Archive for the Steven Universe Category


LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 5 (English)

September 18th, 2016

sulogo-300x194Let’s recap once more. In Season 1 we met and learned about the Crystal Gems. In Season 2 we began to really understand their history. Season 3 deepened our understanding of all the series’ characters and Season 4 brought the first major plots to fruition…and expanded our cast.

Where then, could Season 5 of Steven Universe take us? As it turns out, into a surprisingly dark place.

First, we encounter a new character and a lie. Not a small lie, either.

With everything we’ve learned about Rose, we have to conclude that her fundamental belief was that everyone deserved to determine their own fate. This is pretty heretical in a society where every gem is created for a single purpose. But it turns out that even Rose had limits to what she considered to be appropriate and when Bismuth encountered that boundary, Rose found it easier to lie than to deal with the truth. Years later, her son Steven is left cleaning up the mess.

We’ve seen that Amethyst frequently feels alone and lonely, that she has a lot of self-esteem issues. We’ve explored these over and over and built up sympathy for her. Steven recognizes that she and he are not at all alone – they both have a lot of the same issues around their essential selfness. And because they understand that they aren’t alone in their doubts – they bond. This is laid out painfully in “Know Your Fusion” as Sardonyx, too busy to be anything other than sardonic, misses that it was their doubts that creates the new fusion Smoky Quartz.

There’s a lesson in the fusions, as well. We’ve talked about how fusion is clearly an act of intimacy between two gems. And we’ve seen how instability of any one of the parts can throw the relationship into imbalance and split it. (A nice metaphor for any relationship, wouldn’t you say?) But in almost every other case, fusions we’ve seen are acts of purpose and even joy. With Smoky Quartz, we’re exploring something we’ve never seen – a positive bond based on low self-esteem.

I really like how the fusions get their own voices – and I am always impressed by each fusion’s voice actress. They often have to act two or more roles at once and in pretty much every case, you can *tell* which of their components they are speaking as.

We return to the history of Beach City and again, we take time to explore fusion as a mutual relationship. If “Alone at Sea” is meant to uncover what toxic relationships look, sound and feel like, then “Mindful Education” helps the audience see what a healthy relationship looks like.

All of Season 5 hits a climax of epic proportions in “Last One Out of Beach City” in which Pearl picks up a mysterious pink-haired girl and we all are so excited for her we can’t stand it! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

mysterious

Thankfully, Steven points out the obvious. Yes, she does look awfully like Rose. Clearly Pearl has a type. I’m not dissing her for it. I love pink hair on women too. ^_^

Season 5 isn’t over yet, but we’ll end here for now, because this was so good. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – Not really, but fans can fetishize anything.
Yuri – 10 (!) I hope Pearl gets the girl

Overall – 10

OH, OH, do not let me forget the insanely true-to-fan-life conversation between Peridot, as she’s leaving the barn and Lapis, about “Camp Pining Hearts,” the show they ‘ship the hell out of.  Did you all grin when Peri asks “What season are you watching?” I sure did. ^_^

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LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 4 (English)

September 15th, 2016

sulogo-300x194I consider Steven Universe, Season 1 to be good, Season 2 to be excellent, Season 3 to be compelling. So it should come as no surprise to hear that Season 4 of Steven Universe is sublime.

To begin with, Season 4 starts with something we haven’t had before – a plot that is not driven by character development. A full-blown rollicking action adventure, as we learn of  “The Cluster” at the center of the Earth which is about to destroy the planet.

Which is not to say that there is no character development, just that the plot itself is as much classic sci-fi with gadgets and robots as it is character development. We get our very first glimpse of a real Diamond, (Yellow Diamond, voiced perfectly by Patti Lupone, swoon, I always do fall for the nasty ones). Peridot is put on the gangplank and her reaction…is not what we might expect. But Steven has a surprising effect on people and Gems.

Having saved the Earth again, we are rewarded by the most absurd handwave in cartooning – a character being so rich that money is never an object. Hey, if it works for Batman, why not?

And yet, nothing that you’d expect happens with this handwave. I know that if I were to come in to 10 million dollars, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life at the moment. I’d travel more often – and first class – but that’s about it. So, while this handwave might affect everything…it actually affects very little. I appreciated that. But it does make the rest of the season possible.

Because, what follows are two of the most amazing cartoon episodes ever. In “Mr. Greg,” wrapped in a facile and silly musical episode, Pearl – thinking she’s alone – sings a heart-rending ode to the loss of her love, Rose. She uncovers the seed of her resentment for Greg and in doing so is able, finally, to let it go.

