Personal Log #2 focuses on Steven Universe, I will be going over the entirety of the episodes that have been aired up to the date of the day this is posted by sections of at most 10. Each episode will be given an informal review/commentary, and what I think really stands out, both good and bad.
There will also be spoilers, it can’ be helped in some sections, so heads up.
11. Arcade Mania.
While nothing overly much happens this episode, you do get a bit of a glimpse of the dynamic between the Gems, with Garnet being the undeclared leader because of her perceptiveness, which is a particular part of her capabilities that is expanded upon later in the series but in this episode is first foreshadowed.
While there weren’t a lot of jokes, what jokes there were worked very well, particularly Pearl’s encounter with the driving game, Onion’s blatant spectatorship, and a nice little teenage mutant ninja turtle reference.
Oh, and a moment of silence for the tragic death of Punch Buddy *bows head*.
12. Giant Woman.
(Clip shot: “Steven Universe Giant Woman,” Property of Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
This episode we get our first introduction into Fusion, the Gem ability to fuse with other gems, and they introduce it with the two best characters for it, Amethyst and Pearl, whom of all the characters on the show have the most fricative relationship with one another.
This is the first episode where we see a hint of continuity, in that it carries over the argumentative discourse between Pearl and Amethyst from previous episodes, particularly the last two before this one. It wasn’t obvious continuity, but the first hints in the show’s transition into a more continuous and less isolated episodic structure perhaps.
Steven’s best moments this episode was with the running gag with the goat, Steven Junior, and when he sings Giant Women with all the enthusiasm his big-hearted youthful outlook can provide. Not anything to write home about, but a perfect Steven song nonetheless.
Opal by the way was very cool and a good amalgamation of Pearl and Opal designs, and a nice symbol of the moral of the episode, a standard working together for the sake of a common goal.
RIP random bird monster just looking for lunch.
13. So Many Birthdays.
(Clip Shot “Steven Universe To Many Birthdays,” Property of Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
This was a very odd episode.
It introduces the notion that Gems are ageless (though they can still get damaged and die) and confronts the Gem’s quite vigorously with the finite mortality that is aging on a personal level.
Even though it was a bit odd, going from rather lighthearted, to depressed, to rather dark very quickly, it utilized the story quite well in expressing its themes, and the panic that one goes through the when they realize there is nothing they can do in the face of a helpless situation, was handled quite realistically for a kids show.
Props go to the animation department for depicting the age transitions, the expressions on the Gem’s, particularly Pearl. Props also goes to the humour, which was an excellent blend of immature and treading the line into dark humour, with a smidge of adult humour thrown in.
RIP one piñata and two helpless pies.
14. Lars and the Cool Kids.
(Clip Shot: “Steven Universe Lars and the Popular Kids,” Property of Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
I have to admit that I’m not a big Lars fan, but at the same time, I appreciate that his type of character is needed in a show like this, mainly as a contrast or foil to other characters. In the case of this episode, we see a fairly trope storyline of a teenager, Lars, wanting to be with the popular crowd and Steven going along with it.
The “cool kids” are the younger Pizza sister, Sourcream, and the son of the mayor, Buckweat who are amusing, if undeveloped characters, one of which had the best line in the episode: “The lack of daddy kisses in my life made me who I am.” I have to admit I cracked up, at this deadpan delivery from Buckweat, and the expression on the face of the baby that was kissed by the mayor was hilarious, a nice little subverting of a politician stereotype.
While Lars was rather unlikable, a standard for Lars, I will admit, that the moment when Steven puts him in his place was surprisingly powerful and and very satisfying, if oddly placed. It showed a certain quality of maturity in Steven and fleshed out his character a bit this episode, this in part is why Lars, while annoying and unlikable is necessary if correctly used.
Overall an ok episode with some amusing one liners and a decent moment for Steven, as well as actually adding somewhat to the skimpy population of Beach City.
RIP Pearl’s perfect police tape bow.
