Welcome back to the Stone World, in fact Dr. Stone’s Season 2: Stone Wars. Having been my usual slow self into getting to Dr. Stone, why not immediately immerse myself in the still behind the times second season: Stone Wars?
Why not indeed, considering the third season is imminent and the original was such tremendous fun and dare I say in my mind I was asking myself – presumptuously perhaps – could Dr. Stone potentially become the new Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood? Yes, in my review of the first season I drew some parallels to FMAB, but in the sense of FMAB’s depth of story, character, pacing, narrative pacing and just the sheer joy in watching a series that manages to have characters be true to themselves yet forever adjust allegiance as they begin to truly understand their lives and the world they live in.
The honest answer to my self-asked question is we cannot know until the end of Dr. Stone, but the potential is there as the fight between Senku's Kingdom of Science and Tsukasa’s Kingdom of Strength come to a head in Stone Wars, as our scientist leader of the Kingdom of Science takes the bloodless fight to Tsukasa’s Stronghold.
Returning as an eleven-episode culmination to the first act of Dr. Stone, Stone Wars provides continuity to the story, though it does little new. It does very much feel like the end of the first season, with a greater focus on science, the development of it in this stone world, as Senku, our scientist leader of the self-styled "Kingdom of Science", works with his friends to find a way to take the fight to the Kingdom of Strength.
Characters are momentarily side-lined a little, but this balances out with the eventual finale, which if anything gets back into the human elements as really it should. Stone Wars is not without issues though, with the weakest element of the first season, Tsuakasa’s apparent second-in-command Hyoga who we know is a proper villain is no more than that, with little depth to him, unlike Tsukasa whose narrative arc was built up as early as the very beginning of the first season, and here it's all paid off, little things you'd forget coming to the fore.
Hyoga though is just too rote and too much the "ultimate unbeatable fighter", considering the rest of the cast; though arguably worse is Hyoga’s trusty righthand gal Homura, who is responsible for the worst piece of deus ex machina narrative from the first season and here she exists to be nothing more than Hyoga’s tool; maybe both will have narrative arcs later that are meaningful, but they're pretty hollow here.
It’s a shame, as Senku and his friends manage to find a way to fight a war, again showing our lead's genuine insightfulness when it comes to not just science but people. He really shines in Stone Wars and as he returns science to the world you feel the series is having so much fun at times it can barely contain itself. Add to that how his friends, those from the village or who he had left to keep watch on Tsukasa’s advance, are narratively important in a way that also fleshes out their characters a little more.
The return of Senku’s friends Taiju and Yuzuriha allows us to see a slightly different side of Senku, to recognise just how ambitious he is but also how human. This balances nicely not just with some of the idealism of the villagers that become part of the Kingdom of Science, but also with Gen, the sly mentalist who could easily go bad but has a surprising sense of honesty.
With the third season both officially announced and clearly flagged as the Stone Wars finished, we have to see if indeed Dr. Stone can really delve deeply into the lore of the world, add more and more flesh to the bones of its characters and become the true heir to FMAB. It has some way to go but in the character of Senku it knows the way because like Edward Elric, he can be obsessive over science – just as Ed fixates on alchemy - but he also clearly loves his friends, refuses to take the easy course of action and always has a tremendous amount of fun doing it. Then there’s Tsukasa who has a different code, one not always easy to read, and has layers of depth the series hints at beautifully.
And Stone Wars was fun, even if perhaps the generic threats eventually setup by Hyoga meant that it never quite reached the heights of the first season - but with Season 3 to come, well, the high seas are the limit.