If I could begin to be
Half of what you think of me
I could do about anything
I could even learn how to love like you
I thought long and hard about what I should do to follow up my Lord of the Rings series. I seriously considered The Last Unicorn (as I think I always do), but that is both too short and too deep for my purposes – said purposes being a series which wouldn’t take up too much brainspace, and preferably one that will last me a while so that I won’t face this same conundrum again any time soon. In short, I aim to return to college within the next year, and I wanted something I could keep working on in my spare time. And then I met Steven Universe.
Of course, the main reason I had trouble deciding is that I’ve already covered my “favorites” (or at least the ones that are suitable to this format) – I’d covered them before I got to Lord of the Rings, as that series was almost like an obligation thanks to how foundational it is in so many respects. And while the stories themselves are impossible for me to pick an “absolute” favorite from, my favorite series to write (and the one which I’m most satisfied with in general) was Princess Tutu. I love animation, and I love good children’s stories, and I really love when I can engage with both at once (this is also why I’m pulling for an animated Chronicles of Narnia – seriously it would be AWESOME). So I guess it was inevitable that I would do a cartoon series eventually. And this one, while it merely stands as my favorite American cartoon, made the cut for two main reasons: Its many anime references, and the empathy it shows to all its characters.
As far as anime references go, the main influence (both in terms of imagery and themes) comes from Revolutionary Girl Utena, so this may provide a convenient excuse for me to discuss that show. One other (non-anime) reference point is A Wrinkle in Time, which also happens to be a fascinating story that I’ve never gotten the chance to discuss in-depth, although it isn’t nearly as obvious since it’s more of a thematic and structural influence.
But it’s the empathy that really makes me love this show, even when I disagree with it (which is fairly often). There are dozens of characters throughout the show, and although there’s frequent conflict, none of them are ever dismissed as simply “evil” – there are all of two unrepentant jerks in the entire cast, and even then it’s presented more like, “You’ll meet jerks sometimes. Don’t waste time hating them.” Sometimes the show gets a bit out of its depth with the kinds of characters it tries to present (like PTSD Gem!), but I have to give them props for trying.
Overall, this is mostly a fun, chill show, a place you’d love to hang out (even with occasionally life-threatening shenanigans) and characters you’d love to hang out with (often ones you’d like to have by your side in case of said shenanigans). At its best, it fits more character development into 11 minutes than some movies do in 3 hours; at its worst, it’s still interesting (and over in 11 minutes).
Unfortunately, only the first two seasons are currently available on home video in North America, but it is widely available streaming and can be rent/purchased digitally on just about any platform. The alleged final season, Steven Universe Future, just ended in the middle of a character arc, but this show has a bad habit of ending seasons on cliffhangers, so I’m assuming there will be some sort of follow-up (and hopefully it won’t actually continue indefinitely, because I’m a big fan of stories with endings). It should be fun either way!
See you in the future…