship with some concept of time, but not a great understanding of how the human lifespan works. His connection, his remembrance of family is what keeps him moving, not just going into sleep mode as we may often to and come around to do maintenance when required. That station is his home as much as it is the home of the humans who have left it.
Between all these years, we are shown where Byakuya is late in his life. After all the other astronauts have passed, their children and grand children live on, Byakuya still searches for special minerals for Senku and the future of humanity even until his last moments. At the moment of petrification his life was never about surviving, it was about the future and the redemption of humanity. A hope for both future and past generations, and the meaning of life itself.
That same hope is deeply ingrained in REI. So much, that even though he could not communicate with Byakuya, he wanted him to still know he was there and did so in the only way he knew how from the space station. Anytime he passed over Japan, the station bore a bright light, telling him he was still in space. REI was only hopeful that he would see it, never actually knowing that Byakuya would.
The passion, drive, hope, motivation, all done for the sake of preserving humanity even if they failed. The question was never of “if” they succeded, it was always “when” even from the very beginning.
Even though REI’s hope extended in his own life, our tiny robotic friend gathered every resource so that the ship would still be of use even long after Byakuya would have passed away. Boichi-sensei does a great job of showing what pieces work together and how in the layout of how our scientific protagonists work, so we know this wasn’t a small tast. In remembering his original creation, REI creates one giant part to create other parts that finally recreate him, but in the form of Byakuya’s initial idea for a robot (shown in both Dr. Stone and the reboot).
To go such lengths for the end would have been more than a justification of the means. A hope that lasts even beyond what could be imaginable of one person.
That light, had started off small. It started as a love for life and science, turned into a love for survival and hope. That hope lasted 3,700 years to Senku and everyone inbetween, who still carries that light for life, survival, science and hope.
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