Now entering their second course, Dr. Stone and Fire Force have laid the framework for the type of story they plan to tell; Dr. Stone has scientific advancement, while Fire Force jumps right into the action. Depending on what each viewer likes, each series has its pros and cons.
Unlike most shounen anime, Dr. Stone makes its downtime the focus and puts the action in the backseat. This really becomes important with episode 18. The build-up for this episode was phenomenal and hyped up an intense arc. What was delivered was anything but that.
While it was a great episode overall, what was expected to be a long arc was condensed into a single episode. The entirety of the conflict allowed for more action, but they focused more on creating weapons to win the battle. Having the previous arc craft an intricate background, to give Senkuu a stronger reason to protect the village, the stakes were high. The plot was advanced in recent episodes, with the tension shifting, from him to the entire village; since they were seen as a threat to Tsukasa’s army.
What Dr. Stone does best is advancing the plot in sync with character development. While the recent episode may feel rushed by comparison to those prior, it refrains from jumping from one plot point to the next, unlike Fire Force.
In their latest episode, Fire Force goes full throttle from one arc to the next with no filler or downtime. Fire Force‘s storytelling leaves no room for speculating what will happen next. The pacing is quick and to the point. While appealing for an action series, action-heavy anime requires downtime for character development.
Lacking in downtime results in never getting a chance to reflect on what has happened or the repercussions from previous arcs. We finished a heavy and dark arc in Fire Force that wrapped up the first half of the season, only to go right into the next arc that introduces more characters.
This plot-centric storytelling disregards character development to every character aside from Shinra. For example, Maki Oze has no screentime or development since the first few arcs. As the story progresses, it isn’t as much an issue with character development, as it is the characters playing a role in the overall story. A long absence for a character creates concern that they will be forgotten altogether as the story continues to advance.
While Fire Force has it’s flaws, Dr. Stone isn’t without its issues either. Dr. Stone‘s action is clunky and slow-paced, so it lacks impact. Fire Force‘s action is top-notch and intense. The key difference that separates the two, aside from the action, is how they execute scenes and story elements.
Dr. Stone creates memorable moments by showcasing the characters developing, along with their shortcomings. We’re led to believe that Senkuu is an emotionless know-it-all that puts science before people. In episode 16, that assumption is discarded, when we see his emotions come to the forefront. He always cares about those close to him but has his own way of showing affection. It’s only when he comes to terms with loss that we realize he just represses his feelings. Seeing this kind of character development adds weight to every action he takes and adds a layer of depth to the story, other than overcoming episodic conflicts.
Fire Force‘s execution is all over the place in episodes 14 and 15. In the previous arc, it’s revealed why Shinra has exceptional powers; he has a peculiar flame known as the Adolla Burst; this is the flame that the villains, the Evangelists, have been searching for. Now they seek to corrupt him by making him embrace its powers and relinquish his dream of becoming a hero.
The plot was interesting and entertaining, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. His ability has been hinted at prior, but now that it’s been revealed, the story has become completely centered around it. A power he doesn’t even know about is now the main focus without any prior build-up. This immediate jump has shown that downtime and character development isn’t important, which in turn hurts the action. When it comes down to the fight scenes, we want to care for our characters and bite our nails at every scene, fearing they might die, but when the characters lack development or focus; it’s hard to sympathize with them and have any investment.
Another issue with Fire Force‘s execution lies in its use of tropes. In a previous arc, when it’s revealed that there’s a traitor among them, the story inserts tropes at inappropriate intervals; bringing down the severity of the situation. When a character is reduced to merely fan-service it teeters on the edge of being acceptable or not; this is not one of those. Tamaki has been labeled as the fan-service character ever since she was introduced into the story, with her clothes always seeming to fall off or being groped in various ways. Fire Force uses this trope during an intense fight scene when Shinra is confronting the traitor, Rekka Hoshimiya; while also protecting Tamaki and the children from him. During this scene, when Rekka relentlessly attacks, Tamaki’s clothes are incinerated off of her. I’ll let the rest speak for itself, as to why the execution of this trope, is a hindrance to the overall quality of the show.
While Fire Force suffers from terrible execution and hectic, plot-centric pacing, it’s remained consistent compared to Dr. Stone. Dr. Stone has suffered from inconsistent pacing, with episodes going from slow to fast. While that isn’t a bad thing, it can lead to some episodes not advancing the overall story compared to others.
Both series are only at their halfway points and have a while to go until their seasons conclude. Each series has its strengths, weaknesses, and appeals that set them apart from each other. I would strongly recommend giving both a watch if you haven’t and give me your feedback on what you think about them so far.