Monday, November 16, 2015

RR Steven Universe

If you're evil and you're on the rise, you can count on the four of us taking you down!

That's why the people of this world believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl... and Steven!

What a Cartoon! Check the reviews for these following Cartoon Network series:

Name: Steven Universe Vol. 1: Gem Glow
Created by Rebecca Sugar
Original run 2013-2014
Genre Action/Adventure/Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Science-Fiction/Coming-of-age animated series

And some people keep saying cartoons are dead nowadays... It just goes to show how little some people know.

In the wake of this great new cartoon revival that brought series such as Adventure Time or Regular Show on Cartoon Network comes yet another great modern epic cartoon that mixes the mundane coming of age tale of a young boy with a scifi/fantasy alien gems' war for a backstory!

Steven Universe is the creation of Rebecca Sugar, an animator/composer who worked as writer and storyboard artist on Adventure Time from the first season to the show's 5th season.

She could keep working on both shows at the same time, so she left it to dedicate herself to Steven.

What can be said except that it took this long for CN to finally have a woman-led animated show!! (And Disney's kinda worse in that regards...)

Steven Universe follows the adventures of the titular Steven living in the fictional town of Beach City.

Steven has quite a rich complicated background. You see, he's half-human and half-gem. He lives with the Crystal Gems, a race of human-shaped alien gem warriors. Their former leader - and Steven's mother - Rose Quartz has passed away, and Steven and his "foster moms" Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl live in this ancient temple located near the beach.

The series follow Steven as he starts following them on the Crystal Gems' various adventures to clean the mess of Gem-based alien technology left wandering around the world after some kind of war.

Through his journey Steven learns about his gem heritage and starts mastering his own powers. He also makes various friends in Beach City such as Sadie and Lars who work at the local donut store and this girl Connie he met once at the beach. We also discover more about his mother through his father Greg Universe's past.

Meanwhile, the threat of the Gem Homeworld looms in the distance...

Steven Universe is a great action/comedy/drama/fantasy/science-fiction series, much in the same style of Adventure Time.

Most of the show was imagined by Rebecca Sugar to be everything she would have wanted to see from a show growing up on cartoons. Steven himself was based on her younger brother Steven Sugar (who also works on show occasionally as a background artist).

Thanks to its female creator, there's a strong female presence on the show, which I think it's great and it's about time we get a series like this. The series might revolve around a growing boy, yet all the major characters are basically female. Yeah, I know the gems' are supposed to be genderless, but I'm glad their default appearance and voices are female.

In a strange way the show reminds me a lot of a reverse-Transformers. Both series revolve around an ancient alien race of shape-shifting non-organic beings split in two main factions and fighting their continuing to fight their war on Earth after centuries. Only instead of making all their alien protagonists visibly male (come on, we all know the female robots came much later, and are still the minority in the universe) they made them female for a change.

It's time to break some gender stereotypes and properly update standards for kids towards today's world.

The show is produced between Cartoon Network Studios and the famous Korean studio Rough Draft which also worked on such things as The Simpsons Movie and Futurama. A show like Steven Universe is basically entirely directed by the storyboard artists and writers who come up with the basic outlines for every episodes, then send their storyboard art to Rough Draft's animation crew. Which mean the show's mostly in the hands of these storyboard artists. They each contribute and have a huge hand in the look and feel of every episode depending on the artists.

The series stars the young Zach Callison as Steven alongside such great people as the British singer Estelle Swaray voicing Garnet, Michaela Dietz in the role of Amethyst and Deedee Magno as Pearl. Those four are the heart and soul of the show, covering so many emotions through the numerous song numbers. Comedian Tom Scharpling plays Steve's dad, Greg Universe and he also sings some terrific songs over the course of the series. But also Matthew Moy, the always fantastic and lovely Kate Micucci, Grace Rolek, Shelby Rabara and many more!

Steven Universe is a very intriguing show, with very interesting characters and world. It's funny how the series works as sort of opposite escapism, where we get to see fantasy characters interested in the more "real" mundane life. Steven himself kind of representing this mix between our reality and a fantasy world.

It's a slice-of-life type of story.

It's also a Western cartoon series very much inspired by Japanese, it has that same type of tone and even plays with a love of anime visual cues. Kind of like a superhero series through the point of view of the likes of Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball and the like.

