Reviews: Steven Universe
I went into Steven Universe having heard nothing but praise for it, and ordinarily that would induce Hype Aversion but people I like and respect also praised it, its fans had a lot of crossover with things I'm a fan of, people with similar tastes to me liked it, and the bits I heard made it sound like something I should love. So instead I went in expecting and wanting to like it. Which is why I'm so sad to say that I absolutely hated everything about it. I wish there were just a few key factors to my dislike, but there wasn't just one aspect that put me off that I can easily explain whenever someone asks me - it just...wasn't...good. I don't have room for a detailed dissection of every small-to-medium problem that slowly piled up into a greater mess, so I'll try to cover the very basics (oh, and I've seen every episode, so the "it gets better!" that's the knee-jerk response to any criticism won't cut it here): The pacing is abysmal to the point of frequently managing the miraculous feat of making eps feel too long and too short at the same time. Apparently this is because the show is supposed to be "character-focused", but all the characters only have three traits between them: boring, obnoxious, and stupid. No matter how many times it tries to present them as lovable, I don't want to watch the adventures of a blithering idiot and 3 creepy abusive psychos. If there's a character I don't want to strangle, it's only because they're too flat to justify any strong feelings. Some claim the show has great character development, which is frankly the biggest load of shit I ever heard. Sometimes they act completely different from one ep to the next for no good reason (you'll notice consistency is never a strong suit), but they never "develop". As soon as next ep roles around they're stuck back in their 1-dimensional ruts no matter what happened previously. The setting and world-building also suck. Gem abilities (including whatever the plot needs them to pull out of nowhere and then forget as soon as the credits roll) make no sense and they constantly contradict themselves on their workings and properties (coughfusioncough), always breaking any morals they were trying to teach using any sort of supernatural context wide open. There are story elements that could be used to make something interesting if they DID SOMETHING with them, but here are inevitably crudely shoved aside to make room for vapid filler. Every time we see a character start to exhibit a mildly interesting new trait, every time the plot vaguely wanders in the direction of happening, they mash the reset button like they made a horrible mistake that must be fixed by applying dull filler. I tried to summarize the plot of season 1 in 2 sentences, and realized I was writing a premise, not a plot. Many great series don't last close to 75 episodes, we're past that mark and barely anything has actually HAPPENED. Sorry to disappoint, but I don't believe in Steven.
GREAT SHOW if you don't take it too seriously: There is an elephant in the room (socially conservative perspective) *spoilers*
Steven Universe is one of my favorite shows on cartoon network right now. In fact, it could possibly be up there with the nostalgic classics of the 90s/early 2000s. People laud the show for it's progressive themes. Two of the more subtle themes that I find praiseworthy is comes from Steven himself. In most "super hero" literature, you don't tend to have male characters inherit powers from their mother. Females can inherit powers from both parents, but male heroes tend to take after male parents (or get some random extraneous power). The other progressive theme I appreciate is the male side kick to a female (or team of female) hero(es). However, most of the praise the show receives tends to come from it's inclusion of the LGBT community. The show flirts with the dreaded slippery slope and as a result creates technicalities which undermines the intentions. For example, Ruby and Sapphire (the gems who make up Garnet) are described as being in a lesbian relationship. However, it's constantly reiterated that gems "are ageless and genderless". Despite looking like two children (like Stevonnie). The real problem comes from the fusion dance. It's depicted as being obviously sexual in nature. Just look at the "get crap past the radar" page. It's not out of left field to perceive fusion as a metaphor for "physical relationships". Yet fusion is an act of vaguely defined "love". The gems could be interpreted as having an open relationship with each other (though Garnet's relationship is "special"). She doesn't mind fusing with pearl, but did mind when she was lied to. What is the message there? This put's Steven's role on the team into an uncomfortable perspective. This character is simultaneously treated as if he's much younger than he really is by the gems, while being encouraged to experiment with "fusion" with Connie (not intentional, but it was ultimately encouraged) and his guardians. What's funny is that I could technically address each of my points and spin it in either a positive for negative light. Because I addressed it negatively, I'll be told I made connections that weren't there. Despite the fact that articles were written positively expressing my qualms.
