Steven Universe Review: “Open Book” (Season 1B, Episode 20)

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FYI – This is the perfect screenshot to use if you ever want to milk some money off of clickbait! You won’t believe what happens at the wedding! #21 is the cooliest!

“It completely dropped all the anti-authoritarian stuff and described a wedding cake for 50 pages!” “Yeah! That cake was worthy of 20 pages – tops. There weren’t any strawberries on it!” – Connie and Steven, starting an in-depth analysis of a book series. Truly, they are the Siskel and Ebert of the book world.

Airdate: March 19th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Katie Mitroff.

Plot: Connie is miffed that her favorite book series, The Spirit Morph Saga, ended with the two protagonists getting hitched. Having heard her rant about how the ending defied everything the book was meant to represent, Steven allows Connie to generate her own ending of the book in Rose’s Room. And as is the way in Rose’s Room, everything goes south, as well as a bit psychological.

Review (note: not 4000 words. I may be insane, but not that insane):

So…

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…how do you follow up on that?

I mean, the writers had to know that “Rose’s Scabbard” would drain the viewers emotionally. Let’s also combine that with the fact that there exists a wide swath of fans – myself includedthat consider it their single favorite of Steven Universe. So, how the hell were the Crewniverse going to follow up on what was arguably their Mona Lisa?

They didn’t have to, strangely enough. Thanks to Cartoon Network, they were able to slide “Rose’s Scabbard” at the start of a weeklong sequence of more dramatic and plot-driven episodes, up to and including the season finale. Thus, the writers had carte blanche to do whatever the hell they wanted.

So… what about something of a two-hander to change things up? Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Marble Madness” (Season 1B, Episode 18)

Round FIVE! Yes. Five.
This is the fight that goes on forever Because it never, ever ends!

“They just keep coming and coming!” – Pearl, as the Crystal Gems beat up the marble pictured above.

Airdate: March 5th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Steven has to balance two things going on in his life at one moment. The first, is a new book series that Connie introduces him to, The Spirit Morph Saga. He winds up being fantastically wrong when it comes to book order. The second, a series of Robonoids are crashing into the Earth. The Gems defeat them, relax, and fight another one. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Review:

Steven Universe is loved for many reasons. Some cite the animation, which is unrivaled at it’s best. Some cite the voice acting – making every single character seem even more real than before. Some cite the show’s liberal values, which have probably caused a couple of fans to ship copies of the few SU DVDs to Mar-A-Lago with rants scrawled on the box. (If anybody actually did so, those discs are probably Diet Coke coasters right now.) Some (such as myself) cite the characters – with one or two exceptions, they are all so vibrant, so sympathetic, and so full of life. And, lastly, some cite the second layer that every good piece of literature/film/TV has… a plot.

“Marble Madness” shows Steven Universe return to its plot – one of political separation, of attempts to get old territory back, and the march of history. Still, this plot is driven by its characters – in this episode, the titular one. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Watermelon Steven" (Season 1B, Episode 8)

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The Cat: Think of all the glorious, beautiful, wondrous things about having children.
Lister: Like?
The Cat: Like, when they grow up and leave home!
Red Dwarf, “Parallel Universe”.

Airdate: November 20th, 2014

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo.

Plot: Steven and Greg spend one evening holding a watermelon seed spitting contest. Steven wins by a mile. The next morning, he wakes up surrounded by a bunch of humanoid watermelons. Stunned, he learns that Rose grew plants as a form of defense. Not seeing them move, he decides to sell them. It’s only thanks to Onion’s daily high misdemeanor that Steven realizes that they can move. And, indeed, anybody that wrongs Steven even slightly – even lays a finger on them – faces an ass kicking. And, no, the Crystal Gems are not spared.

Review:

I seriously can’t believe I have to type these words out… Steven has sired an entire species of watermelons. By spitting out seeds.

Yes. Steven is effectively a father. And God. James Kirk and Benjamin Sisko, eat your heart out – Steven has usurped both of you. One can only laugh.

How the hell do I review this? “Watermelon Steven” has one of those “high concept” plots that should make for epic episodes. Hey, characters creating species gave us “Godfellas”, often considered one of the most thought provoking and best Futurama episodes of all time. The last time I reviewed something that directly dealt with God, though, it had Kirk and his friends sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and Uhura fan-dancing, before they met a version of God that looked like an effect from The Wizard of Oz.

Not helping is that this episode was written by Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo, who contributed to the relative mess that was “Fusion Cuisine”. My expectations are lowered thus – if this episode turns out to be worse, I’ll ask Paddy Ashdown how to best prepare a hat for consumption.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Joking Victim" (Season 1A, Episode 21)

Steven Universe Lars breathing fire
“Sorry, the sign on the side of the store states that The Big Donut is not liable if you start breathing fire. Your lawsuit is thrown out.”