15. Onion Trade.
(Clip Shot “Steven Universe Onion Trade,” Property of Rebbeca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
This is one of my favorite episodes, easily in my top 10 when I get around to making a list of that.
I make no secret of the fact that of all the side characters in this show, Onion is my favorite. He’s this weird kid with an odd sort of Squash shaped head and this blank sort of quietness that creepily watches you from random spots and sort of embodies the kind of kid you would see in horror films or the Twilight Zone. With just a shift of expression or simple action, he can convey a funny moment in silence, in contrast to the louder, brasher Steven. He’s also, outside of Connie, the only other character close to Steven’s relative age being depicted.
This episode was particularly fun as it gives attention to Onion and some of his everyday living, and moments that accentuate his creepy factor, particularly where he had this open the doors to hell expression when Steven was debating giving Onion the replicator wand.
There was also some nice lines, such as Steven’s cheerful last words at the very end that summed up the episode brilliantly, as well as a smart poke on the nuclear ideal of the masculine future career, and a nice little reference to Scrooge McDuck from Duck Tales.
This was a nice little standalone episode that, while didn’t do much of anything overall, it does add a nice little omake, or isolated adventure that is made for the sheer fun of it.
RIP beautiful hamburger.
16. Steve the Sword Fighter.
(Clip Shot: “Steven Universe Steven the Sword Fighter).
This was an episode that yet again gives some insight into the biology of the Gems, provides a shocking unexpected moment, and a nice little commentary on how something awesome looking is often not like its reality, and that sometimes it takes hard work to get to a point of awesomeness.
I remember when I first watched this episode, it reminded me of back in the day when I would watch these martial arts movies much like Steven does, or Power Rangers, and how I, and children like me, reacted very much like Steven, falling in love with the idea of the badassery of being a great fighter, but in the end, being rather disenchanted with the reality of what it means to become a great fighter. This episode took that nostalgic feeling for the adults such as myself, and placed it in a moral lesson for the kids and wrapped it up with some good Steven moments, and a shocker near beginning of the episode.
I also like that Steven’s emotions were also explored, particularly that of absence, particularly parental absence.
Props to the animation team on its poked parody at martial arts films by using a vaguely anime style for the sequences, and the writers for a nicely paced plot and that somewhat practical joke-ish begining on the viewers.
RIP classic Pearl.
17. Lion 2: The Movie.
(Clip Shot “Steven Universe Lion 2 the Movie,” property of Rebbecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
Another fun episode, this one centered on Connie, Steven and Lion as they go to meet their destinies… going to the movies!
This is another little foreshadow episode that hints at possible later events in the series, particularly in Connie’s role in the show when considered in hindsight and the introduction of a hidden Gem Bunker.
What made this episode work was yet again an excellent presentation of character dynamic between Connie and Stephen with Connie’s amazement by the magical weirdness in Steven’s life, and Steven amazement by the ordinary things in Connie’s life. They work well as a foil for the other, and every episode they have been in together so far has been gold.
The humour was another strong factor. I think many of us laughed at the parody of the “BWAA” sounding “epic” trailer through Dogcopter, like the kind meant to psych people up. Dogcopter was both creative in and of itself, and provided a nice little commentary on the attitudes of movie spectators, particularly with such lines of “hoping Dog Copter was faithful to the book.”
The great battle between Steven with Connie and the training device (?) that runs amok showed great moment between the two in the heat of battle as warriors, as well as a great Utena reference.
Oh, and Pink Lion Jesus *Chuckle* nice.
RIP Fire N’ Ice.
18. Beach Party.
(Clip shot “Steven Universe The Beach Party,” Property of Rebbecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
This episode we are introduced to the Pizza family in their entirety when Steven hosts a beach party in the hopes of mending the one sided strained relationship between the Pizzas and the Gems when Garnet accidentally smashes up the sign to their place of business.
