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Steven Universe hits home for college viewers and kids alike

Amber Yen, Staff Writer

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Steven Universe is a cartoon series on Cartoon Network produced by Rebecca Sugar, who also worked on another cult classic series. Steven Universe is a slice of life series  that takes place in a world of bizarre creatures and magic in a world of ordinary humans and technology with a strong focus on character development. The main characters are  Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl who are sentient gemstones from an alien race, and Steven, a young boy who is actually half human on his dad’s side, and half gem on his mother’s. Together, the Crystal Gems fight against monsters and ensure the planet “Homeworld” does not attack Earth like it did 5,000 years ago.

People love Steven Universe because of the ethnic and gender diversity the characters show, especially with females and their diverse body shapes. To ensure that the episodes do not get too dark because of the mature themes, the humor is well placed and well written, most of them coming from Steven’s innocence. Despite being well written, the episodes can feel too calm for some viewers, especially if they expect a faster-paced or action-packed television series. So Steven Universe is most watchable for those who love innocent humor, realistic themes, and complex character arcs.

Throughout season 2, the gems are attacking a “Homeworld”, limb-enhanced gem named Peridot, who in Season 1episode 36 is sent to an unknown mission to Earth to check on “The Cluster”, which she implies will end the Earth. While the Crystal Gems contemplate how to get the information on “The Cluster”, Steven offers to help Peridot, signifying the beginning of their trust. However, Peridot is stranded on Earth in season 1 episode 52 when the gems destroy her ship. When Peridot is first introduced, she is portrayed as a cold and calculative character who shows no interest in Earth and living things. However, as she continues to appear in several episodes, Peridot is revealed to be child-like, easily getting flustered and angry in an over-the-top manner when things do not go her way. Moreover, her facial expressions and mannerisms become hilariously lively once Peridot is stranded on Earth–she even copies Steven when he sticks his tongue out to mock things. Three episodes after her last appearance trying to escape Earth in episode 15 of season 2, the Crystal Gems finally capture her, losing her limb enhancements (minus a foot) in the process.

During the most recent episode, When it Rains, season 2 episode 19, Peridot still doesn’t trust the gems so the gems are forced to understand “The Cluster” on their own. They venture elsewhere with Steven staying home to guard Peridot. Moments later there is a loud thunderstorm outside which scares Peridot, because she believes the thunder indicates the end of the world. Like Steven, her misunderstanding of rain and thunder confused me. She mentions she does not know anything without her computer, but not even that convinced me; it felt out of character. I know she is new to Earth, but unless the show is set in somewhere experiencing a drought, I don’t believe that this is the first time she’s seen rain after being stranded for so long.

Steven assures her that rain and thunder are natural occurrences on Earth, and that thunder happens “when it rains”. Steven uses a boiling pot of soup to demonstrate the water cycle to her, saying that the steam is like the clouds, and the steam trapped under the lid is heavy clouds about to rain. Steven even goes outside under the rain to demonstrate how safe and fun rain is. Of course, Peridot is still scared and reluctant. However, she does go outside when she musters the courage.

Now this is one of the best scenes in this episode. The ambience goes to a quieter tone to reflect Peridot’s hesitation and immediate discovery. The animation focuses well on her curious hand, speaking volumes about how little she knows of Earth. Even the shot of her immersed face while a large stream of rain flows down her cheek is both a great way to show her ultimately trusting Steven and the implication that she will later have a stronger interest in the planet.

Peridot thanks Steven for his info on Earth, and tells Steven that she will reveal what “The Cluster”. Peridot tells Steven that “The Cluster” is an experimental weapon of forced fused gems merged into a clump. Moreover, “The Cluster” has since developed under the Earth centuries before Peridot was born, and when it hatches, “The Cluster” will destroy the Earth in the process. Steven is horrified and concerned, wondering how they can stop it. But Peridot has a plan. Using Steven’s knowledge of Earth combined with her information on technology they can create a device that can stop “The Cluster.”

Right, a middle school geography education will definitely stop a rock equivalent to an apocalyptic demon.

Steven says that in reality her plan is practically impossible and that they need the Crystal Gems’ help, but Peridot refuses. Runaway gem experiments then discover the Steven and Peridot and attack them. The Crystal Gems come and save their lives, making Peridot realize that she needs to trust the Crystal Gems. The episode ends with the Crystal Gems understanding Steven’s pleas and with a cliffhanger where Peridot is about to tell the gems of “The Cluster”.

Though it was a mildly disorienting cliffhanger, it did not leave me as frustrated as the other viewers discussing the episode on Tumblr.

I loved how Steven and Peridot develop a trusting bond, and the scenes where Steven explains the thunderstorm to Peridot are both touching and funny. I did find some of the transitions to be too sudden, like when the story immediately changes from Peridot experiencing rain to Peridot showing Steven how “The Cluster” is ticking time-bomb about to end the world. Perhaps the flow of the episode was meant to parallel a thunderstorm, with small trickles leading to big booming moments.

Moreover, I liked how the ending implies the possibilities to how Peridot’s relationship with the Crystal Gems will further develop, and I am waiting to eat up all of those episodes! The only large issue I have with this episode are the rouge gem experiments not feeling scary or disturbing, but rather cartoon-like. As a kid’s show, I know I shouldn’t expect very complex animation, but it often feels too childlike to match the tone of the plot.  In fact, one of the gem experiments is just an oval with feet. Still, many of the plot points hit gold for me, and I will always love watching Peridot’s adventures onscreen.

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Steven Universe hits home for college viewers and kids alike