Steven Universe Review: “Shirt Club” (Season 1B, Episode 21)

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“It’s so current, you can’t stop it. I’m a taste maker, and I’m gonna keep making tastes… forever.” – Buck Dewey, proving that he would either be the centerpiece of the new Beach City art scene… or be washed up in a tiny Tampa studio by the time he’s 30. Either one works.

Airdate: April 16th, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo

Plot: Steven has the bright idea to promote his father’s business by putting a silly little drawing of “Guitar Dad” on fliers through the city. Buck Dewey catches wind of this, and decides to put the drawing on T-shirts – all as his father is running an election campaign. The promotion doesn’t do much to support the business… but Buck doesn’t seem to mind – he views Steven as more of an artist.

Review:

The Cool Kids aren’t cool kids.

Don’t get me wrong – they are the most chill group of teenagers in the Steven Universe universe, enough to attract the (tragic) admiration of resident grump Lars. By all accounts, they carry this aura of being the coolest group ever. Yet, they’re not stock “cool kids” – they function within the rules of society (“There’s nothing lame about seatbelt safety!”) They have lives outside of the quasi-clique they’ve formed – there, they are but normal, everyday teenagers, doing everyday, normal teenage things such as working and navigating everyday issues.

And what aspect of normal everyday teenage life is more relevant than tensions between parent and child? Or an unintentional conflict between friends regarding the use of art and what it means?

Hence, “Shirt Club”.

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Steven Universe Review: "Keep Beach City Weird!" (Season 1B, Episode 5)

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“Snake people, or sneeple, control our government at the highest level!” – Ronaldo Fryman. If this man took a government course in high school, he must’ve been very disappointed at the curriculum.

Airdate: October 30th, 2014

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: Steven stumbles across Ronaldo, in the hunt to validate his own conspiracy theory. He has compiled the various strange events going around across Beach City, and has come to his ultimate conclusion… the world is ruled by otherworldly snake people! Unfortunately for him, a pretty valid counterargument comes up – there are these three aliens who happen to live in the town, and get on to various misadventures. Once Steven disproves Ronaldo’s theory, he suffers an emotional collapse. Steven, feeling bad, tries to fix what went wrong… only to see Ronaldo at his most insane.

Review (SPOILERS):

We all know the reason for Steven Universe’s existence, right? Well, it’s the result of Rebecca Sugar’s deal with the Illuminati, a group of Freemasons led by Preston Manning and Bill Shorten, who power the megabanks that engineered the Allen Gregory false flag, to power the sale of propane and propane accessories, all to line their pockets so that they can financially appease their sentient god, the Great Computer.

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“He gets all his information on astronomy, phenomenology, and physics from a single reference book – The Junior Encyclopedia of Space. It’s the only one he could find with pictures.”

Yeah, that makes no sense, right?

Conspiracy theorists generally have stretched things really far to determine that certain world events are all part of this idea to start a new world order – whether it be the September 11th attacks, the election of Barack Obama as President, the rise of Donald Trump to the GOP nomination, even the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings. (Really? Arguing that children getting shot was fake in your attempt to prove that the world is controlled by bankers? What the hell?)

While Steven Universe largely takes it’s social commentary on a larger level (analyzing authoritarian governments and the role of “eye for an eye”), this episode decides to take a targeted look at the conspiracy theorists – what makes them tick? Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "House Guest" (Season 1B, Episode 1)

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Will Greg Universe use the warp whistle responsibly? Here’s a hint – N. O. The end.

“Now, Greg, there’s no need to be so pathetic.” – Pearl, introducing Greg to the whistle – aka, the plot device de jour.

Airdate: October 2nd, 2014.

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo.

Plot: Greg’s van, which he conveniently uses as a house, was damaged in a recent confrontation with a livid ex-prisoner. Between that, and his injury, Steven lets him coop up in the temple for a while. However, Steven still has to go on missions with the Crystal Gems – for example, to try and repair a damaged Geode. Thus, Greg is given a whistle to play in case of an emergency. With great power… ah, what the hell, Greg abuses it.

