Steven Universe Review
Steven Universe is definitely one show that caught me off guard. Coming from the mind of Rebecca Sugar who worked on Adventure Time, I had some expectations with the show. I expected there to be numerous musical segments and original songs throughout the series. There are. I expected there to be a deep background story and a lot of world-building that slowly revealed more over time. There is. However, I did not expect to like the show THAT much. But I do. Want to find out why? Then continue along with my Steven Universe review.
Steven Universe follows the adventures of a young boy and his team of three extraterrestrial beings from another planet that have magical powers, known as the Crystal Gems. The Crystal Gems are essentially the protectors and guardians of Earth so a lot of the episodes deal with Steven and the Crystal Gems fighting various evil forces that threaten the well-being of their city and planet. They live in the outskirts of an oceanfront town named Beach City. The series starts relatively light-hearted in the nature; you know very little about the world they live in and the characters themselves, in general a lot of the earlier episodes are more stand-alone and episodic with a focus on comedy. As the series goes on, the tone shifts however. I wouldn’t even call Steven Universe a comedy anymore in its current state. It has such a well-balanced mix of action, adventure, drama, and romance that I really don’t think one category could be used to describe its genre. Some later episodes are still light-hearted, comedy-focused, and don’t touch on the plot too much, but the majority of the later episodes deal with more mature themes and do a lot to add to the ever-expanding background information and lore about the series that is slowly being unraveled. The whole world-building aspect is debatably my favorite part of the show. The concept of slow world-building over the course of the series is very similar to Adventure Time, which isn’t too big of a surprise considering Rebecca Sugar created the series and was known for her work on Adventure Time before Steven Universe was created.
The characters on Steven Universe are for the most part pretty likeable. From the initial previews I thought Steven would be pretty annoying, and he kind of was at first, but he does mature a lot as the series go on. Even still he wasn’t that bad in the beginning, he was just acting like a typical boy his age would normally act, really. The Crystal Gems all have different personality traits but it makes them all relatable in completely different ways. They really do balance out each other well. Despite the fact that the Crystal Gems (and all gems in fact) look and talk like they’re females, they’re actually genderless technically speaking.
Overall Rating: 91/100
Voice acting: A
Art Animation: Very bright colors with typical cartoony looking characters. Background scenery is beautiful and well drawn.
Genre: A hybrid mixture of comedy, action, adventure, romance, and drama
Premise of Show: A young boy with mysterious powers lives with a trio of extraterrestrial, magical beings from another planet and together they protect the planet
Episode Length: 11-12 minutes
Network/Where to Watch: Cartoon Network, Hulu
Episodic or Continuity? Some episodes are stand alone, more so in the beginning. The continuity becomes stronger as the series goes on with various two-parters. The series still has some stand alone episodes in Season 2, but a lot of episodes now make reference to past events that it’s highly recommended that you watch in order.
Characters in Steven Universe
Steven Quartz Universe (Voiced by Zach Callison)- A young, slightly chubby boy who has a Quartz gem embedded in his belly button that gives him the power to form a protective bubble that can shield himself and his loved ones. He’s cheerful, enthusiastic, optimistic, and at times pretty sure immature given his age. Overall, he’s a pretty happy go-lucky guy. In addition to being the youngest and fourth member of the Crystal Gems, he’s also half-human and half-gem. His mother is Rose Quartz who was the former leader of the Crystal Gems. She had a relationship with a human man named Greg Universe, and through a process not yet explained she gave up her physical form to create Steven and now lives inside his belly button as the Quartz gem. Steven didn’t have much control over his powers when the series began and therefore couldn’t use it very often, but he slowly gains better mastery over his powers as the series goes on. He has formed a pretty close bond and relationship with a human girl named Connie; she become his love interest as the series goes on.