An Entertaining Series.
Steven Universe follows a young Steven who is a half human- half gem hybrid. He, and his three magical guardians defend the world against threats and overcoming obstacles. But, is it worth it? PROS: Off the bat, my favorite part about this show is the main characters. Steven is quite charming, never becoming too annoying. He starts has the load, but quickly evolves past that. The Crystal Gems(Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl) are deep, complex character and are the highlight of the show. Others include Greg and Connie. Who i enjoyed a lot. The citizens of Beach City are plenty of fun. The music is nostalgic, yet fresh. And, the Myth Arc is intriguing. Did i mention the show makes you emotional? I don't get very emotional over shows but, Steven Universe makes you feel sad. Or happy! I respect shows like that. CONS: One thing that bothers me (a bit) about the show, is the art-style. Not that it's bad, but a bit too simple. It was change drastically from the pilot, but has a better overall feel. I would have preferred if they mixed both styles together. I also don't like the format. Steven Universe is an 11-minute long show. This can be frustrating with such a deep and complex world and characters SU has. Episodes rather drag out, or are too slow. The show also takes time to develop a overarching plot. It takes 25 episodes in before it starts to show its stuff. OVERALL: Steven Universe is a popular cartoon for a reason. An interesting story, complex and interesting characters and a marvelous soundtrack. But, the show has flaws. Its format is too short for a complex show like SU. And, it takes time for the series to find it's footing. The artstyle is a pet peeve of mine and i would have preferred a more complex-er one. Yet, the good overshadows it's flaws and make it a great cartoon.
Mediocre at the beginning, gets better fast
I started watching this show later than most, around the time of Stevenbomb Three. The promos didn't really catch my eye, I just thought it was some generic kid's show. After some heavy persuasion from some friends of mine, I gave it a shot. I saw the earlier episodes, and thought it was alright, but not something that deserved the enormous fanbase it had. How could something that was, while beautiful, so... formulaic, be popular? It just struck me as a generic Monster of the Week show. Then, I got to the Mirror Gem, Ocean Gem two-parter. These episodes don't just hit you with one or two great reveals. No, it gives you a whole four. This silly, comedic show gets dramatically Darker and Edgier after this, while not completely straying from the comedy. The amount of horrifying things that they get away with on the show surprises me. From the fusion experiments, to Malachite, to the entirety of the Cluster, it seems every episode gets darker and darker, while still staying light enough for a kid audience. In conclusion, if you watched the first few episodes but thought it was just kiddie crap, give it another look. Steven Universe is a great example of a show that just gets better with each new episode.
I really want to love this show, but...
SU is a frustrating show for me. On paper, it has all the things I want out of an animated show: strong continuity, a well-developed cast with complex relationships, an interesting cosmology and backstory, and a willingness to tackle mature subject matter. And it does have all of these things. But for some reason, whenever I actually sit down to watch some episodes, more often than not, I come away feeling underwhelmed. Maybe it's just Hype Backlash (I've seen too many "BEST SHOW ON TV" for it to live up to the hype), but after thinking about it, I nailed down a few reasons why I could never really get into it:
- The supporting cast: while the primary cast is very strong, I could never really get invested in any character who isn't either a Gem, Greg, or Connie. Most of the normal human residents of Beach City don't really interest me much, so most episodes that focus on them drag on.
- Pacing: The show takes forever to get to the Myth Arc; it isn't until around halfway through the first season that it even starts to focus on it, and it isn't until the end that it really comes to the forefront. Which is a problem, because I find that part by far the most interesting part of the show. It doesn't help that Steven spends most of the early episodes as The Load He grows out of it, but it takes a while.
- Episode length: Maybe I'm just spoiled by half-hour shows like Gravity Falls and Friendship Is Magic, but I feel like SU's short episodes are too short, which is made even worse by the pacing issues above. It takes forever to get to the interesting bits, and when it does, it has to blow through them in only ten minutes, which really isn't a lot of time to build up and then resolve a meaningful conflict, especially when the cast relationships are as complex SU's are. It really bothers me, because there's a ton of depth to the story and the characters, but the episodes are so short there's no time to explore it.
