“Steven Universe” Premiere Recap: “Gem Glow” and “Laser Light Cannon”

Coming of age tales are usually found in Judy Blume pages or John Hughes films, but that’s not the case as far as Rebecca Sugar’s concerned. She’s the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network all by her lonesome and she’s gone and made Steven Universe, the story of a boy with a powerful gem but no clue how to use it. He lives with three drastically different, fellow gem holders known as the Crystal Gems. Each week it seems like we’ll dive deeper into Steven’s universe in Beach City as he learns all his gem has to offer.

“Gem Glow” was a good introductory into the four main characters and even a minor one who may or may not have stolen my heart—Lars the stock boy, even animated bad boys have the ability to make me all giddy. Anyways, Steven’s distressed over his favorite ice-cream treat, Cookie Cats, have been taken off the market. You might think he’s a bit overdramatic. To those who do, you must’ve never been in love with a food item before. Don’t even get me started on when Hometown Buffet discontinued the chicken and dumplings at dinner.

Knowing Steven would be upset, the Gems stock up the freezer and Steven’s so delighted he raps lamenting Cookie Cats are “pets for your tummy.” While all this goes down his belly gem glows. This is a shock because while the other Gems are fully aware of their gems powers, Steven’s oblivious about his. He then goes on to believe his frozen treat is what summoned a shield from his shiny stone. Of course it wasn’t. I am going to guess that it was his pure happiness. Stay tuned the rest of the season to see if I’m right about it and congratulate me with a Cookie Cat.

Learning what his gem does and how to use it leads us to learn each of the other Gems distinct personalities. Pearl is Little Miss Responsible, Amethyst is carefree and well, lazy, and Garnet is the strong silent type. She says very few words but is intimidating as hell. (Note: Keep in mind that these are their final forms compared to the pilot. Pearl’s more ghostlike, Garnet has an afro, and Lars is hotter.)

It appears that all the episodes will showcase the characters on a humanistic level while some sort of danger looms in the air. They battled centipedles in this one and a giant Red Eye in the sky in “Laser Light Cannon.” Not only did they end up defeating the sky terror, but we kind of learn why Steven lives with three chicks. Mama, Rose Quartz, was a Gem who gave up her physical form to have Steven, and now he has her stone.

It turns out the only way to get rid of the Red Eye is to take it down with Steven’s mom’s laser light cannon. Only problem is that she’s not around. They must seek the help of Steven’s dad, Greg (voiced by Tom Scharpling of the cult radio show The Best Show on WFMU). He’s “kind of a mess” according to Amethyst. She was being kind because that “kind of” should’ve been a straight up “total.” He has a horrific, yet amusing farmer’s tan, lives in a van and is a failed musician. Mr. Universe never stood a chance although his (likely only) song “Let Me Drive My Van (Into Your Heart” was a delight.

They save their town, sort of, with Greg’s motto, “If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” That’s muttered numerous times and everyone seems to know it, so it seems like that’s the underlined mantra of the series; life’s not perfect but the mistakes we make may lead to greatness. Yes, hot dogs are the greatness in this scenario.


  • heyheyhey

    This is great but maybe more about the art and animation in the particular episodes? This being an animation site frequented by animators I think that would be more interesting than plot recaps.

    Love the inclusion of the GIF, that was my favorite scene in the episode.

    • jmahon

      I was happy to find that nearly all the artists on this show have a tumblr account- they post artwork, gifs, works-in-progress and other neat things, and I think most of it is being collected on http://stevencrewniverse.tumblr.com/ with credits and links for everybody!

      I think the latest generation of shows being produced have this amazing bonus of being almost “open source” in a way, where the materials and storyboards and other details about their creation, as well as the thoughts of their producers, are open for anybody to enjoy. It gives the viewer a sense of inclusion that is lots of fun and really encouraging. Lots of people can ask questions they can choose to answer, and it just seems like a really awesome creative atmosphere they have going, and it’s only just started.

      Personally what I love is that the backgrounds and skies and clouds remind me of the retro video game Kirby’s Dreamland, which is a gorgeous classic game with legendary art design… and no doubt this show has taken a fair bit of inspiration from retro video games.

      • heyheyhey

        Oh my god that link is amazing, thanks for sharing.

        I particularly loved the background when Pearl was trying to teach Steven how to use his gem. Very beautiful.

      • Morpheus

        The ‘open source’ analogy aptly describes what is going on with the current generation of animated shows, for the most part. This trend is not only refreshing but arguably the healthiest way for every creative in the production pipeline to potentially communicate directly with the audience. Thirty or forty years ago animation employees would have been gassed, fired and their remains then buried by hostile studio and network executives for even daring to attempt such openness. Let’s hope it continues. It’s lawyers that should be buried.

  • http://deaniac.deviantart.com/ Deaniac

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who believes the summoning of Steven’s gem power is linked to happiness. Virtual high five!

    Steven Universe is an absolute pleasure to watch. The music is lovely, the action scenes are engaging, and the animation looks swell. It’s just a very atmospheric show in general. I’m glad Rebecca Sugar finally got her own series and I hope it gets its ratings worth. CN needs to keep this show on the air for a long time.

