When my brother first told me about Steven Universe last fall, I wasn’t interested at all. A cartoon about a really immature kid who thinks more about food than about the magic happening all around him? Seems like a disastrous plot. My brother’s constant pestering did the show no favors, either. But I finally tried the show, and when I did… Holy cow, guys. It’s a gem.
Don’t be discouraged by the juvenile starting episode. Once you get past episode 7 or so, the show starts ramping up. Episode 12 is where things get really good. And keep in mind that these are half episodes in the same format as Adventure Time. It may sound like a lot, but seven eleven-minute episodes fly by.
Speaking of Adventure Time, one of the writers and storyboarders for the show is the creator and executive producer of Steven Universe. You may know Rebecca Sugar from her work on AT episodes such as “It Came from the Nightosphere,” “Simon & Marcy,” and “Stakes,” in which she composed and performed the song “Everything Stays.”
While Steven Universe appears to be a simple kids’ show, it truly appeals to a wide audience and explores many adult themes. The show discusses war, death, sexual orientation, self-love, grief, and other challenging topics through the guise of a children’s show. And while the show’s candy-coated exterior suggests lighthearted treatment of these themes, Steven Universe grows surprisingly dark as the show progresses. In season 1, the titular character sings a song in which a lyric proclaims “I learned to stay true to myself / By watching myself die.” (That’s not a metaphor.) Delivered in a mod-pop style, the lyric could escape notice at first. But the grimness of the show only becomes more apparent with every successive season—with every successive watch-through of the show.
SU isn’t a show to be watched once and forgotten. Nearly every episode has hints about the world, clues that only make sense after knowing information presented in a later season. Not to mention the animation! It’s not great at the beginning, but (like practically everything else about the show) it gets better with time.
I seriously can’t say enough about how good this show is. If you enjoy Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Avatar: The Last Airbender, or pretty much any decent American animation project in the past ten years, then put Steven Universe on your watch list. Luckily for you, the first two seasons are on Hulu (minus the last four episodes of season 2). Happy watching!