A Rich World, Incredible Characters, and Great Writing: The Best Thing on Television
Steven Universe is one of the bravest shows in living memory. Not because it stars lesbian space rocks. Not because it features a deep and sometimes frightening Myth Arc. And not because it features wonderfully ambiguous journeys into the painful realities of human relationships. But for a much simpler reason: the satus quo is not god. Steven Universe begins with a simple premise: Steven is the Tag Along Kid for a group of magical super-powered beings, and the show revolves around the wacky hijinks that ensue when their supernatural world crosses over with our own. Steven is bumbling, and mostly left at home when the Gems go out to hunt monsters; his attempts to help often go horribly awry, or the Gems are simply too concerned about his safety to allow him to try. The show at this stage is funny, charming, and clever, but there's a secret: it's not actually the show yet. Because over time, Steven grows up. He gets a girlfriend. He puts away his toys - a plot point which, on any other show, would be the focus of the episode and undone by the end. Here, it's barely commented upon. But things don't stop. The threats graduate from Monster of the Week to Myth Arc. It starts to paint a picture of a grand science fiction story that had been concealed just behind the scenes. But soon, those hints are made good upon; the show grows more focused on the battles and missions of the Gems, Steven becomes more competent and confident, and it becomes clear that the Gems rely on him as much as he relies on them. The characters grow and change, but maintain a frightening depth; they can be flawed and careless and loving and wonderful and spiteful and callous, and yet never feel out-of-character. But what makes it the bravest show in my memory is that its protagonist, and its entire formula, were allowed to evolve; to change gradually, over time. To allow our hero to grow, rather than remain perpetually incompetent, perpetually sidelined. It began as a show about what happened to a kid while his Magical Girl caretakers were away fighting cartoonish monsters. Now, it's a show about a young boy who is a part of a group of interstellar rebels, struggling against the Empire from which they defected. And most importantly, it is the boy himself who changed.
It's all uphill from here
Is Steven Universe a perfect show? No, no it's not. There are episodes that are too predictable (Steven and the Stevens, Warp Tour), episodes that take forever for anything to actually happen (Frybo), and episodes that manage to drag on and on despite the fact that they're only 11 minutes (Garnet's Universe) Plus, as I just now mentioned, each episode is only 11 minutes long, so their's only just enough time to tell a story, and they sometimes come out feeling like they'd just barely started, and I'm left going "Wow, was that really all they're doing with this?" (Story for Steven in particular was a very bad case of this) And the older episodes mostly hinged on Steven making idiotic mistakes just to move the plot along. Also, Amethyst prior to On the Run was a complete pain, and sometimes made me wonder why the Gems even let her stay (Joking Victim and Steven's Lion were bad cases of this) Now that I've spent over a hundred words sending this show through the wringer, let me now say why I love it regardless. Steven Universe is one of the biggest cases of beard growth I've ever seen. (Wow, imagine how that sentence would look to non tropers) I can't say exactly when it started, but I personally think it was a bit of a stubble at Bubble Buddies (though I may just be biased because Connie's my second favorite character), became a mustache at around Lion 2, and really grew in at Ocean Gem/Mirror Gem. (Okay, that's the longest chain of beard metaphors I've ever used) To sum it all up, Steven Universe is and amazing show filled with interesting, well designed characters, a fascinating myth arc, and some pretty good music. It just takes a while to get anywhere.