What stole the show this episode had to be Nanefua Pizza. She had all the best lines, and was the one to organize the destruction of the giant blowfish monster. She wasn’t an obvious stereotype elderly character, and had a good dynamic with the other characters, particularly Steven.
Another amusing part of the show was the Gem’s interactions with the rest of the Pizza family, bridges breaking through the meeting of various commonalities or things that the characters found admirable about each other. and the
Despite the mending of fences, the one-side component to this friction between the two families is that you can clearly tell the Gems are ambivalent to the concerns of civilians, so to speak. While this could be seen as a distraction from the “mending fences” part of the story, this was in fact more along the lines of displaying an overall fault in the Gems as a whole, being their somewhat inherent arrogance towards humanity, though they are friendly with the Pizza’s after a while and do listen to Nanefua in the end, it is still something very much a part of them in the end, and somewhat unresolved, as it should be.
This depiction of an inherent flaw in the Gems makes them more relatable,as they are now being shown to have flaws as a group with others instead of individually, which leaves a nice path open to plot for later on.
RIP Pizza Fish Stew sign.
19. Rose’s Room.
(Clip Shot “Steven Universe Rose’s Room,” Property of Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
In this episode we get a glimpse into a bit more about Rose when Steven unlocks his mother’s Room at the temple after an angry outburst at the Gems.
This was an episode that did a good job with the ol’ caught in a dream/unreal environment trope, and actually presented something creative to watch. The shorter time frame improved on the trope standard, with all the attention the creators had to pay to time, everything was kept very concise, with utilizing some good creepy visuals, the brief Return of Frybo as a nice touch to a little continuity, and Steven’s overall emotional reactions to reality tripping out around him were excellent.
The only flaw this episode had to be that while he came to the realization that he can’t always get what he wants, particularly with adults and adult responsibilities, he ruined that little moral moment by exclaiming at the end “I get everything!” and likely probably confused younger viewers.
RIP: Frybo, again.
20. Coach Steven.
(Clip Shot “Steven Universe Coach Steven,” property of Rebbecca Sugar and Cartoon Network).
This episode, we are introduced to another Gem fusion, and Steven, Sadie, Lars, and Greg decided to do a bit of exercise.
This was an episode that combined some really interesting elements with a “meh” story.
The interesting elements lie first of all in the beginning where we witness a successful, and yes, somewhat erotic merge between Garnet and Amethyst. This scene I felt was excellent at introducing the notion of provocative imagery or eroticism to a younger audience without being outright nitty gritty sexual.
Physical provocative imagery doesn’t necessarily always have to be sexual, in fact this episode reminded me much of the classical art you find at museums that can be considered physically provocative without being sexual (or at least considered sexual by today’s standards) such as the Venus de Milo or the Micealango’s David for example. This does a good job of presenting that notion of provocativeness to its audiences while at the same time also couching a moment of queer intimacy which is not normally shown on children’s shows, which is still relativity minor, especially as any sort of imagery of this nature that does pop up from time to time in children appropriate programming is often kept strictly hetero.
Sugilite by the way was also brilliantly designed with a good blend of the two Gem characters, and the final battle between her and Pearl was well executed and enjoyable, highlighting Pearl’s strength as a fighter and a role model both.
The other positive this episode was Pearl and her Jealousy over Steven’s adoration to Sugilite as a role model. Her emotions during this episode, one of the early ones to really depict Pearl’s more emotional and less prim side is always a highlight.
The meh, not bad, but not overly interesting part, was the building muscles arc. It wasn’t bad, it provided what was needed for Pearl’s arc, but it wasn’t overly interesting to watch either, though Greg and Lars had a good line here and there, particularly his deadpan “what just happened?” at the end by Lars. The other problem for this part was its combination with the strong punch opening and ending that made the scenes with the muscle building seem somewhat superfluous, and almost like it belonged to a separate episode.
Overall a good episode for specific elements, though not an all around excellent episode all the way through.
RIP Greg’s gym.
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