Sunday, April 17, 2016

Anime?: Steven Universe(Seasons 1&2 sort of)

So, I've been wanting to do this for a few weeks now, because that's when I watched all the episodes currently aired in like 3 days because that's how fucking into this thing I was. Unfortunately I was wracking my brain trying to figure out just what to say and how to explain it, but now I think I know just what to do: Just review it. I could go on and on for ages about certain things but I think that'd do the show a disservice, because by focusing on those elements I'd be doing exactly what I don't want people to be doing with this show: focusing on... you know, those elements. So instead I'll put a little pre-amble to my actual review and briefly address... some things.

To start off I think it'd be best if we started with how I came to watch this show.

Originally when this show aired I had absolutely no interest in it. It looked like one of those shitty lol so randum modern cartoons and just wasn't my thing at all. It seemed really fucking dumb. I know now that this was simply because Cartoon Network is fucking TERRIBLE at advertising its shows, and picked probably the worst clips possible to showcase the show when they advertised it, usually being shit that's not funny or is just plain stupid out of context(or is stupid in context). So I had no interest in it. I had even less interest when I heard brief mentions of the shittiness of it's fanbase but I'll get to that. So how did I come to watch this show? Well, I go to an anime club at the local college. I don't GO to this college but apparently you don't actually have to be a student there to attend, you just can't take part in anything like say voting for who the club president will be. I'm basically not a member I'm just someone who shows up hangs out and watches anime with actual members. I was told I could do this by a friend of my father's who is a professor at the college and I eventually said "eh sure why not". I assumed we'd be watching nothing but Bleach and Naruto and well... I was wrong and it's actually pretty fun. Plus I get to spread less well known anime to people and that's great. But I digress. Several weeks ago Steven Universe got chosen to be shown at the club and I was like UGH THIS IS AN ANIME CLUB THAT'S A CARTOON UGHGHGHGG but I don't really get a say because I'm not the club president and I don't even go to this college so whatever I'll deal with it. At least we were also watching Hai to Gensou no Grimgar.

However, to my surprise, I found myself really liking this show from what I saw. Sure it wasn't very complicated and I didn't know where it was gonna go with this, but it was pretty cool and there was this cute lady and lots of action and shit and it was also pretty funny. So I said well I don't got nothin better to do and continued to watch it when I got back home. And I kept watching it... and watching it... and watching it. And eventually I was done with season 2. And I fucking loved it. And I won't let you hurt my planet and I won't let you hurt my frie-

EH-HEM. Sorry about that. Anyway, point is I really like this show... but I'm not the only one. This show is very well liked... especially by. Wait for it.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN: SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS.

And basically what I wanna say about that is I don't fucking care. They like this show because of various reasons and it's all some of the least important things about the show. Such as how diverse the cast is, or how 3 of the 4 main characters are female, or how Steven isn't very masculine, or how there are OH GOODNESS LESBIANS! in this show. It's fucking stupid and I hate it. Like I said I don't wanna go into this shit because yeah I'd be focusing on shit that shouldn't be focused on when there's so much more to like about this show or how there's much more to those lesbians than just "they're lesbians". I wanna say that of fucking course SJWs love this show but you can't let things like that ruin shit for you. SJWs like a lot of things because surprisingly they're people too. The fact they like it shouldn't stop you from liking it either. It's likely that you've heard of this show and that you know of the SJWs who like it and have heard them talking about how progressive it is. You either watched it because of that and if so fuck you, or you said "well this sounds like a bunch of bullshit so I won't". Or maybe you haven't heard of this show at all somehow. Or maybe you just didn't have any interest in it like me. Well, this review is for you. Without further rambling, I present you my review.

First and foremost lemme explain why the title of this is "Anime?" and not "Cartoon". Well that's because Steven Universe is fucking anime as fuck dude. Maybe that'll come across as I go into it but if not, trust me, this show is more anime than Avatar the Last Airbender which actively tried to be an anime right down to it's artstyle. It's also the only other western animation to make me care about the plot and characters aside FROM Avatar. So yeah. Let's do this?

