Reviews

Steven Universe

The first female solo-created series in Cartoon Network’s 21-year history, Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe premieres with a lot of fanfare.  Series openers “Gem Glow” and “Laser Light Cannon” drop us headfirst into Steven’s, um, universe, where the enthusiastic young boy protects Beach City alongside the mystical warriors known as the Crystal Gems—AKA Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. Steven is also the son of deceased Crystal Gem Rose Quartz, and he’s on an ongoing quest to unlock the mysteries of the crystal gem embedded in his stomach.

Steven Universe is a visually stunning series, with painterly backgrounds and warm gem tones that make its pink cherry blossoms and purple twilights pop off the screen.  “Gem Glow’s” most beautiful image is the cliff-side temple where Steven lives, with the likeness of a mysterious six-armed woman (a former Crystal Gem?) carved into the rock. The writing is also very solid with a few great belly laughs (watch for the running gag of Garnet hurling Amethyst at an enemy) scattered throughout.

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Rebecca Sugar became an Adventure Time fan-favorite with her Emmy-nominated episodes like “It Came From the Nightosphere” and “Simon and Marcy,” and while Steven Universe is still finding its voice, it possesses a warm-heartedness and occasional melancholy that fans of her work will recognize. Sugar’s songs on Adventure Time were easily the show’s best, and Steven Universe’s songs, from its opening theme to Steven’s father’s one hit wonder “Let Me Drive My Van (Into Your Heart),” are instant earworms.

The Crystal Gems are poised to become the breakout stars of Cartoon Network’s fall lineup, and with good reason. At a time when mainstream animation studios have been criticized for lack of diversity in their female character designs, it’s refreshing to see major female characters with unique, individual body types and facial expressions. The series premiere briskly introduces their powers and personalities when Steven asks them for help:  warrior-ballerina Pearl summons her staff through rigid training; rough and rowdy Amethyst can pull her whip out of her chest with no effort at all; and taciturn leader Garnet channels “the collective power of the universe” through her gem—no biggie.

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For a series featuring three badass superheroines, and by Cartoon Network’s only female showrunner, it feels like a bit of a step backwards that it centers on a male lead. (The rest of Cartoon Network’s Monday night lineup–Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Uncle Grandpa–has no shortage of young male heroes.) Nevertheless, Steven is a likeable, plucky main character, and the sisterly affection the Gems have for him is clearly the heart of the show. It’s a rarity for fantasy stories to show boys with strong female role models, and hopefully, with its video games-meets-magical girl anime sensibility, Steven Universe will challenge expectations about gender roles. Steven Universe is clearly aimed at audiences of all genders, with no “for boys” or “for girls” lines drawn in Beach City’s sand.

  1. J.P. Hope

    January 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I hate the “Steven Universe” episode “Steven’s Lion”! I was traumatized by Onion Head’s angry face due to him refusing to believe Steven! If you ask me, I would be much happy if “Steven’s Lion” was removed from all airings forever! If you can’t understand every word right here, I’ll clear it up for you. I WANT “STEVEN’S LION” OFF THE AIR FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. ScarletSho

      June 30, 2014 at 12:13 am

      Onion’s face in “Steven’s Lion” wasn’t scary. If anything, the face he made in “Onion Trade” was scary.

  2. Jamie Kingston

    April 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Now that we have several episodes of the series having given us details, the Six-Armed woman holding up the temple is most likely a three-gem Fusion Gem. A two-gem Fusion Gem, as seen in “Giant Woman” has two arms. So I’m making an educated guess, given she also has at least two visible gems like Opal did.

  3. Jeff

    July 12, 2014 at 12:54 am

    How about the crystal gem’s nemesis and villains ,like Tiffany(the fan of jake the dog of adventure time from 15 years ago)A.K.A>cybernetic robot humaniod, Metalliod,Phantom Quartz(connie’s Father),the Lich(vowed to return from adventure time)alias Lenner Tyson(his real name,that i’d discover,Melissa of lumpy space(Lumpy Space Princess’s home and also she’s an old friend of her)alias, “Hope Diamond”,”Maja,the sky witch”(Not Simon petrovkof alias,’Ice King’),and included,Frybo suit(which was seen the last time we’ve saw of him),he had been recently controlled and/or,in fact,developed by the creul spirits of of Pearl’s sisters and also,one brother,who’s wearing a bird-like mask and doesn’t speaks like all human,one Pearl’s ‘new’talking pet cat,Me-Mow(which she’d vowed to return from the land of Ooo),the Phantom’s wife(which she’s either a machine or human…maybe both),Magic Man(vowed to return with even more trick,and even crazier-old than ice king),and the phantom’s top man,Heliodor,the yellowish,but intellectual mad gem who’s looks more vaugely like Steven,but even ugly and crazier,and stronger,and Zircon,their #1 clone template from the blood sample from Phantom and his wife combine,and He(or she)known to form into a man or woman at will,and phantom’s latest creation:”The Metal Ores”,The main enemies to the Gems,Titanium,Chief rival of garnet and also headstrong,and Mercury,She’s Titanium’s top henchgal,she wore an armor ,but has a sharp-teeth on its textures,it’s pack with missles and 4 guns on her armor hands.
    Finally,there’s their Leader…Lord Moldavite,the cold-hearted,but evil messiah of knowledge(which is reference after pharaoh 90 the silent messiah of destruction,from the Sailor Moon)
    How About this on the title for the new book of Steven Universe:”The Rouge Gallery on Beach City”
    -for ‘j.p’hope.
    2013/11/6/steven universe/

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