Airdate: August 21st, 2014

Plot: Steven’s attempts to chase down some fire salt fries (thanks, Amethyst) with soda lead to a mess at the Big Donut. Lars shirks his responsibilities via a “back injury”, and Sadie gives him the day off. Steven, therefore, is appointed as a temporary Lars, and even manages to do a better job at the Big Donut. Still, Sadie can’t just fire him – the two have something of a relationship.

To try and cheer Lars up, the two bring donuts to his house, only to catch him on the trampoline with the Cool Kids. A distraught Sadie reveals that this may not have been the first time this has happened, and vows revenge. Cue the fire salt donut. The consequences are really heated… as pictured above.

Review (SPOILERS): At first glance, this episode has such little a point as to it’s existence, it’s probably a sphere. However, a closer look does damage to that hypothesis. Yes, this episode is a “canon-light” one – an episode that does not have a whole lot of bearing in terms of major plot development. The episode isn’t completely disposable, however – it fleshes out characters, and introduces a theme that will become a major one in season 2. In fact, dare I say, it’s probably the most overlooked episode of the show’s canon. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Steven The Sword Fighter" (Season 1A, Episode 16)

Pearl sword-fights Holo-Pearl.
“My name is Pearl Montoya. You killed Garnet. Prepare to die!”

Airdate: April 9th, 2014

Synopsis: A rainy movie night at the Beach House leads Pearl to mock the movie of choice, Lonely Blade IV. She lambasts the sword-fighting, in particular. One mention of this later, and the Gems go to a cloud temple, where Pearl shows Steven fencing tendencies. The simulation features a Hologram version of Pearl, who loses the first time. Pearl’s attempts to hammer into Steven that these are non-movie sword-fighting techniques, though, leave her distracted. This leads to a bit of a slip-up in the simulation.

Whoops.

Thankfully, it’s only a flesh wound, in a sense. Pearl has to stay in her gem for some time, though, so Steven tries to make do with Holo-Pearl. This seems unwise, however.

Review (SPOILERS): Remember in “So Many Birthdays”, when the Crystal Gems watched Steven almost age to death because he was emotionally disturbed by his aging and humanity? Well, here, the tables are turned, as Steven gets to watch his adoptive mother get impaled by a copy of herself. And, while that episode shifted its tone halfway through that episode, this one stabs it within the span of three and a half minutes. Impressive. (Yes, I am aware that I am going to Hell for that pun.)

As a whole, though, how does this episode stand up?
Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Tiger Millionaire" (Season 1A, Episode 9)

Still a better ad method than spoiling the results of your competitor’s matches.

Airdate: January 20th, 2014

Synopsis: Amethyst messes up a mission by punching the monster of the week, getting gunk all over Steven and earning her Pearl and Garnet’s scorn. The night after, Steven manages to track Amethyst down to an old warehouse, where a wrestling league is held. There, she moonlights as the Purple Puma – a ruthless wrestler that’s shooting up the ranks. Steven becomes struck by the aura of the whole thing, and becomes her assistant as “Tiger Millionaire” – a ruthless venture capitalist from the jungle.

Review: Full disclosure – I’m not really a professional wrestling fan. Don’t hate it, don’t really follow it. Most of the info and jokes about wrestling here, I got from brief skims from the TVTropes and Wikipedia pages. All I know is that WWE Smackdown airs on SyFy – by far, the most insane and idiotic programming move that doesn’t involve scheduling Dilbert after Shasta McNasty. (Nice job, UPN.)

So, this episode… in an actual sci-fi show. Easily among my favorite episodes from the front end of the first season. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Frybo" (Season 1A, Episode 5)

This is one of the reasons why I don’t trust fast food mascots. Except for Jack Box. He is awesome personified.

Airdate: November 18th, 2013

Synopsis: After rescuing his jeans from the negative effects of a Gem Shard – used to animate articles of clothing, amongst other inanimate objects. – Steven goes into town. There, he meets up with Peedee Fryman, a disillusioned fast food mascot man working for his father’s fry business. Feeling sympathy for Fryman Jr, he takes the gem shard and animates the costume. Unfortunately, the effects don’t include “sell more fries” as much as it does “attack the patrons.”

Review: Over the past four episodes, Steven has established himself as one of the most idealistic characters to ever make his mark on TV. He’s warm, affable, and does things such as make breakfast for his guardians/roommates/whatever-they-are-at-this-point. Satisfied with his lot in life, his largest desire (so far, at least) is that he wants to be more involved with the Crystal Gems and their various adventures. His largest flaws, thus far, are his naiveté and inexperience. His idealism would make him fit right in amongst, say, the Bartlet administration.

So, just to emphasize how optimistic he is, let’s pair him up with Peedee Fryman, a character so nihilistic, he gives the Underwood administration a run for its money. Oh, and also, have Steven’s idealistic viewpoint deconstructed to the point where his actions help damage a small business. Continue reading