Beautiful and charming
I really don't know how to start this, so I'll get stright to the point: Steven Universe is one of he best animated series I've seen in my whole life. I just don't have words to describe how much I like this show. The plot and setting of the show seem simple at first, but as you watch more and more, they start to reveal details about the world and the gems, and I love how, slowly, they show you little clues and fragments of the story for you to figure, instead of just dumping it all over your head. Although it may seem childish at times (which is understandable, considering that the main character is a kid), the backstory is amazingly dark for a CN show. And yes, I know that lately is trendy to say that anything involving Getting Crap Past the Radar is ultra-super-mega dark, but I mean it. And not dark in the "gore" way (even though Garnet outrights states that the war was a pretty gory event) but in a psicologycal way. The way some of the characters act and feel is surprisingly relistic at times, and this show portrayal of grief is terrifyingly realistic (Roses's Scabbard, I'm lookin at you). The characters are just wonderfully written. The protagonists are all very lovable and charismatic, yet they're also complex and have issues to deal with. Although the Gems are aliens, the feel so human at times is amazing. Steven is both useful and adorable, and he actually speaks and acts as a little kid. All the citzens of Beach City are pretty charming, and the show makes you care about them, even when they're not the ones putting themselves in danger saving the world. The animation looks downright gorgeous, and the music... well, the show's OST is pure awesomeness, there's not a lot more to say about it. It's not a perfect show. The main problem may be that the episodes are really short (only eleven minutes) so, sometimes, there's not a lot of time to develop the plot (like in A Story for Steven). And even then, there are some filler episodes like Garnet's Universe which, somehow, manage to stretch for too long. Luckily, there's not a lot of filler. I would describe the series as "Adventure Time, but better", so if that's what you were looking for, this is a definitive must watch. And, if you're just looking for a good show to laugh and cry with... yeah, a must watch.
Yeah, it's alright
Steven Universe, Steven Universe... words words words... I wish I knew where to start on this. I suppose the positives, since it'll soften the blow a bit when I need to move onto the negatives. So Steven Universe, the newest addition to the CN 'canon' created by Adventure Time veteran Rebecca Sugar (Who knew to jump ship at the right moment because Adventure Time really-... I've done this rant before, never mind). It's a coming of age type story dealing with the magically empowered Steven Universe learning to reign in his power with the help of the Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. Off the bat I'll say one thing, the animation is really good- nice and slick and whenever the action scenes start up they make for quite a treat to watch. The backdrops are also quite pleasing to the eye, well designed and usually very unique from each other. The Gems, as characters, all have their own distinct personalities and work well off each other in terms of interaction. And that much I feel I can say for the supporting cast too- the setting of Beach City has quite a cast, well thought out in their relationships and how they interact with each other. I grew to genuinely quite like the background cast, and I don't think I can say the same for most other cartoons I've watched. However the show is not without it's faults. For one, while I said the backgrounds are nice and the animation it slick, I really can't get behind the character designs. It's distinct from Adventure Time sure, but some of the designs are just so ugly- especially those horrid doughnut mouths some of the characters have. In addition it seems that the Crystal Gems just make up new powers as the show goes on. Summoning weapons, then making holograms, then somehow having a fusion technique and making functioning clones and shapeshifting... becomes a little eyerolling. Second, perhaps it's just me but I would rather the show had been more action focused than comedic- if they had gone the Samurai Jack route and put action first with comedy in a smaller percentage. It's not like CN doesn't already have an abundance of comedies... Oh yeah and Steven is kind of a pain as a character. And the usual rallying response to that is 'well he's a child' but that doesn't stop him from being annoying. Still worth watching anyway.
One Of The Most Genuine And Real Animated Series I've Seen In A Long Time
When I first heard about Steven Universe, I had no idea what to expect. This year in 2015 however has proven to me that the internet is obsessed with Steven and his friends. I have seen some of my favorite reviewers praising the hell out of this show so after seeing a lot of people taking about the show, I finally gave in and started watching the series online and from it's first episode (after the redesign that took place after the pilot), I was surprised by how...different it was. From the first episode alone, I thought the characters were immensely likable and engaging. The show does not like to rush things. If anything, I think the pacing is pretty spot on and I think the episodes don't overstay their welcome. A lot of the characters have distinct personalities that allow them to stand out and wouldn't be too out-of-place in our world and that allows me to feel more immersed in what's going on. I really like the animation on this show. None of the character designs look too similar and all of them are diverse in the cast. I also think the music in the show is very well done and I would highly recommend you check some of it out of YouTube. I think the characters are what drive this show into being one of my favorites. They all have this layer of believability to them allows me to genuinely care about what happens to them and the writers and animators would a lot to do with that. Little details about their day-to-day lives that are sprinkled as the shows progresses move them more into relatability. None of them feel fake in the sense of their personalities (even if they're animated). Their genuine personalities shine through with their interactions and I think these are part of what make the show so interesting. They're still being honest about themselves rather than fitting some demand that "society" wants them to be depicted (I think the science fiction elements feel genuine too). I'm trying my best not to spoil the show for people who haven't seen it but if you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend doing so because I don't think there's any other show like it.