The season could rest there, but no.  In what has to be one of the most extraordinary episodes ever (throughout which I kept saying “holy crap,” over and over) the story takes on the tangled web of Lapis Lazuli’s history of a forced fusion and an abusive relationship with Jasper. “Alone At Sea” deserves an Emmy.

Once again, having uncovered pain, the plot can move forward. And so, we turn once again (as we have over and over) to Connie and Steven who are now fighting in tandem and becoming stronger. So much so, that Amethyst’s low-self-esteem becomes an issue…again. By the time the season ends, we can see that Amethyst isn’t the only one who feels inadequate to the task. Steven is keenly aware that he’ll never be Rose Quartz. And Jasper is still out there and will have to be dealt with.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service –  3 Pearl in a tux is definitely a kind of service
Yuri – 9

Overall – 10

You should be watching this cartoon.

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LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 3 (English)

September 12th, 2016

sulogo-300x194Season Three of Steven Universe is some of the most amazing animation I’ve ever sat though.

With one exception, every episode of Season 3 is strong…and they build on each other to an amazing extent. Which is why the first episode of the season is so damn annoying.

In Season 1, we’re introduced to the characters, and start to get a feel for their personalities and back stories. In Season 2, even as we start to truly understand the alien nature of the Crystal Gems and the war for Earth’s independence which isolated them from the Gem Homeworld, we come to appreciate their essential “humanity.”

The first episode, however was a misguided attempt by Cartoon Network to promote the unwatchable Uncle Grandpa. To salve our annoyance a genuine plot point is added, which moves the entire story forward in a leap.

From that point on, this season is two steps forward and one look back. We learn key backstories and by doing so, we can see just how much the Crystal Gems have changed from their days with Rose Quartz, in which they were far more alien than they are now.

Which makes it that much more poignant as the story forces every single one of them to confront their own fears, relationships and bonds. And just as they seem to come out the other side, Peridot joins the crew, which really highlights the changes they’ve gone through.

We now can say with complete confidence that Garnet is a fusion of two gems who are in love, that Pearl’s feelings for Rose go beyond a mere crush and that Amethyst is, at heart, a surprisingly fragile Gem. In the center is Steven, who is more like his mother than anyone has yet admitted – inspiring cooperation and fierce loyalty in others.

The humans in Beach City are not immune to this, either. Steven brings a little humanity to several of the town’s bored teens and we get to see a side of Greg we hadn’t really recognized – his ability to weather crises with a calm perspective. Maybe, we think, he was a good match for Rose, after all.

Let me once again wind up with Connie. Two of my favorite episodes in the series are in this season and both focus on Connie. In “Sworn to the Sword,” in Connie decides to train to be Steven’s knight. Steven’s affection for Connie brings about a shockingly raw admission from Pearl and in the resolution, we can see all three of them maturing as a result of the conrontation.

This is followed by “Nightmare Hospital,” in which Connie is forced to use her newfound strength to face the greatest monster of all – parental disapproval. Again, the resolution is satisfying on all levels.

At this point, I should probably note that the music for Steven Universe is as catchy as can be. I’m really hoping they just put together a soundtrack album, because I’d love to have all the music in one place. In the meantime, Season 2 has a “best of” songs episode, episode 101, “Steven’s Greatest Hits.”

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – Not visually
Yuri – 7 (“That’s my Laffy Saffy”)

Overall – 10

I’ve posted this here before, but it’s worth mentioning again, because once I start singing it, it takes a week to get it out of my head. Here’s “Do It For Her/Do It For Him” from “Sworn to the Sword.”

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LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 2 (English)

September 9th, 2016

As much as I talk about Steven Universe, I’ve been remiss with reviews. With that in mind, I’m taking some time this month to get caught up on reviewing this amazing cartoon, so we can talk about things like representation and diversity in American cartoons, something I started in my review of Adventure Time.

In Season 1 of Steven Universe, we meet and instantly dislike Steven Universe, the half-magical son of carwash owner Greg Universe. Steven, his father and his guardians, the Crystal Gems, live in a small seaside town, based loosely but lovingly on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (A town, not at all coincidentally, which is popular with gays and lesbians. It’s a bit like a mid-Atlantic Provincetown.)  Steven appears and acts about 8 or 9 years old. He’s whiny and annoying, but about halfway through the first season, you start to get a better sense of him and his obviously not-at-all-human guardians.