Garnet (Voiced by Estelle)- The current leader of the Crystal Gems. She is cool, calm, collected, and pretty quiet in nature although that’s not to say that she doesn’t get aggressive when the situation calls for it. She has two garnet gemstones embedded in both of her hands that she can form into gauntlets giving her immense strength to battle enemies. She always wears a visor to cover up the fact that she has three eyes, and the third eye in particular can give her the ability to see potential futures. Unlike the other Gems, Garnet is actually a fusion of two different Gems, Ruby and Sapphire, who are romantic partners. They are basically like ying and yang; Ruby is fiery, hot-tempered, and aggressive while Sapphire is calm and collected… Hence my description of Garnet earlier. Overall, Garnet acts as a strong role model to Steven.
Pearl (DeeDee Magno Hall)- The intellectual strategist of the Crystal Gems. Her pearl gemstone is embedded in her forehead which she can use to summon a spear to fight against evil. She has a strict, all work and no play type of attitude. She had a strong relationship with Steven’s mother, Rose, acting as her personal knight that served her loyally. The loss of Rose seems to effect Pearl especially hard. She cares for Steven and the other Crystal Gems. At times she can be short-tempered and seem distant, but deep down she cares for Steven and the other Crystal Gems. She is somewhat of a motherly figure in Steven’s life.
Amethyst (Voiced by Michaela Dietz)- The impulsive and most juvenile (besides Steven) member of the Crystal Gems. She has an amethyst gemstone embedded in her chest that she can use to make an energy whip to fight against enemies. Unlike the other Crystal Gems, she wasn’t created on their Homeworld but rather she was created on Earth. She is very fond of sleeping and eating, even though neither are technically required of gems in order to survive. Her immature, rash, and childlike behavior cause her and Steven to get along really well and act all buddy-buddy like.
Connie Maheswaran (Voiced by Grace Rolek)- She is a girl around Steven’s age that lives in Beach City as well; she eventually becomes Steven’s best friend and love interest on the show. She is a shy, somewhat introverted, and intelligent girl that loves to spend time Steven and the Gems as they are her only real friends. Her family is constantly moving which makes it hard for her to form any lasting relationships with kids her age. The beginning of the series shows her wearing glasses, but as the series progresses a certain event happens that causes her eyesight to be fixed. Eventually, she becomes a skilled sword fighter under the teachings of Pearl, making her the sword to Steven’s shield.
Greg Universe (Voiced by Tom Scharpling)- Steven’s human father who got himself into a relationship with the gem known as Rose Quartz. He is a sensible, honest man who does his best to be a good role model to Steven and stay in his life despite the fact that he no longer lives with him. He was formerly in a rock band in his younger years when he met Rose Quartz, however he now lives in his van in the outskirts of Beach City running a car wash.
Steven Universe takes place in the pseudo-peaceful town of Beach City. The beach front city looks largely tranquil as it has a relaxing, serene environment… But it also gets invaded by hostile creatures and extraterrestrial beings from time to time, so it’s not THAT peaceful. Thankfully, Steven and the Crystal Gems are there to protect the city at all times, and the rest of the planet really for that matter. Steven lives with Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst (the three Crystal Gems) in a small house on the beach on the outskirts of the city. The Crystal Gems mainly keep to themselves unless the city is in danger, but Steven goes into the city a lot for various activities like hanging out with his friends, visiting his dad, etc.
The series started out episodic in nature as most of the episodes were stand-alone initially. While they were technically episodic, they still contained a lot of mysterious vibes about the characters themselves and the whole background story of how everything happened. When I considered the fact that Rebecca Sugar created the show who also worked on Adventure Time, which is known for starting out in a seemingly very random world only to reveal a very deep and complex background story, I figured there was more than meets the eye with Steven Universe as well. I could just tell there was some deep lore with the series, waiting to be unraveled. I was right. Over the course of its first two seasons, Steven Universe has gone on to create quite the immersive world. The audience eventually learns more about the Gems themselves and where they came from, the origin of Steven’s powers, the evil looming over the world, etc. Even now, there are plenty of mysteries left unexplained that I’m sure will get covered soon enough. It’s a very intriguing and suspense building series; the mysteries behind everything draw a lot of people into the show. With all that in mind, the show’s continuity only becomes stronger and stronger as the series go on. I’d say about halfway through Season 1 is when they really start to reveal more about the story, characters, and history of everything. Many of the later episodes directly reference past events that have happened and expect the audience to know what they’re referencing to as well. Some of them are even two-parters, actually. The actual episodes themselves can vary a lot from one to the next. Some of them are more comedy-focused , light-hearted side stories that don’t add much to the overarching plot. Some follow more of the typical ‘monster of the week’ approach (mainly the earlier episodes). A lot of the current episodes, however, are more plot-focused and do something to add to the story. The end of Season 1 introduces a group of recurring villains in the series who are in direct conflict with the main characters. Season 2 expands upon the villains and their motives, but there is still a lot left to be explained.