Review:

“House Guest” marks the premiere of the second half of Season 1 – which, for the purposes of this blog, I will consider its own quasi-separate season. In my opinion, “House Guest” also concludes what I consider to be Steven Universe’s first genuine five-part arc, starting with “Monster Buddies”. (One could argue that the “arc” could start with “An Indirect Kiss” and go into “Space Race”, but I personally think that “Monster Buddies” to “House Guest” contains a more appropriately placed and stronger climax.) So, how does the first episode of the quasi-newly dramatic Steven Universe go?

Eh…
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Steven Universe Review: "Steven and the Stevens" (Season 1A, Episode 22)

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 Go on, guess who the drummer is! Here’s a hint – it’s not Ringo Starr.

Airdate: September 4th, 2014

Plot: While on a rather silly mission, Steven comes into possession of “the Glass of Time” – which allows him to, well, control time. His original plans for his Beachapalooza performance scuttled due to an issue with his dad’s business, he decides to merely copy himself thrice over, forming the eponymous band. When appointed as the leader, however, conflict breaks out between the four Stevens.

Review: “Steven and the Stevens” is another episode that, while at first glance appears disconnected to the rest of the show, actually makes up for its canon-lightness. In this case, we have an episode that takes a look at the Crystal Gem character dynamic, as well as how Steven bounces off of everybody else in the show. Oh, and how power corrupts and all that. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Beach Party" (Season 1A, Episode 18)

Ah, to have the drive to play volleyball… or any sports.

Airdate: April 30th, 2014

Plot: An attempt to destroy a pufferfish results in Garnet crashing into the roof of Fish Stew Pizza. With the trio walking away from the situation, Kofi Pizza (the owner) tells Steven that the trio are not welcome in the shop. Steven tries to patch things up by inviting the Pizza family to a picnic near the Temple. There, we see a bit of a clash between the two sides, drowning out possible underlying similarities… and any potential pufferfishes.

Review: Well, after the dense boringness of “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday”, I’m watching a more straightforward episode with a more down to earth plot… in a show revolving around alien rock people. (Congratulations, modern Simpsons – you are denser and more removed from reality than a cartoon on Cartoon Network. Says a lot, doesn’t it.)

The most notable aspect of “Beach Party” is the fact that fans often tend to overlook this episode. It’s not as “disliked” as “Onion Trade” is – they just tend to skip over it in discussions. While I can see why they tend to overlook it, I actually think that this episode isn’t simply an episode thrown together to fill the season. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Arcade Mania" (Season 1A, Episode 11)

Before anybody asks, the fact that Onion is watching this shows two things – either Onion finds this unusual, or he’s looking for another way to win a prize that, as far as I’m concerned, is above his age level… I think.

Airdate: February 17th, 2014

Synopsis: After failing to capture the spinoffs spawned by a Drill Creature in a cave… Garnet declares them to not be a threat, and calls the mission over. The Gems proceed to go to the local arcade, where Garnet trashes two games before getting hooked onto Meat Beat Mania, a rhythm-based games where the player shakes various meat-based products. And by hooked, I mean she ignores the return of the mini-Drill Creatures.

Review (SPOILERS): Steven Universe is a show that thrives on continuity. It’s not noticeable in the first half of the season, but the show’s world-building provides a lot of foreshadowing to events that will impact the rest of the series. The first half of Steven Universe’s first season is genuinely aided by the power of hindsight – either that, or a really sharp eye. Speaking of which, “Arcade Mania”, at first glance, one of the show’s more “pedestrian episodes”, is very much aided by hindsight. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t hold up on it’s own merits.

Our first few interactions with Garnet seemed to indicate that she was very much a stolid character – no-nonsense, stoic, focused. And, for the most part, they were right. However, the past few episodes have shown a lighter side to the once (and still) enigmatic leader of the Crystal Gems. She’s taken Pearl and Amethyst out of sight for “messing with Steven’s funky flow”, joked around with the kid, and even was able to comprehend why Amethyst was going to wrestling matches late at night.

Now, we get to see a vice – she becomes hooked to Meat Beat Mania.

Remember Dance Dance Revolution, a game which made everybody think they were both getting exercise and learning how to dance like Tony Manero? Yeah, imagine that with meats. And meat puns. It’s pretty stupid, and very, very addictive. Garnet – of all people – gets sucked in.

