Dr. Stone is one of this year's biggest anime hits. Based on the similarly popular manga by writer, Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Boichi, the futuristic survivalist show recently arrived on Adult Swim's Toonami Block but is also available through anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, which dropped a surprise treat for fans on Sept. 20: a "Behind the Scenes of Dr. Stone" documentary.
The 25-minute episode takes us through the doors of TMS Entertainment, the studio behind the adaptation -- as well as anime classics like Lupin III, The Rose of Versailles and Detective Conan -- where we meet producer, Shusuke Katagiri and director, Shinya Iino. The two of them explain the process, from storyboards to colorization, of how an episode of Dr. Stone is made. It also reveals that TMS went to a few extra lengths to bring the Stone World to life.
While Dr. Stone is the context of the documentary, the content should prove fascinating for anyone interested in seeing how animation -- anime or otherwise -- is created. "I was with our director, Iino-san in the editing bay watching the finished product," Shusuke says in the opening. "And there's a part where Senku [Dr. Stone's main character] says, 'It's been a year since the experiment. It felt shorter than I imagined.' And the director [Iino] remarked how he felt the same way. [Laughs]."
Animation is painstaking work -- probably even more so in a country so infamous for its long working hours that it has a name for being literally worked to death ("Karoshi"). One episode requires about 300 shots created by 20 animators. In the example Shusuke shows us, you'd be surprised at how many different drawings it takes to animate something as simple as Senku pushing his hair out of his eyes -- albeit he does so more dramatically than a real person would.
As Shusuke and Iino explain, the first step in turning a manga into an anime series (or film) is to familiarize yourself with the source material and try to replicate it on-screen. Total accuracy isn't always the goal but with Dr. Stone being so unique in premise and execution, in this case, the team decided to hardly stray from the original work at all.
"I think this goes for any series dealing with fantasy," Iino says of his starting point in the series' development, "but Dr. Stone is set in Japan 3,700 years in the future. In that case, what does the background look like? What about the townscape?" Deviations, like differentiating the colors between characters' pelt clothing -- which are uniformly shaded in the manga -- were made for the purposes of visual clarity for the audience.
While the making of Dr. Stone is fairly typical of any serialized anime, Dr. Stone isn't a typical shonen series. The action in it is sparing, leaving the science behind Senku and his friends' survival to take center stage. Shusuke comments that its expansive world required far more settings than usual while Iino adds that the characters are also far more expressive than anything he's worked on before.
"When we were in the talks to animate Dr. Stone, I started doodling Senku's face, thinking about his various expressions. And going through the usual expressions I would go through, but there were about two or three times more expressions in Dr. Stone. [...] I don't think it's that visible on the outside, but to match how emotional and expressive Senku and others get, like when their faces split and completely fall apart... In order to keep up with that myself, I tried to expand my own limits."
Then comes the really fun stuff: collecting reference material. The animators sourced different types of wood and metal used in the story to recreate their textures. Nothing too out of the ordinary here.
Then Shusuke shows the camera a jar of crushed seashells, which the animators apparently crushed up with a mallet, just as Taiju does, in order to replicate the texture properly. Okay, that's definitely going the extra mile. The highlight, however, is when Shusuke fishes out two glass beakers -- one in perfect working order for some Senku-style science-ing and the other a droopy failure. Apparently, TMS had a field trip to a glassblowing place in honor of Dr. Stone's own glassblowing scene to get a feel for the technique. Now that's dedication to your art.
New episodes of Dr. Stone air every Saturday night as part of Adult Swim's Toonami block, and on Crunchroll. "Behind the Scenes on Dr. Stone" is available to stream for free on Crunchyroll now.
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