The plot and character development in Steven Universe has been pretty damn good so far and a definite strong point of the series. Steven matures a lot throughout the series as he learns more about his powers, his past, and just the reality of the life/death situations he always finds himself and his loved ones in. Garnet learns more about balancing herself by controlling both sides of her fusion. A lot is revealed about Pearl and her relationship with Steven’s mother Rose. The dark secrets of Amethyst’s past are brought into light and her feelings about the whole situation are revealed. Connie overcomes some of her shy, introverted nature and trades in her books for a sword akin to the size of Cloud Strife’s buster sword (Rebecca Sugar is a huge nerd; the series contains numerous references to Final Fantasy, Nintendo characters, and other video games) to protect Steven with. Overall, the characters really develop in their own way throughout the series and I was really impressed by the execution. Most kid’s cartoons don’t have any character development whatsoever, and let alone is it rarely done well. For a ‘kid’s cartoon’ to have development that rivals the most popular shows of today, animated or not, really says a lot about the writers ability. The series is extremely well written all around. The drama is handled well, the action is intense, and the comedy can even be pretty funny at times. Not only that, but Steven Universe deals with some pretty mature themes, especially for a kid’s cartoon. Some of these themes include death, homosexuality, and happiness, just to name a few. They never really come across as preachy and can definitely invoke some ‘feels’ at times. Some of those moments are incredibly touching and well executed.
The music in Steven Universe is easily one of the show’s biggest praises. It’s original, beautiful, and fresh. It always seems to fit the mood perfectly, and most of the time it really adds extra intensity and emotion to the scene. It ranges from instrumentals to vocals, melancholic to happy, etc…There are a lot of musical montages as well. Usually, the vocal songs seamlessly intertwine with the scene and become part of the scene itself; some battles are made pretty epic due to this. A lot of the voice actors truly do have beautiful voices as well. Pearl has an elegant, soothing voice for example. Hell, the voice actor of Garnet is actually a highly successful British R&B singer who has had numerous hit songs (American Boy with Kanye West back in the day, that was the jam). With that being said however, I will be completely honest. As a masculine male in his mid 20’s, some of the vocal songs are a bit… Kiddy/girly for my taste with a Disney-esque sing-a-long vibe to it, BUT, I can respect them from an artistic standpoint and recognize the fact that most of them are indeed good, well thought-out and rich with talent and creativity. In addition to the music, the Steven Universe voice cast is pretty spot on as well. Each voice actor fits the character very well and in my opinion does a great job with their performance, displaying the proper emotion when need be.
Final Verdict: Steven Universe has a certain ‘charm’ to it that most cartoons lack. It’s hard to identify exactly what that ‘charm’ means since it’s such a subjective term and just depends on one’s own personal definition, but I assure you, it’s a good thing. I think the collective entirety of all Steven Universe’s traits is what makes that special charm. The beautifully drawn settings and landscapes, the bright colors, the original music pieces seamlessly integrated into various scenes, the character development, the slow world-building, the mysterious nature that looms over the show, the mix of genres, etc… The list goes on. All those factors come together to create something special and unique that I haven’t quite seen in very many shows. If I had to give Steven Universe any type of comparison to other shows, my best description is that it contains elements of Adventure Time, Studio Ghibli, and Disney all rolled into one, cohesive package. If those don’t interest you, then this probably isn’t the show for you. But if all of that sounds awesome to you, then do yourself a favor and watch Steven Universe NOW. Thanks for reading my Steven Universe review.