As much as I love cartoons, I find that I don’t have the patience to watch most animation that is marketed towards kids today. Even the animated shows that I find entertaining, like Adventure Time, are hardly appointment TV for me. Steven Universe may have me rethinking that opinion.
The show centers around Steven Universe, an extremely young member of a group of interplanetary (or possibly interdimensional) group of heroes known as the Crystal Gems. Stephen is the oddball of this group due in part to his age, his heritage, and being the only male in the group. The other gems (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl) often seem like older sisters that are forced to care for him, when they’re not out saving the world. The gems make their home in a shrine in the coastal community of Beach City, where Steven’s dad, Greg Universe, runs a car wash. Each of the gems, as well as Greg, are so well developed, and each is so very funny in there own way. Garnet is more quiet and reserved than the other gems, and her monotone delivery of dialogue gives her some of the best laughs in the show. Pearl is a busy body, and a rule follower. Amethyst is the crazy party girl, and relates better to Steven than the other gems. I could spend time talking about Stephen’s day as well, but if you’re familiar with Bruce Springsteen’s song Glory Days, you’ve got the picture. And speaking of music, that will give me a chance to talk about the show’s catchy theme song. I love a good theme song, especially one that gives a quick synopsis of the show. The Steven Universe theme song has been trapped in my head since the first episode I watched, and several rounds of “All About That Bass” therapy can’t seem to dislodge it. Original songs are featured in a couple of episodes, and they’re all fun, catchy, and most important for a 11-minute show, short!
The episodes change in tone often, some of them are quick coming-of-age lessons for Stephen, some of them are about him and the gems battling monsters. This is one of the more interesting attributes of the show. While the show features a supergroup, it’s not ABOUT a supergroup, it’s about a kid who happened to inherit a place on the team. There’s also some groundwork very casually laid in at least one episode for a bigger story arc that the show explores in future episodes, which gives the show a sense of continuity that’s not always taken on in animation that is geared for younger audiences. As I watched more of the show, I realized that the balance between making the show enjoyable by kids and adults is part of its charm.
Be warned that if you pick this collection up, you are not getting the complete Steven Universe experience. This collection features 12 sporadic episodes from the early half of the first season. I’m too much of a completionist, and releases like this are akin to fingernails on a chalkboard for me. If the intent is to release a modestly priced DVD at a price point that it entices parents to buy it for their kids, why not just do a DVD of the first 12 episodes.
Animation always looks great on DVD and Stephen Universe is no exception. This is a clean, great looking transfer.
Presented in Dolby Stereo 2.0. Sounds great!
The Packaging and Bonus Features
I like that the episodes are clearly labeled on the back. Although this should be an industry standard, I find it lacking on some collected volumes. The only bonus feature is the seven minute pilot episode, which has never been televised, and up to this point was only available on YouTube. This is disappointing, because I’d love to hear the show’s creator, writers, and voice talent discussing these episodes.