Like A Train
Steven Universe is like a train. It starts slow, not in it's pacing but in quality, with the first several episodes being the weakest (still watch them as they are still enjoyable). However it quickly speeds up and the more I learned about the Gems and Steven the more I appreciated them. First the negatives. The voice acting, while not bad in the slightest, can be annoying, especially Amethyst and Steven. Secondly the story sometimes creates new powers as the plot demands, but is done rather well. Each character has obvious limits to what they can do and any new powers don't feel contrived, but simply never seen. On the plus side all of the charters are interesting and engaging, with depth and complexity that is revealed slowly and realistically. I would wait for the episode that would let me see sides of the Gems and Steven I hadn't seen before and would always be pleased with the result. It is this character depth and their interaction with each other that make the show so special. The story telling method is sublime. The myth arch adamantly adheres to "show, don't tell" and allows you to piece together the story even before the show get's there in earnest. The plot of the series is dark and mysterious yet an absolute blast to work though and discover. Beyond that the show is extremely cute and whimsical, which is highlighted and highlights the dark undertones that make up the meat of the series. The show explores concepts such as love and death, family and childcare in a very mature fashion, but keeps it's sense of humor throughout much of it, a trait I love and is shared by other great shows like Avatar. I would recommend this show whole heartedly to anybody and stands head an shoulders above other cartoons currently released and from the past.
Plays With Your Emotions
I'm going to agree with several other people here and say that the CN trailers for this show are awful. Like Clarence and Adventure Time, they try to appeal to the audience with strange visuals, quirkiness, and nonsensical dialogue taken waaay out of context ("I SUMMON MY WEAPON BY EATING ICE CREAM!"). Even though the later ones are improving, they can't capture the depth this show contains. An episode I'll use as an example is "So Many Birthdays." It starts off as one of the funniest episodes of the series, and by the last half it's turned into one of the darkest moments. We watch the Gems slowly crack as they helplessly watch Steven die. Does that sounds like something meant for a goofy kids' show? One of the best elements of SU is its characters. They easily skirt over any cliches you may expect. For example, do you expect Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl to be your usual Beauty, Brains ans Brawn trio? Well, Pearl represents the brains, but that's not her whole personality. She's elegant yet neurotic, reminiscent of a ballet dancer. Underneath her class she has a giddy, Large Ham side. And, yes, she tends to have the right answers. Garnet, the brawn, solves a lot of problems hands-on. At the same time, she's kindhearted and patient. Heck, several times we've seen her holding her teammates back from a fight. As for Amethyst, she most fits into the 'beauty' category (except for her mouth, which people say is very strangely animated.) But she's also tomboyish, sassy, and downright gross at times. The best I can say about this show is: never underestimate it, even if it feels easy to do. Do you think an episode plot is predictable, or sounds a little too stupid? Chances are it'll subvert your expectations. Amethyst annoyed me at first, but come "On The Run" and I was shell-shocked by her character. This show has real, raw emotion that's guaranteed to make you sympathize with the characters. I highly recommend it—make sure you watch from beginning to end, because the amount of build and foreshadowing you'll find is incredible.
A nice, calm show. With some fighting of course.
