Steven Universe — the show created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network — follows the life of Steven Universe, a young half-Gem, half-human who has inherited his mother's magical powers and lives with the Crystal Gems — a team of supernatural beings with incredible powers who protect the citizens of Beach City and all of Earth from supernatural forces.
Steven Universe has been nominated for two Emmy Awards as well as been adapted into comic books and even a video game. What exactly makes Steven Universe so good, though? I'm glad you asked!
4. The Characters
The characters in Steven Universe are amazing. Steven is a good protagonist; he's kind and slightly naive, which makes it easy to subtly slip in exposition through the Gems explaining things to Steven. Steven also has one heck of a spine, and he grows an incredible amount during the course of the show. However, he's not alone in being a wonderful character; the Crystal Gems are just as amazing.
In order to create Steven with his father, Greg Universe, the Crystal Gem Rose Quartz had to give up her form and her Gem is now in Steven's stomach. Rose Quartz no longer exists, but her memories do, and this plays a role in how the Crystal Gems treat him. Pearl has especially strong memories of Rose, leading her to behaving strangely towards Steven at times. What's more interesting than how the Gems treat Steven because of his mother is how they treat Steven because he's Steven.
The Gems are the closest thing Steven has to a mother — all three of them. It's really a fascinating relationship, but the Gems aren't solely defined by Steven. Each of the Crystal Gems have distinct personalities, but they're well-rounded characters. Each of them has flaws that become apparent as the show goes on and are tested, so all the Gems either come out stronger or fall because of their weakness.
The supporting characters are also, well, amazing. The two most important ones are Connie and Greg. Connie is a good counterpoint to Steven. She's kind of bookish, very intelligent, and she gives us a fresh look at the world of magic that Steven finds normal. Greg is probably the best father in the cartoon universe. He's completely supportive of Steven and his adventures with the Crystal Gems, even when he doesn't always understand parts of it. He also gives us valuable glimpses of what Rose Quartz was like by telling Steven stories of his mother. The other side characters don't show up as much, but most of them still get an episode that gives them (and by extension, all of Beach City) some added depth.
3. The Story And The World
Steven Universe contains some of the best-written sci-fi/fantasy I've seen on TV, period. There's a gradual growth to it; the show starts off with some pretty light and silly episodes. In the pilot episode, for example, Steven thinks that eating ice cream activates his magic powers, and not too long after there's an evil Gem that controls clothing. But as the show goes on things get more serious, bit by bit. The show never gets completely dark, but there will be episodes where you'll be amazed that the show started with a kid who thought ice cream gave him magic powers.
Conflict and exposition is handled beautifully in this show. Like mentioned above, Steven's character makes it easy to slip in exposition without making it seem heavy-handed. The conflict tends to grow more serious as the show goes on. At the beginning, the Crystal Gems are just fighting monsters and retrieving Gem artifacts that were left on Earth long ago. Eventually, the Gems not only face conflict from outside forces greater than themselves but also internal conflict that seems like it could destroy the team at times. Steven Universe balances conflict between forces outside the team, inside the team and personal conflict within the characters incredibly well with a delicate touch.
Then there's the world building. The world of Steven Universe is better than the story itself. As the show moves forward we learn more and more about the Gems, about Rose Quartz, about why there are so many Gem artifacts on Earth and what the monsters really are. We learn about a Gem War that happened thousands of years ago and why the only Gems on Earth are Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. The world of Steven Universe is as rich as its characters.
Fusion is a unique power wielded by Gems. You see, a Gem's body isn't real. It's a projection of light; a Gem's true form is the Gem itself. Everything else is an illusion. As such, the Gems can transform and even fuse together. As Garnet says in Season 2 Episode 9 ("We Need To Talk"), to fuse you just need "The Gem at the core of your being, then you need a body that can turn into light, then you need the partner who you trust with that light." Here's a quick clip of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl fusing into Alexandrite:
The main thing about fusion is the fact that it's so much more than a way for the Gems to become more powerful — it creates conflict, it's a response to conflict, it's even used for jokes. Moreover, it's something incredibly personal. It's not just two or more Gems coming together. When Gems fuse, they literally become someone else, someone who is at once both of them and someone entirely new. It's a fantastic element to the show.
Each fusion is also designed very well. Each one is a balance of both Gems, and each has a unique weapon that's a combination of the weapons each Gem that makes it up uses. In Steven Universe, fusion is the ultimate power for Gems, the most intimate connection, and one of the show's best elements.
1. The Music
Last, but certainly not least, the music. Seven Universe is filled with original songs, each of them as unique as the Crystal Gems. Every song is both emotional and informative, usually giving us a great deal of background to the character singing. From pining for a lost love to being yourself to sword fighting, there's bound to be a song that appeals to you. When it comes to the music there isn't really too much I can say besides for listening to it. Here's my favorite song so far:
There's way more to Steven Universe then what I've said here. I barely scraped the surface of some characters such as Connie and Rose, and there are many other things that weren't touched in the slightest, such as the fight scenes or what the Gems really are. So what are you waiting for? Start watching!
What do you love most about Steven Universe?