Created By: Rebecca Sugar
No. of Seasons: 3 (Currently)
No. of Episodes: 84 (Currently)
Production Company: Cartoon Network Studios
Original Release: November 4, 2013
Seeing as a week of episodes is to begin today, and most likely followed by yet another long if not outright agonizing hiatus, I figured now is as good a day as any to review one of the few cartoons that well and truly blew my expectations out of the water and right past the moon.
The most basic summary I can use to describe this series is as follows… Steven Universe is a member of the Crystal Gems, a group of magical quasi-humanoid aliens, through the fact that he is the offspring of their leader, Rose Quartz, and is, thus far, the only known human-Gem hybrid. He and the Gems protect the world from their own kind whom have far darker plans for Earth than they realize…
Steven Universe is a cartoon that, prior to its release and in the first few episodes following its premiere, was thought of quite negatively among critics, myself included. Many were of the opinion that this was to be a cartoon of the magical girl genre that studio executives insisted on inserting a male lead into if only to try and sell the cartoon to the male demographic.
It was not helped by the fact that Steven Universe broke many of the initial rules of cartoons, particularly in that its opening episodes, such as its premiere episode “Gem Glow” did not paint its titular character in a…
I wouldn’t say negative light but I will say that prior to some later episodes, Steven was second only to the a certain yellow sponge in annoyance factor to me with how he talked and acted. In point of fact, I was so outright disgusted by what I had perceived to be a slight of a cartoon that I outright ignored the show until well after the two-parter episodes “Mirror Gem” and “Ocean Gem” premiered and the internet all but exploded with fan art for a character that, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a solitary episode character.
Curious as to how this came to be, and myself wanting to actually know just what the hype was for this character, I watched the episodes and somehow the impossible had occurred. The show had hooked my interest, now it need only gain my affection. Unfortunately, while a great many episodes had plenty of moments that got a smile or a laugh out of me, there wasn’t really one that sold it. Not until the sixteenth episode “Steven the Sword Fighter.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
On that note… I shan’t speak of my favorite in particular as that episode heavily involves my favorite character in the show thus far and so I’ll reserve my thoughts on that until I review that character later this week.
Steven Universe is, to my knowledge, one of the only cartoon series to have its intro theme be changed and yet stay virtually the same at the same time insomuch that while the lyrics remained otherwise the same, the scenes have changed drastically. Specifically in how the Crystal Gems and Steven interact with each other most notably in the ending moments where the Gems introduce themselves in the song.
In the original segment, the three sat together on the beach but were otherwise quite far from each other, not really being close enough to share the same shot yet, in the newer intro, the three of them actively approach and sit beside Steven. It’s a minor change some could say, but even a tiny difference can show a whole new world of change.
Steven, and by extension the Crystal Gems themselves, all grow and develop through the series and while it is proven time and time again that Steven is, no matter his origins, a human kid he’s got a good head on his shoulders and a heart made of gold. For every moment of ridiculous silliness, there is a startling amount of seriousness and drama that, frankly, I would never have expected from this show had I not seen it for myself.
In point of fact, if there is one word that I would use to describe Steven Universe as a whole it is development. This series does not present itself to an audience and spoon feed them the who’s, how’s, and why’s of everything and anything. It takes the better part of fifty episodes before a truly evil force comes to confront Steven and the Crystal Gems and it takes an additional twenty some episodes more before we even see one of the leaders of the Homeworld that the Crystal Gems rebelled against.
While it does take a lot of time to get there, and certainly some episodes shine far brighter than others, if you have even a speck of patience in you I sincerely recommend giving Steven Universe a watch. You may well be surprised by what you see just how human these characters can be.