The premise of Steven Universe is deceptively simple, just like the majority of episodes up until a certain point in the show. It follows The Crystal Gems, a group of 3 "Gems" and a Half-Gem. You see, before Steven was born, the Crystal Gems were: Rose Quartz, Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst. But Rose Quartz had to give up her corporeal form in order to bring her son Steven into the world, as this was the only way for a human and a gem to have a child. Gems are beings from another world, aliens if you will, who's "souls" reside in magic gemstones that have the ability to project corporeal forms to interact with the world around them, as well as many other things such as summoning weapons, shapeshifting, and some forms of telekinesis. You can probably tell the half-gem half-human is Steven, who has his mother's gemstone, the rose quartz, on his stomach. But at first he doesn't have good control over his powers, and he must learn to use them in order to protect the world from strange monsters that constantly attack it, as well as other beings... The story starts of super simple, being a monster of the week type plot with light character development sprinkled in. However, over time the plot thickens, right around the halfway point of the first season... and the moral ambiguity sets in. Things are not what they initially seem and are only going to get more complicated, even from where I am now at the end of season 2. I don't want to give anything away, but this is part of what I mean by this show is anime as fuck. The antagonists, the plot lines, the characters, all feel very anime. I'll give a little bit away and say currently our heroes are attempting to stop a horrible creature growing inside the earth that's gonna bust out and destroy the whole fucking planet. You'll learn why the teleporter that goes to the Gem Homeworld is broken, what exactly these monsters are, and why there is an ancient Gem Battlefield on earth. Everything is not as it seems, and not all gems are good. But are the ones that aren't "good" bad? I wonder... moving on.

IT'S CHARACTERS TIME, THIS ONE'S GONNA BE GOOD. Much like Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, the characters are the best part of the show, and why you give a shit about all this action, comedy, and even serious plot stuff. But who ARE the characters? Like Railgun I'll just go over the 4 main characters and briefly touch upon the side characters.

Steven is our protagonist, our MC if you will. He's a young boy who may very well be autistic or at the very least a total weirdo. As I mentioned before he's not a typical male protagonist, but that fact isn't why I like him AS protagonist. First of all he starts off with TONS of room for improvement while also still being a really likeable character. Sometimes people who can't write will start their character off at 0 or worse, a negative number, as a quick and easy way to make them go through a character arc. That's not the case with Steven. While he can barely use his power, is a total spaz, and is pretty fucking naive and let's face it: wimpy, even from the beginning he's fun and likeable and it's clear he'll grow as both a gem and a person. In the very first episode he actually saves the day, and this continues to be a theme with his character. Resourcefulness is an important part of him, and it's how he solves a lot of problems. In many ways his weakness is his strength, because if he was just a powerful badass like the other gems he'd probably solve all his problems with violence and well it's proven time and time again in this show that they NEED his non-violent solutions to solve the problem or at the very least create an opening for them to solve the problem by beating it up. Another thing he has is boundless courage and bravery. Despite being a half human and thus frail compared to the gems, he risks himself constantly to save them and other people he cares about, using the shield his mother originally used to protect them. That's another thing that's cool about Steven: he's kind, loving and compassionate. This also saves the day a lot as many good things wouldn't have happened if he hadn't given some of the antagonists a chance. In fact that world destroying terror I mentioned early would have gone unknown about without that. But steven's compassion and kindness also saves the day in much less concrete ways. 2 of the Crystal Gems have some very deep emotional baggage about themselves(especially my favorite one), the kind things Steven says to them and his love for them can cheer them up when they're feeling down, inspire them to pick themselves up and defeat their foes, or just put a smile on their face. Steven represents a powerful force and a major theme in this series: Love.

