In this first episode, we get to know our core cast of characters and the basics of the magic system (because Steven is totally a magical girl).
First off Steven is adorable and I completely understand the Crystal Gems’ desire to keep him happy. And speaking of the Crystal Gems, this first episode has only its theme song as a general indicator of the quality of the songs in this show, which is insanely catchy and short enough to memorize in only a few episodes. The only “song” in this episode is the Cookie Cat Rap, which is basically just there to show Steven’s dedication to an ice cream sandwich, which is actually kind of adorable. As for the theme song, I never skip it, partly because it’s pretty short, but it also helps set the mood, as a good theme song should, and helps clue us into the general dynamic of “Steven’s the tagalong kid for a trio of superheroines who save the world from…something.”
So the story begins when Steven discovers his beloved Cookie Cats are being discontinued.
Lars: Well, if you miss your wimpy ice cream so much, why don’t you make some with your magic belly button?
Steven: That’s not how it works, Lars…right?
Why yes, Lars IS kind of a jerk. He does get better…eventually…
Anyhow, Steven has a gem himself, but unlike his magical guardians/mentors, hasn’t been able to do anything with it yet.
He is rather unfazed when he finds these acid-spewing critters crawling all over his home, though.
Steven: Aw, you don’t have to get rid of them. They’re really cool!
But of course the Crystal Gems make an executive decision and smash them all anyway because they’re kind of destroying their home (or at least Steven’s – the other Gems evidently live within the adjacent “Temple”).
In case you haven’t noticed, this show is very pink (despite having a male main character). I think this is part of the reason I consider this a magical girl show (though hardly the only reason) – because practically every self-respecting magical girl show features a protagonist (usual the title character) with a pink color scheme.
Anyhow, Steven discovers a stash of Cookie Cats in the freezer.
Steven: Where did you get these? I thought they stopped making them!
Pearl: Well, we heard that too, and since they’re your favorite –
Amethyst: We went out and stole a bunch!
Pearl: I went back and paid for them.
Garnet: The whole thing was my idea.
Amethyst: It was everyone’s idea!
Garnet: Not really.
Pearl: All that matters is that Steven is happy.
They all clearly love him, even if they have vastly different ways of showing it.
Then his gem starts glowing while he’s savoring his beloved Cookie Cat, but as soon as he becomes aware of it, he panics and the light fades. Now that he’s activated his gem for the first time, though, he’s eager to learn how to use it to summon a weapon like the others: Pearl has some sort of sword/lance thing, Amethyst has a whip, and Garnet has a pair of…brass fists? I’ve never been entirely clear on what that was supposed to be.
The Gems, for their own parts, are just as eager to show off how they summon their own weapons. Pearl does hers with grace, beauty, and precision, while Amethyst doesn’t seem to put in any effort at all. Steven is understandably confused.
Steven: So I’m supposed to work really hard and not try at all at the same time?
Very helpful for the child, Garnet.
Steven: Maybe I’m not a real Crystal Gem…
Pearl: Don’t be silly, Steven, of course you are!
Amethyst: And you’re fun to have around, even if your gem is useless- I mean, you’re one of us, Steven. We’re not the Crystal Gems without you.
Steven: Yeah, even if I don’t have powers, I still have…Cookie Cat!
He’s such a kid and I love it.
But once he finally relaxes to enjoy the Cookie Cat, his gem starts glowing again, and this time his “weapon” appears: A shield.
Steven: Cookie Cat…I summon my weapon by eating ice cream!
I love you, Steven Universe.
But then the “mother” monster shows up, and Steven is determined to use his newfound powers to help his friends.
Steven: Cookie Cat Crystal Combo Powers, activate!
See? He thinks he’s in a magical girl show, too!
Unfortunately, he still has no idea how to control his power (hint: it’s not actually the ice cream). But he still does his best, with or without powers, when his friends are cornered, resulting in his precious Cookie Cat fridge falling victim to the acid centipede.
So he decides the next best thing to a magic shield is throwing the busted fridge, and it’s actually surprisingly effective. Yes, he does appear to be much stronger than your average kid.
The other Crystal Gems manage to finish the monster off after it’s been electrocuted, but the battle is not victimless.
Steven: Farewell, sweet Cookie Cats…I’ll always remember the time we spent together.
Amethyst: Are you crying?
Steven: Only a little!
This episode does a lot to flesh out the personalities of the other Crystal Gems, but in a small way, it also encapsulates why I find Steven such an endearing protagonist: He’s willing to risk everything to help his friends, and he also wears his heart on his sleeve.
Until next time…