First of all, you should know that Steven Universe is not a formulaic or traditional cartoon. It's more like a "day in the life" sort of thing, with Steven (obviously) as the central character. Steven is half-human and half-crystal gem (they explain what that means in the show.) He doesn't go to school, lives with three crystal gem women who were friends with his mom, and spends time with his dad who works at a car wash. As a crystal gem, he's supposed to learn his powers and how to use/control them, but he still needs a lot of training. The characters are great! None of them are annoying (except maybe Steven and Amathyst, but YMMV). Steven is a happy kid that enjoys the simple things in life; video games, cookie cat ice cream, and going on adventures with the crystal gems. The crystal gems are Pearl, the "motherly" one (although not actually his mom); Amathyst, who is more like a big sister that focuses more on fun than responsibilities and can be immature at times; and Garnet, who is silent and mysterious, but when she does talk it's obvious she cares about Steven and can also be motherly towards him. Even with three adult women watching over him, Steven is kind of a Free Range Kid. He often goes off by himself, but the town seems pretty safe (when it's not being attacked by monsters, that is). What I love most about Steven Universe is the atmosphere. They don't try to fill the whole episode with nonstop jokes, nor do they focus on an overused moral. Instead, they tell a simple story, and sometimes there are morals but they have more to do with social things than typical cartoon morals. You have to pay attention to find them, and even if you don't the episode itself is enough to entertain and bring up your spirits. If you expect something fast-paced and pee-your-pants hilarious, you're in the wrong place. The humor isn't always laugh-out-loud funny, but even at it's worst it's not bad or insulting. The pacing is similar to Miyazaki works (Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro), as opposed to something like Fairly Odd Parents. You're more likely to get bored with the episode than you are to have no idea what's going on, but if you have patience (or you're watching the show while you do something else, like folding laundry) then this is perfect.
I believe in Steven!
I completely expected this show to be an stupid Adventure Time rip-off that would annoy me as much, if not more, than Uncle Grandpa. Never have I been so wrong. This show is clever, silly, funny, and definitely entertaining. I feel in love with it from watching only a few minutes of "Bubble Buddies" and can not get over how adorable both this show and Steven are. I also love Steven's unique relationships with all of the other Gems and the wonderful family vibe this show gives off. Heartwarming goes a long way. The strange animation and music are incredible, particularly the shows theme which is catchy, easy to remember, and really sweet. The show does have its problems. Steven can be annoying occasionally (but its hard not to forgive him for that) and not being able to see the most badass of the Crystal gems adventures is extremely disappointing, but the show is still on its first season, so these problems are forgivable. I was also disappointed when I learned that there will be no Big Bad, but again, it's still early and Rebecca Sugar can still change her mind. Overall, I love the show and encourage anyone who enjoys feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside or likes to laugh to watch Steven Universe. I guarantee that You'll believe in Steven too.
First, expectations were low, then they were exceeded
My first experience with this show was downloading the first episode when it was free on iTunes. I had seen the promos on TV and they left a bad taste in my mouth. As stated by another reviewer, the promos for this show didn't do the actual show any justice. I was shocked at how much I really enjoyed this cartoon. The characters feel natural and the visuals and music were top notch. This is a great show that has all the elements, action, believable characters, family, drama, and magical powers. Don't miss this show.
I underestimated this show
I recently just started rewatching cartoons, I got tired of Regular Show, I gave Uncle Granda too many chances (I watched the pilot short [the only good "episode"] and 7 different episodes). And to top all of that, I thought Steven Universe would...suck (In all honesty, "quirky" characters annoy me to some degree, the promos didn't help my perception.). Then, I decided to watch that Cookie Cat episode; I genuinely liked how the story and characters flowed!
It's really fun and good. It has its own feel, so people don't have to worry about it being an Adventure Time rip-off. Most episodes are interesting, because even in the lesser ones they do neat stuff with visuals and sound. Some episodes, like Laser Light Cannon, are REALLY GOOD, and Rebecca shows she's still great with handling genuinely touching character moments. Love the soundtrack. Love the art style, even more than I loved the more detailed one from the pilot. To be quite frank, the pilot's look made Steven's face kind of creepy, especially in some close up shots where they showed more wrinkles than a kid should have (Most likely, it was just me). Anyway, there is a lot of good in this show. It just needs some time to grow and develop, much like how Adventure Time needed a couple seasons to really get its schtick down and then advance from there.