But why?

Well, something’s obviously getting her third eye hooked to the screen. (Yes, she has three eyes. Bit of a shock, right?) What is it? Well, let’s leave a full explanation for a later review. All I’ll say is that it takes the potential drawbacks of her id, and fuses it with the potential drawbacks of her superego, all to the detriment of her mission. Hey, not every Kirk-esque “medium decision” will work.

However, in the immediate term, it does appear that her third eye possesses some powers of it’s own. What they are, we don’t know, but it allows her to master the game. On a larger level, this episode reinforces the idea of Garnet being the Crystal Gem most likely to maintain a sense of focus on her mission. Or at least, we get an exception to the rule. She slips up when it comes to the Drill Parasites. Now, was she just focused on the immediate effect of defeating the Drill Creature, or eliminating any later threats. Once she gets her focus, she gets it at the worst possible time.

One thing I definitely liked in this episode is that Steven is still awkward with his relationship with the Crystal Gems – he sends Pearl and Amethyst to arcade games more suited for the opposite. This implies that the Crystal Gems still have a relatively distant relationship with Steven – whether it be that they’ve been fighting monsters for the past week, or if Steven only recently began living with them.

Going further, Pearl’s comment of arcades being “a fascinating way for humans to waste their time” is a golden Spock-esque reaction, one that showcases just how alien she is. Unlike Garnet and Amethyst, who at least seem to comprehend the concept of the arcade, Pearl is still confused on how and why we would waste time.

On a somewhat personal level, I have fond memories of arcades… hotel arcades, mind you. When I was younger, me and my family took a couple of trips to Orlando, and pretty much every hotel we stayed at had a little arcade – perfect to waste time. (Obviously, it was minor compared to, well, everything else in Orlando, but still.) That, combined with odd trips to my local Dave and Busters, means that episodes like this one bring back fond memories.

Other than that… not a too much to talk about regarding this episode. Really, with the exception of some foreshadowing, the exposure of the third eye, and some subtle character development, this episode is one that can be skipped without fear of missing much. It’s not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination – it’s funny, quirky, and cute. However, it’s not a must watch.

Tidbits:

  • Onion returns… again… and just becomes even more of an enigma. He wins a scooter (implying he has too much time on his hands), and in his next scene, he just sits there, watching Steven challenge Garnet at Meat Beat Mania. Also, I have to wonder what a kid who looks no older than 10 (and that’s at max) is doing at an arcade… presumably alone. Maybe the culture is different in DelMarVa than it is on Long Island.
  • What is this – the fourth episode out of the past five that had Mr Smiley? I’m starting to think Sinbad met a friend for lunch at the CN Offices, Sucrose and Company noticed, and asked him to record a few lines because they couldn’t find another voice actor. (Either that, or he took the job to try and stave off future trips to bankruptcy court.)
  • Steven threw a silver dollar to the side. Most brilliant piece of subtle social commentary this show has had… up to this episode. (Side note – I am all for changing from the bill to the Dollar Coin, but that’s a rant for another time.)
Favorite Scene and Memorable Quote: Amethyst playing Skee Ball… and ignoring the rules. “Imma win an airplane!
Best Character: Garnet, for pretty obvious reasons. Most character development, plus exposure of vice, plus the fact that she’s playing a video game makes this episode brilliant.
ScoreBronze. Solid, but not too memorable.

Steven Universe Review: "Cat Fingers" (Season 1A, Episode 6)

If you think this screenshot is creepy… AVOID THIS EPISODE AT ALL COSTS. In fact, avoid this review. Or keep reading, whatever.

Airdate: November 25th, 2013

Synopsis: Amethyst manages to impress Steven with her shifting into a cat. Shocked by this, Steven wants to know how he can shape shift, despite Pearl’s objections. Amethyst teaches him to trust his id, and Steven… manages to create a cat out of one of his fingers. Unfortunately, Steven’s own id takes over, and he’s unable to get rid of the cats once tired of them.

Review (SPOILERS): Glad to know what my nightmares will be about for the next month or so.

