With its action, suspense, and lore of young heroes struggling to survive in a world shockingly different from the one where they grew up, Dr. STONE naturally fits many of the shonen genre’s expectations and tropes. With that said, I’d say its best descriptor would be a unique mashup I’ve never seen in comics before: science-adventure. Senku and company’s quests are defined for their enthusiasm for science, and the progression of their journey is largely the progression of scientific advancement. The series’ fourth volume, written by Riichiro Inagaki and drawn by Boichi, is out this week. It features the beginning of Ishigami Village’s Grand Bout for the chief position, as well as the protagonists’ discoveries of glass, sulfuric acid, and more. Does this installment meet the high expectations set by its predecessors?
Boichi’s artwork continues to stun in this volume. His work is so detailed and polished, and it makes the manga’s world feel full of life and mysteries yet to be uncovered. The variety in textures throughout is nice, as is the variety in layouts. Boichi’s page compositions are always structured in ways that change flow to match the plot effectively and that emphasize the most important events successfully. All the imagery throughout is beautiful regardless of if Boichi is rendering nature or the characters’ inventions. The shading throughout is especially good. The interplay of light and shadows is very intricate and believable, making the world feel all the more fleshed out.
The character work here is also very good. Multiple villagers’ personalities and backstories get fleshed out more, helping to differentiate them from one another. Chrome gets some particularly good page-time as he refuses to follow Senku’s initial plans and demands that he be treated as an equal. He also has some cute and lighthearted moments thanks to his vocal tics and exaggerated facial expressions. Suika also has some adorable moments. She may not be a major character but she’s still one of my favorites. Ruri doesn’t get a lot of spotlight here, but when she does appear she foreshadows some major revelations yet to come.
My main con with this volume concerns its female characters, especially Kohaku. There’s so much needless sexualization that disrupts the manga’s sense of fun. Unfortunately, Kohaku isn’t just objectified more than her male counterparts but also gets much less development than they do. A good half her interactions with other characters end in them saying she’s more like a gorilla than a woman. All this would probably be a bit less upsetting if there were other female characters who received better treatment, but the closet is Suika and she barely has any actual page-time. This volume’s villains are also a bit bland. Boichi’s great renderings of their expressions and body language keep them more entertaining than they would be otherwise, but they still lack depth and uniqueness.
Overall, Dr. STONE Vol. 4 is a great read. Boichi’s artwork is top-notch, several characters get great moments to shine, and the manga’s world feels large and exciting. On the downside, the villains and female characters tend to be quite generic and, in the latter’s case, objectified. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this science-adventure.