The do such a great work foreshadowing storylines. The show relies a bit too much on a "monster of the week" formula early on but it gets better. They don't overwhelm the audience with exposition but introduce us to this complex world through Steven's perspective. And the show can be quite self-aware and pretty funny too! They're even able to bring serious discussions about genders, society and expectations through such an innocent cartoon.

Adventure Time might deal with the transition from childhood into adulthood, while Regular Show seems fixated on the 20-something eternal slacker-generation, Steven Universe has a sort of genuine affection to the simplicity of childhood. We begin the adventure with Steven tagging along the Crystal Gems... as he starts proving himself a worthy addition to the Gems on his own right.

So long, as far as home releases go, Cartoon Network hasn't given the full treatment to Steven as they did with their more popular older series. We only received one of their usual generic single DVD set contained a few episodes. Steven Universe: Gem Glow contains 12 episodes. Special features are a bit thin, but we do get a good bonus in the form of the show's original episode which featured radically different character designs and animation (but already the same tone and heart, and the beginning of Steven's great ukulele skills - actually played by Rebecca Sugar herself).

The only real problem I have so far.. Cartoon Network has done it again... Despite how far into Season 2 we already are, they only released this random collection set of episodes as they tend to do first. It kind of contains the first 12 episodes (more or less), and the random episode 22 "Steven and the Stevens" thrown in there for no reason (which I adore, by the by). As fun and episodic as the show is, it's a really bad move on CN's part since the show relies so much on characterization and character development, slowly revealing the overall plot. Watching the series out of order is not really recommended nor the best way to enjoy the show... I really suggest you all wait for an actual full DVD/Bluray box-set containing the entire 52 first episodes which ran from November 2013 to March 2015. 

Update: The show's entire 1st season's finally now available through MadMan, which is a perfect alternative while some wait for CN's proper home release.

Steven Universe is a fantastic animated series for both children and adult alike. It holds up pretty well compared to CN's best outings.

The series already received plenty of praise for its design, art, animation, voice acting, music and strong characterization and world building work.

It's a ground-breaking series that has already received several nominations and awards for its quality at the Annie Award and even a nomination at the Emmy Awards.

Music plays a huge part on the show. It's brilliantly composed by Rebecca Sugar herself and composers Aivi & Surasshu and Jeff Liu. Sugar wrote various song numbers and the writers carefully crafted the lyrics of each song. The show plays with all kinds of music very reminiscent of old school 16-bit SNES RPG games. From retro chiptunes' aesthatic to the gorgeous Ghibli-esque musical score, smooth jazz and goofy tunes. The music is simply magic!

Overall, Steven Universe is a welcome relatively recent addition to Cartoon Network's lineup. On the first look it seems like another one of these silly "dumb" CN cartoons following yet another annoying kid, but it's so much more! You'll quickly find yourself enjoying it more and more. It's a great cartoon, episodes are simply way too short and fly by so fast. You really wish they could have released a Complete 1st Season set right away.

Continuing from Cartoon Network's excellent new series' revival, it's one of the best action/comedy/fantasy series produced in years, easily one of my favorite new series and it's A Must Watch!

Some of the best writing, voice acting and music in a children's cartoon in ages. It's episodic. It looks amazing, although the animation is known to occasionally be a bit wonky in a few odd episodes here and there when characters stray slightly off model. But it's a really great new series, and off to a great start.

The show quickly developed a huuuuge fandom thanks to the social interaction from the "Crewniverse" behind the show on platforms such as tumblr and what have you. (I admit I personally draw a ton of fanart of it.)

The show is currently airing its 2nd Season and it was already renewed for a 3rd Season!

There also was a fairly odd random but funny crossover with another CN original, Uncle Grandpa ("Say Uncle") early in Season 2. It was a lot better than it had any right to be, although part of me kinda wish it had been done with Adventure Time or Clarence instead, to be honest.

So far the show has been expanded into several other mediums. There's been several "Classroom Gems" animated shorts, companion books such as the Guide to the Crystal Gems, a surprisingly decent light RPG game for smartphone devices Steven Universe: Attack the Light! developed by Grumpyface Studios which was pretty fun and captured the tone of the show alright, all sorts of comics published through BOOM! Studios since August 2014 - they already launched a couple of graphic novels and one shot comics along the main ongoing series - and we're finally beginning to get some toylines!

Might the show last as long and gain as much popularity and visibility as its "big brother" Adventure Time!

I give it:
3 / 3 Felixes!

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