In Season 2, Steven and the Crystal Gems develop as characters. We spend a lot of time watching the Gems not really comprehending humanity, interacting with them awkwardly – but loving them for Rose Quartz’s sake – and watching Steven struggle with nascent and unpredictable powers. Bits of their backstory starts to filter through the noise, and we get a better sense of the Gems’ feelings of obligation for Steven’s well-being, but also watch them deal with his need to be independent of their protection.

While this tug-of-war is going on, Steven is, little by little, introduced to his mother’s legacy. But more importantly, he starts to develop himself outside the heir to his mother’s legend the Gems require him to be. And when we meet his friend Connie, Steven suddenly becomes much, much more human.

I’m going to go on record that I adore Steven and Connie’s relationship and would have watched this cartoon if this was the only relationship in the series. They are terrific together. Connie’s overprotective, overachieving parents have raised a fine young woman. Almost immediately we can see that Steven and Connie genuinely care about each other and really enjoy each other’s company. They make a great partnership even this early on in the series.

One of the things I very much like about the series is the extremely diverse voice cast and characterization. Even before the cartoon gets into sexuality (which it will in a big way,) it’s diverse in other ways, including ethnicity and body type. But my perspective is that of a white woman, so any visible diversity seems, on the face of it, as a good thing. While Garnet, voiced by singer Estelle, reads to me as a woman of color, there’s some really terrific writing about Pearl as a PoC character, and why SU still doesn’t do black characters right. It’s all worth reading. I’m not the only one watching SU carefully for representation. That there is so much to parse is part of why I like the series.

We can summarize Season 2 as being about the humanizing of the characters – all of them, really. Greg gets fleshed out, the Gems start thinking of Steven as a separate entity from his mother, their leader, and Steven and Connie push each other to be better as people and friends. The people of Beach City start to develop as more than just background images, and suddenly you find yourself joining Ronaldo in his quest to to keep Beach City Weird. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – Not visually
Yuri – 5 Pearl’s idolization of Rose is most definitely a crush

Overall – 10

By the end of Season 2, I’d forgotten how whiny Steven was in Season 1. And by the end of Season 2, I was fully hooked, lined and sinkered. ^_^

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Steven Universe ~ The Answer (English)

September 6th, 2016

AnswerSUWell, how fortuitous! Just this morning, I was reading and sharing an article on PBS.org, Rebecca Sugar, Cartoon Network’s first female creator, on writing LGBTQ stories for kids, and lo and behold! my copy of The Answer, arrived. ^_^

The Answer is a hardcover children’s storybook, based on episode 22 of the second season of the Cartoon Network breakout hit, Steven Universe. The episode deals with the origin of Garnet, in which a powerful Sapphire and a common Ruby change fate to be together.

In the episode and the book, we are introduced to the Gems of Homeworld who are bent upon taking over Earth, opposed only by the Crystal Gems led by Rose Quartz. A Sapphire with foresight knows everything that will happen, including her own fate, but the rash behavior of one of her Ruby guards changes…everything.

The cartoon episode is absolutely grin-making, with a catchy little ditty sung by the two gems as they ponder their combined fate. I wondered how they would adapt that into a book?

They did a teriffic job. The illustations by Tiffany Ford and Elle Michalka, are swell, without trying to be the same as in the cartoon. But what really makes the book work is the border in which Ruby and Sapphire carry on a meta-textual conversation.

Artwork from "The Answer" by Rebecca Sugar, author, Tiffany Ford, illustrator, and Elle Michalka, illustrator. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sugar

The story, written by and adapted for this book by Rebecca Sugar, is everything good and right with Steven Universe. Ruby and Sapphire confront being different, acknowledge what and who they are and learn to accept it with Rose Quartz’s help. This is an epic, colorful coming out story about two queer characters in brightly colored pictures with loving and accepting language, drawn and written especially for queer kids.

I hope I don’t have to tell you what to do now, do I? Get this book for yourself and a second copy for your local library. Tell the library this is a children’s book from a very popular TV cartoon. Tell friends with kids about it and lend your copy to them. Give it as gifts to child relatives and friends. Suggest this thing until people roll their eyes, because this book is a game-changer.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters 10
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 10

I cannot imagine what my life might have been like if Steven Universe was in existence when I was young, but I like to think it wouldn’t be all that much different than it is now.  The important thing is for the next geeky, queer kid who comes down the pike will have a book like this to read. How awesome for them. ^_^

Also, I think I want a poster of the cover. (*_*)

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