The critique of the content of the show was written by my colleague Ben Belcher.
It has been seven years since this absolute gem of a show premiered on Cartoon Network, and it is by a very wide margin my favorite cartoon. I’m the guy who can sing all the songs, and cranks them up in my car. I never expected to like this show. In fact, I wanted to dismiss it completely at first. Luckily however, it found me at just the right time to hit my heart just the right way. What starts off as a goofy madcap adventure with a young boy and his three alien caretakers evolves into an absolute masterpiece of a coming-of-age story.
Season one starts off wacky, but things escalate quickly. We’re first introduced to the titular Steven (Zach Callison), a 13-year-old boy living in the fictional Beach City with his guardians: Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno). The cast is magnificent. They capture their characters from the very beginning and they only get better as the show evolves. I can’t stress enough how much I love everyone in this show. Tom Scharpling as Greg and Shelby Rabara as Peridot stand out as personal favorites, and you’ll understand why very quickly as you watch.
The pieces of the epic that is to come are laid in quietly and with patience. Even locations that you might think are just interesting set dressings can have monumental importance later. From a strawberry field littered with armaments to Steven’s own home, keep your eyes peeled. Even a song in the first episode seemingly about cat-shaped ice cream sandwiches is more than it might seem.
Season one takes our hero and heroines to various different ancient cities from what is revealed to be an ancient civil war between Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, and her “Crystal Gems” and the ruling body of their home world, the Diamonds. Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are the only humanoid gem aliens left on the planet after a horrific attack rendering all of the other gems “corrupted” and unable to take their proper forms. Steven, the Crystal Gems, and a host of friends including a magical pink lion and the lovely and clever Connie (Grace Rolek) subdue these gem monsters in hopes of someday finding a cure and keeping the Earth safe… until they reach “the Kindergarten.”
What follows includes mysteries about fragmented gems, epic space battles, giant women, a human zoo, a drumhead trial, and the most satisfying conclusion to a show since Avatar the Last Airbender. I truly can’t say more without spoiling huge chunks of the show, but take my word for it, you definitely want to watch this show. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry multiple times throughout the show.
I mentioned earlier that I could sing along with all the songs in this show, and I wasn’t kidding. The musical numbers in this show are fantastic. They show us so much about all of the different characters. Songs like, “It’s Over Isn’t It?,” “Comet,” “Stronger Than You,” and so many more are a huge part of what makes this show so amazing.
The music evolves with the show in a really interesting way as well. Starting off mostly as music set in the background, the songs eventually become part of the language of the show. Songs become part of the dialogue as a whole.
On its face Steven Universe is a goofy show about a boy helping save the world, but there is a lot more going on. Over the course of the series Steven and company tackle themes ranging from healthy and unhealthy relationships, family, honesty, betrayal, and so many more I couldn’t list them all if I tried.
This show championed LGBTQA+ representation and fought governments for the ability to tell the story they wanted to. Seriously, China fought really hard against a lot in this show (they even added a mustache to one character). It took a lot of hard work on creator Rebecca Sugar’s part to bring us this gem, and I thank her for her struggle. It truly is a labor of love and it shows.
Whether you’re sitting down for the 1st or 100th time Steven Universe is a spectacle literally anyone can enjoy. The story is fantastic. The characters are charming, witty, clever, and lovable to a fault. The music and songs throughout are heartwarming and simultaneously heartbreaking. This is my favorite cartoon, and I sincerely think it could be yours too.
Steven Universe: The Complete Collection comes to DVD in a 15-Disc set with a 480p transfer that looks great despite the lack of a HD option. These discs lack the definition that a Blu-Ray would provide, but it does avoid an abundance of digital anomalies such as artifacting and digital noise. This is a show bursting with lively colors throughout most of the run, but it lacks a visual pop off the screen due to format limitations. The disc provides fairly deep black levels for a clean viewing experience free of crush. The animation style is one of the standout aspects of the series, and line detail remains appropriately strong throughout with only occasional instances of blurring along edges. The DVD presentation is a very enjoyable experience, but I would probably faint from happiness if this one ever made its way to Blu-Ray.
This release boasts a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that gets the job done well but feels a bit restrained during some of the more active moments. Dialogue is rendered pretty clear with no issues of clipping during more kinetic moments. There is a fair amount of weight in the mix during the chaos of certain confrontations, but it does not hit you in the chest like you wish it would. The heart and soul of the series is the memorable music, which this track provides with pleasing fidelity and clarity. Warner Bros. has done a decent job with this audio track considering the limitations of the format. There are optional subtitles including English SDH provided for those who desire them.