Garnet also represents love, though why is a big spoiler for the season finale. I'll just say that she's "made of love" and is one of those lesbians I mentioned earlier. That said I think there's a lot more TO Garnet than just lol she's a lesbian, and I also think what she is a well developed and heartwarming. I can't go into too much detail cuz again spoilers but while some may disagree, I don't feel like she's pandery or gimmicky or anything like that. I know that "it could be worse" is not a good argument but it's still true in this case, so even if you don't really like it just remember how much worse it could be and take solace in that. But enough about that: Garnet is the de-facto leader of the Crystal Gems, as she's the most level headed and wise of them all, has heightened perception and due to her temperature resistance can go places the other gems can't... like lava. She's the strongest physically, so much so that she uses gauntlets as her weapons and just punches the shit of of things, to the point she even pulls a Jotaro this one time. She also has high endurance and threshold of pain, making her basically the tank of the quartet. Garnet is very stoic and usually monotone, which is where a lot of the humor about her comes from. She's rather literal about things and is pretty much always serious, and when she isn't it's always fun to see because it's rare and feels weird because of how she normally acts. I guess you could say she's sort of like a kuudere in that respect? But not really. Garnet is a very fun, no nonsense character, who usually controls the team very well. However, she's not really good at solving problem through anything other than violence and if it's a problem she can't punch, kick, or give a stern talking to, she's not gonna be able to do much about it. What really makes Garnet great though is once again, a spoiler. You'll just have to find out. Though she's also pretty cool so that helps.

Next is Pearl. Pearl is Best Girl. Objectively. Pearl is objectively the best gem deal with it? No but seriously she's my favorite character. She's totally fucking adorable in pretty much every way. But of course that's not the only thing good about her character. Pearl is a very troubled character, she was the closest to Rose Quartz so her "death" bothers Pearl the most. Pearl is another hard character to talk about because the best things about her are again, spoilers. However I'll say she's the OTHER lesbian of the series, as she was quite obviously deeply in love and obsessed with Rose Quartz, to the point that it actually became self-destructive. Don't wanna go into that too much but I'll say that what I like about Pearl's feelings for Rose is not that oh she's GAY HURP DERP but because she was exceedingly loyal to her. She saw herself as Rose's knight, serving her in her war, fighting alongside her, protecting her, devoting herself and her entire existence to her. Everything she did she did for Rose, but now Rose is gone... and she's still here. To make matters worse she has to take care of Rose's son, who is the very reason Rose ain't her no more. That said she clearly dearly loves Steven, even if it is just because he's Rose Quartz' son. She's very overprotective, scolds him a lot, wants to teach him all about gem culture and is always worried about him. She does her best to protect Steven, even if maybe he should be protecting her. In addition to that one of the things that makes her adorable his her lack of understanding of humans and their culture, doing things like assuming the teacups ride was for drinking tea(and bring a teapot with her), not really understanding birthdays and not really understand JOKES at first. She's also very smug and egotistical, as well as pretentious. She loves to be right and sound smart and act high and mighty, which is both adorable because she reminds me of an Oujo-sama, and also hides something deeper about her character. She might not be as confident as she appears... Anyway, she's also fucking CRAZY. She's neurotic, ocd and has a short temper despite trying to act calm and elegant all the time. When she gets into something she can generally take it way too far... like the time she nearly got herself and Steven killed trying to go to space. Despite her caring nature she can be very selfish and this can cloud her judgement in these situations. Her selfishness led to her being very jealous of Greg, Steven's father, when he and Rose were becoming close, and she attempted to sabotage their relationship and told him he was "just a phase". Pearl is probably the most flawed of all the characters while simultaneously being one of the most likeable to me, probably because of how flawed she is. Also because she's moe. Oh and also she's a total badass who fights with grace and finesse, and a spear. She also knows how to sword fight and enjoys it quite a bit, and was shown in the past to dual wield swords with great efficiency. Finally I'll add in one more thing that makes her adorable: She's got a total mom voice and all her mannerisms and gestures are super girly and feminine, so much so she was designed to look like a ballerina and even dances like one. This all probably sounds like a mess but that's what happens when I try to describe why my favorite characters are my favorite.

Finally we have Amethyst. I don't have much to say about her. I don't really like Amethyst very much. Like she's fine she's okay, mostly once you learn about her origins and all the baggage that comes with it though. I mean really she's just kind of... bleh. She's also fat and short. And a very american interpretation of the tomboy. So not one at all. She's pretty annoying too. I mean if you like her more power to ya I guess but I just don't really.

