Dr. Stone and the importance of pacing

Pacing is one of the most important parts of storytelling. No matter how cool your plot or characters are, if you rush things or take too long to get there, you are going to lose people. Dr. Stone is a perfect example of how having fewer episodes can drastically improve the quality of a show.

Don’t believe me? Ask a Bleach fan about the final season of the original anime’s run. More is seldom better when it comes to pacing, especially in a shounen anime. Even discounting filler material, the show was bloated with characters who ultimately didn’t contribute to the story and only served to slow down progress toward an ultimately rushed climax.

Dr. Stone might not have quite the same issue, with its smaller cast and more focused storytelling style, but its anime run has had other, similar issues crop up in its 35 episode run.

Dr. Stone Revival Fluid

The first season of Dr. Stone ran for a full 24 episodes. Though it was a huge hit and all but guaranteed a second season would be produced, there were definite points within it where the pacing dragged. In fact, discounting the first look we got in the first episode, any subsequent episode that featured a flashback felt unnecessary and over-indulgent. In most cases, it brought the pacing of the show to a grinding halt, forcing the viewer out of the current tension in order to resolve something tangentially related.

The most egregious example of this was when the flashback focused on the pre-Stone World society, particularly the episodes that focus on Byakuya and the few survivors of the initial petrification event. The first season, despite being a standard number of episodes for an anime season, feels bloated with unnecessary backstory that doesn’t lead to any real character development because the events they are showing happened in a disconnected past.

Dr. Stone

The second season of Dr. Stone, however, comes in at just 11 episodes — less than half the number of season one — and doesn’t have any of the pacing issues that nearly had me giving up on the show early. The action is much more focused on the story it is trying to tell, and it feels far more watchable as a result.

There are still flashbacks to the pre-Stone World society in season two, but Dr. Stone manages them in a much more organic way, focusing on the specific scenes that tell us more about the new characters we are encountering. Instead of entire episodes dedicated to backstory and over-explanation, these flashbacks take just minutes and fit into the flow of the story more naturally for the most part.

The result is a season where the pacing no longer made me dread continuing the show. Dr. Stone’s second season is focused entirely on the Stone Wars, as it promises. Perhaps it is because the season had a more traditional conflict to focus on via the battle between the Tsukasa Empire and the Kingdom of Science, but the pacing felt significantly improved over the previous season. It is a show that clearly benefited from a reduced episode run and a greater focus.

Dr. Stone

This isn’t to say that there aren’t still issues with Dr. Stone’s second season. The promised Stone War is much more of a Stone Skirmish, taking place over the course of a single episode, and certain characters make sudden, jarring changes in loyalty. However, the lack of flashbacks that could easily have been cut from the story makes the show’s pacing feel far more natural. It is an infinitely more enjoyable experience for the shorter runtime and more focused storytelling.

If you want to catch up on both seasons of Dr. Stone ahead of the upcoming third season, you can catch them both subbed and dubbed on Funimation.

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