    • Domonic Thomas

      I agree 100%, the shows chip tune BGM gives you (well, this may be more so for the 80′s-90′s kids) this deep sense of nostalgia, yet the animation and action scenes are sort’ve more “up to date” creating what I believe to be the perfect “harmony” (“Giant Woman”) of past and present to create a show that can connect with multiple generations.

      The more I watch this show, the more I really wanna meet and have a sit-down with Rebecca Sugar :)

  • http://twitter.com/RacattackForce Racattack_Force

    I thought that Steven Universe was a lot of fun, myself. The character designs, despite having been simplified since the initial pilot, still feel very much like Rebecca Sugar’s signature style. The backgrounds are also fantastically drawn and help push the melding of fantasy and mundane that Rebecca has mentioned in interviews. The musical score is nice to listen to, with all the songs so far being amazingly catchy. Overall, I’m really enjoying “Steven Universe” so far, and can’t wait for next week’s episode.

  • Rufus Chickenplight

    Great. Liked it a lot. Especially pleased to see Kevin Dart be a part of this and Rebecca’s finally introducing some new ways to draw things.

  • Paul M

    I watched it but couldn’t get into it, despite being a fan of Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Bee & Puppycat. An overweight kid who is mollycoddled by three older girls and whose secret power comes from eating ice cream sandwiches doesn’t really spin my knobs, in spite of the obvious quality of the animation.

    • the Gee

      This seems like a stupid question and I don’t mean to be intrusive but do you have an/any older sisters? Or, younger brothers?
      The familial vibe in the show is one of what would be called a dysfunctional family. Yet, obviously, it is one that is structured differently than most and features the “kid on his own with his cool(er) friends who are living the dream or doing what they gotta do”. It is that type of cast that probably goes back to or predates “Scooby Doo”. But, with this show, they quickly introduced the missing family in the form of the dad (deadbeat, yet kind of delightful) and the mom (deceased and revered). That’s not typical.

      The kid, Steven, is how old? Does it matter? He’s got the energy and exuberance of a kid of a certain age. That said, he almost comes across as kind of grounded. Actually, they all seem to be grounded in particular ways in that each one seem to accept who they are. That stands out a lot in the dad character. While I don’t exactly dig the philosophy of “It is what it is” his character pushes it to include that Pork Chops and Hot Dogs line. That works well for the show.

      I like it. It’s only a pilot and one episode. But it seems to be off to a good start and could be better than most of the current batch of easy going characters in extraordinary situations that seem to make up shows now.

      And, like Rufus Chickenplight below, I smiled a wide grin knowing Kevin Dart is a part of this. I’m glad to hear that.
      (

      • Paul M

        Just the 1 younger sister, which was pain enough ;).

        Fair points, but either way I just couldn’t get into the characters. I’ll keep watching for a while, but the bottom line is everyone has different tastes, and passions are not transferable.

        It kind of boggles my mind that some commenters think Adventure Time is a terrible cartoon, in spite of seeming to be well versed fans of animation. I’m not saying I think S.U. is bad, just not for me.

        • theGee

          I think I understand.

          The Steven character and his relationship with gems, and with his dad, too, in a way, is familiar to me. It’s like recognizing why your younger brother or sister acts like that. You get it when you see it and it isn’t that annoying. In fact, it is kind of cool. Somehow that stuck out when I watched it.

          If it had been weirder or more absurd then I guess that would have been nice to see, too. But I can totally see how this episode might not click. For instance, the fight scenes are pretty much action oriented; not really funny or trying to be funny. The fights were lopsided in each story. They all handled the first ones easily enough, including the mom (in almost video game fashion). The Red Eye…they would have beat it somehow. They just got really sentimental throughout the final battle. That was unexpected and nice.

          Nice is alright. So is charming. I might hate the next ones. I don’t know.

          • http://joecorrao.blogspot.com/ Joe Corrao

            you better ;)

  • ddrazen

    The subtext about Rose Quartz, whose likeness(?) forms part of the beach City landscape, is a very skillful application of Heart to a series that could have been a wall-to-wall goof on superheroes interacting with a human and his dopey dad. It wasn’t pushed too hard but is definitely part of the show.

    And I have to confess that Pearl is my favorite because she looks like she might have been designed by Osamu Tezuka.

    • SarahJesness

      Ah, I knew her design looked familiar! Even if that wasn’t the intent of the artists, that’s totally the vibe I was getting.

  • Vincent Tilghman

    Loved this show. Hope is does well.

  • Funkybat

    This show stands out to me not only because of the art style, but because the story being told is actually pretty heartfelt and affecting for a show with 12-minute long episodes. Even with the “using magic to protect the world from monsters” and “young protege discovering himself through adventures” aspects, it feels very fresh and different. Proof that there are always new and entertaining ways to tell classic stories, in the right creative hands, anyway.

  • Tracy mccain

    I love the show but one thing bothers me remember before the show was out and the preview had this epic like techno song in the background I can’t find what it is all I can find is we are the crystal gems the song I’m talking about is no vocals mostly all electronic it’s bugging me to deth