Ah, yes – “Cat Fingers”. This was the creepiest episode of Steven Universe amongst fans for quite a bit, and has only been surpassed by the likes of “On The Run”, “Keeping It Together”, “The Return”, “Jailbreak”, “The Message”, ah, hell, the fact that this was scary at one time shows just how slow this show was to really start burning the oil.

Still, this episode is incredibly creepy – surprisingly so, even. Let’s put the obvious aspect of the creepiness this way – cats aren’t supposed to be scary. They’re supposed to be cute, huggable, and relieve any situation of any stress present. This episode… doesn’t use any of those aspects of the “kitten” cliche. Not by a long shot.
Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Together Breakfast" (Season 1A, Episode 4)

The Together Breakfast – so awesome, it defies physics! (Image screencapped from the Steven Universe wiki.)

Airdate: November 11th, 2013

Synopsis: The short story: Steven makes breakfast for himself and the trio. Hilarity ensues.

The long story: Steven makes breakfast since all the other Gems aren’t around. He manages to construct what is, in his mind, the perfect breakfast – literally well balanced, in fact. However, nobody really wants to (or is able) eat it with him – Garnet has to torch a poster, Pearl wants to be alone to fix up her room, and Amethyst just wants to gulp it all down. Kinda strange, then, when said breakfast comes to life and threatens to destroy them.

Review: Show of hands – who wants IHOP now? Second show of hands – who has a fear of IHOP now?

OK, really… just to let you know, this review is going to be somewhat shorter than usual, partially because this isn’t the most memorable of episodes. It seems inconsequential at first – Steven cooks breakfast, tries to talk to the other gems, and said breakfast tries to destroy them all. In fact, it almost seems like a Regular Show episode. (Worth noting, I don’t really watch that show, so no, that isn’t getting reviewed anytime soon.)

And let’s be real here – this episode’s plot is pretty “color by numbers”, with not a whole lot of real twists. Steven wants to please the Gems, and almost dies doing so. So, not a whole lot of points for originality.

However, within the plot, there’s actually more than a few things in here that help build the overall show even further. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Cheeseburger Backpack" (Season 1A, Episode 3)

 

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Now available in Vegetarian and Turkey.

 

Airdate: November 11th, 2013

Synopsis: The local mailman, Jamie, delivers Steven his package from “Wacky Sacks”. As the title of the episode suggests, it’s a backpack that’s shaped like a flippin’ cheeseburger. Good timing, too, since the Gems are about to go on a mission. You see, the Gems have to place a Moon Goddess Statue at the top of a Lunar Sea Spire soon, or else the whole thing will disintegrate. With Amethyst’s vote of confidence (under the pretense of “education”), the other Gems let Steven and his cheesy backpack come along with them.

Hilarity ensues.

Review (SPOILERS): We’re still in the early stages of Steven Universe, where characters hadn’t been too fleshed out yet, comedy was the centerpiece, and the animation was more likely to be off. This episode is a prime example of just how far this show’s quality shot up in a short time, yet from the other end.

That’s not to say it’s a bad episode – it’s just not one that seems like it has a whole lot going for it, at least in terms of “favorite episode” lists. However, it does have enough to make it a good third episode. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Gem Glow" (Season 1A, Episode 1)

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This transformative moment in Crystal Gem history… brought to you by Ice Cream. Maybe.

Airdate: November 4th, 2013

Synopsis: It has not been a good day for Steven Universe – his favorite brand of Ice Cream sandwiches, Cookie Cat, have been discontinued. Not helping matters is the fact that he can’t harness the powers of his gem – even when his fellow Gems are under attack by Centipeetles. However, when eating some of the last Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches available (Amethyst stole them, and Pearl paid for them afterward), Steven’s gem seems to activate. With the three gems giving different techniques on how they activate their gems, Steven believes that his technique is to eat the Ice Cream… which comes at an interesting time, given that the Mother Centipeetle attacks the quartet.

Review (SPOILERS)Steven Universe begins on a note that, while at first casual, has many of the hallmarks of a pilot – near-universal character development, and elements of world-building, but also a simple, breezy plot, to get the most casual viewers sunk in.

As far as the rest of the show goes, though, it’s a pretty mild affair. Continue reading