Other characters include, Connie Maheshwaren(did I spell that right?), a girl who Steven has a crush on and who has a crush on him. She becomes more important later and it actually seems like she and Steven are going to fight together a lot from now on. There's Lion, a mysterious pink lion with unknown origins who seems to have a connection to Rose. There's Lapis Lazuli, a gem with hydrokinsis powers. Peridot and Jasper, gems from the Gem Homeworld. There's this group of hipster kids who are pretty funny. Lars and Sadie, a potential couple who work at the local donut store. This Mayor who has good taste cuz he seems to like Pearl. A crazy conspiracy theorist fedora who runs a conspiracy theory blog. And finally this creepy kid(?) named "Onion".

The art of the show is not that great but it's serviceable. The animation is also okay but not great or anything and  I mean it's an american cartoon what do you expect? The music on the other hand is pretty fucking good. It's no Yuki Kajiura or Hiroyuki Sawano but hey it's still good? There are also musical numbers in this show, speaking of music. They start to appear more frequently around episode 20, which is also where the animation and art quality improves and becomes more stable. A lot of character development is done through these musical numbers and I really like them because it's fun. The songs aren't amazing or anything(aside from one in particular) but they're still good and enjoyable. Also the voice acting is pretty top notch, with the exception of Garnet's actress, Estelle. She should really stick to singing... But, overall the production values are not what's gonna keep you hooked to this show by any means but they also aren't low or anything like that.

A big problem that you might come across with this show though is the fact that it takes forever to get going. Like I said, the first hints of something bigger come at around 25 episodes in. Sure the episodes are like 11 minutes long so that's more like 12 episodes of a regular tv show but still. And after that there's still lots more slice of life episodes before shit starts to get real again. Season 2 is a lot better at this but of course you have to get through all 52 episodes of season 1 to get to that one. I personally didn't mind it because those episodes were fun and engaging and the slow buildup allowed me to get invested in the characters and their world before shit started to go down, so that I really cared about what was happening. This another similarity between it and Railgun, though that was for sure less slowly paced. I didn't have a problem with this but other people might so I mean just push on through and trust me when I say it gets good.

I mentioned that love is a big theme and driving force in this show and that's true. Love is important. Love will save the day. Love is lovely. Love or lack thereof is at the very least an indirect cause of everything that happens in this show. It's what drove Rose Quartz: a love of Earth. It's what drove Pearl, a love of Rose, and it's what drives her now: a love for Steven. It's what drives Amethyst: a love for the planet she was born on. It's what drives Garnet: a love for SPOILERS. It's what drives Steven: a love for pretty much everyone and everything around him. The Crystal Gems are strong because they have love, the bad guys will lose because they don't. The power of love is not to be underestimated. There are lots of other themes at play in Steven Universe but this seems to be the biggest one. If that sounds lame and gay to you well then you probably won't like this show. Though did I mention it's got lot of over the top action scenes? Because it does. Just because this show's about love doesn't mean they're afraid to fight and kick ass. Sometimes you gotta beat the shit out of butch women on a hand shaped spaceship that's crashing into the earth to protect the things you love.

In conclusion well I just really fucking love this show. There's lots of character development, interesting plotlines, pretty good humor, fun slice of life aspects, and just lots and lots of endearing things about it. Plus there's tons of shit to nerd out over like terminology and speculation about what's going to happen next. Please don't let the shitty tumblr fanbase ruin it for you, okay? Don't listen to them, especially when they tell you you can't watch this show unless you're LGBT. Or when they say there's fucking transgender characters in this show there fucking aren't. The absolute closest thing to that is when Steven and Connie fuse and become Stevonie(long story) and the result is a thing that's kind of androgynous and could maybe be called like a hermaphrodite or agender? But like even that's a stretch and is pretty much semantics. And really I mean they're a fucking fusion they're two people fused together and who will stop being fused like this isn't saying this shit exists in real life OH MY GOD. People are retarded.

I give these 2 seasons 5/5 magical space gemstones from beyond the stars. Please give it a shot and if you don't like it, no biggie. At least you tried.

EDIT:
I would like to note: I give Season 3 an 4/5 only, as many of the episodes toward the end were kiiiinda bad, and introduced the worst character of all(please don't google "Smokey Quartz"), and so far while season 4 has had some good episodes, it's lookin at a 3/5. I think, sadly, the show is on a decline. Some staff members have changed and I think that's a problem.

For a second opinion, and a much funnier one, watch this video.
Even the promo art looks anime.