- Behind The Music: A ten-minute conversation with creator Rebecca Sugar in which she discusses the inspiration for the series and the importance of music to the story. It is fun to hear about how she approaches the development of new songs for the show and how she never wants it to seem like an afterthought. This featurette goes beyond just talking about music as it offers many interesting insights into the characters.
- Listening Party: An 18-minute featurette which captures a special event held in Los Angeles in 2017 in which fans gathered for a night of celebrating the series by listening to newly remastered songs from the show along with a live Q&A with Rebecca Sugar. She discusses the music in the show, revisiting songs for the album, Zach Callison growing up and how that affected the sound of the songs, background anecdotes about the songs and more. This is a blast for fans!
- Music Video Performances: Rebecca Sugar and company perform lovely renditions of the following songs live: Something Entirely New, It’s Over Isn’t It, Love Like You, Here Comes A Thought and What’s The Use Of Feeling (Blue)?
- Animatics: Very rough animatics are provided for the following: Gem Glow, Full Disclosure, Steven The Sword Fighter, Steven And The Stevens and Island Adventure.
- Song Demos: Rough, early versions of Be Wherever You Are and Full Disclosure are provided here. It is cool to see how the songs evolved into what we got in the series.
- Animatics: Very rough animatics are provided for the following: Sworn To The Sword, Keystone Motel, The Answer, We Need To Talk, Onion Friend, Catch And Release and Love Letters.
- Animatics: Select rough animatics are provided for the following: Hit The Diamond, Mr. Greg, Alone At Sea and Greg The Babysitter.
- Animatics: A mixture of select and full animatics from the following: Mindful Education, Last One Out Of Beach City, Three Gems And A Baby and That Will Be All.
- Animatics: Select rough animatics are provided for the following: The Question, Reunited and Change Your Mind
Steven Universe The Movie
- Behind The Curtain – Steven Universe The Movie: A 58-minute documentary which chronicles the development of the movie from its basis in a real-life phone mishap to shaking up the characters and creating new songs. The creative team took great care in trying to balance the unique spectacle of the movie with the strong character moments you expect from the series. Not only are you taken through the creative process in all its forms from beginning to end, but this documentary provided a lot of really cool behind-the-scenes footage that feels special.
- Rebecca Pitches Act 3: A 34-minute featurette which captures Rebecca Sugar pitching her vision of the third act to her team. While it is fascinating getting these peeks into her brain throughout the pitch along with rough animatics, I derived the most fun from the reactions from some of the team members.
- Animatics With Commentary From The Crewniverse: Select rough animatics are provided for the following sequences: Happily Ever After, Other Friends, True Kinda Love and Change. Optional commentary is provided for these sequences by Rebecca Sugar, Joe Johnston, Kat Morris, Hilary Florido, Miki Brewster and Jeff Liu.
Steven Universe Future
- Animatics: A mixture of select and full rough animatics are provided for the following: Why So Blue?, Fragments and I Am My Monster.
- Music Videos
- Stronger Than You: Estelle performs for a gathering of Steven Universe fans at a joyous celebration.
- True Kinda Love: A more traditional video is provided with inventive animation accompanying Estelle.
- Other Friends Multi-Language Version: This two-minute song is provided with shifting languages including Italian, Spanish, Cantonese and more. This is a really inventive addition.
- Steven Universe Pilot: The eight-minute previously online-exclusive pilot is provided here, and it is incredibly entertaining.
- Steven Universe Mini-sodes: Eleven shorts totaling 22 minutes are included here featuring the Gems teaching in a classroom, Steven co-hosting a cooking show with a lion and more. These are very funny and worth your time.
- Steven Universe Sing-A-Long Movie: As the title implies, a sing-a-long version of the movie is provided here for those who really want to get into the fun.
Steven Universe is a show that continually showcases how far animation has come since its inception as an artform. The show is brimming with such rich, thoughtful storytelling and characters in which you get completely invested. That is not even taking into account the seemingly nonstop hilarity that is conjured up by creator Rebecca Sugar and company. For the first time, the complete run of this show has been brought together on DVD in one 15-Disc Collector’s Edition Storybook that sports a pleasing A/V presentation and many interesting special features. Those who are a fan of inventive, boundary-pushing animation with tons of humor and heart should consider this a must-own. Highly Recommended
Steven Universe: The Complete Collection is currently available to purchase on DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the DVD.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.