Steven Universe is an American animated television series created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network. It is the coming-of-age story of a young boy named Steven Universe, who lives in the fictional town of Beach City with the "Crystal Gems" – Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst, three magical humanoid aliens. Steven, who is half-Gem, goes on adventures with his friends and helps the Gems protect the world from their own kind. Sugar developed the series while working as a writer and storyboard artist on Adventure Time, and it premiered on November 4, 2013 as Cartoon Network's first animated series to be solely created by a woman.
The series has received critical acclaim for its art design, music, voice acting, characterization and its science-fantasy worldbuilding, and has a broad and active fanbase. It was nominated for two Emmy Awards and five Annie Awards. Books, comics, and a video game based on the series have been released.
Steven Universe was renewed for its fourth and fifth seasons in March 2016, and the current fourth season premiered on August 11, 2016.
The series is set in the fictional Beach City on the Delmarva Peninsula on the American East Coast, where the Crystal Gems live in an ancient beachside temple, protecting humanity from monsters and other threats. Ageless alien warriors, they project feminine humanoid forms from magical gemstones that are the core of their being. The Crystal Gems are Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven, a young half-human, half-Gem boy who inherited his gemstone from his mother, the Crystal Gems' past leader Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out his gradually expanding range of powers, he spends his days with his human father Greg, his friend Connie, the other people in Beach City, or the Gems. He explores the abilities passed down to him by his mother, which include fusion—the ability of Gems to merge their bodies and abilities to form new and more powerful personalities.
The first season slowly reveals that the Crystal Gems are remnants of a great interstellar civilization. Many places they visit are ruins once important to Gem culture, but now derelict for millennia. The Gems are cut off from their homeworld, and Steven learns that many of the monsters and artifacts they encounter are Gems who, corrupted by a Gem weapon of mass destruction, can no longer maintain rational humanoid forms. In parallel, flashbacks relayed by Greg develop the history of Rose Quartz and her relationships. By the end of the first season, Steven learns that the Homeworld Gems intended to sterilize the Earth to incubate new Gems within it. Now, 5,000 years after Rose led the other Crystal Gems in a violent and apparently successful rebellion against these genocidal plans, the Homeworld's machinations once again extend towards the Earth with the arrival of two hostile envoys, Peridot and Jasper. In the second season, Peridot is forced to ally with the Crystal Gems to prevent Earth's destruction by a Gem abomination growing in the planet's core. In the third season, Peridot and Lapis Lazuli, an errant Homeworld Gem, join the Crystal Gems. Jasper is at length defeated, and Steven learns that his mother killed one of Gem society's four matriarchs, Pink Diamond.
Steven Universe Edit
The titular protagonist of the series, Steven is the enthusiastic youngest and only male member of the Crystal Gems. His characterization is loosely inspired by the series creator Rebecca Sugar's younger brother Steven Sugar, who is also a background artist for the show. Steven's portrayal as a male character whose heroism is based on traditionally feminine-coded attributes such as empathy and nurturing, and who seeks to live up to the legacy of his heroic mother, has drawn favorable reaction from critics.
In the context of the show, Steven is the son of Greg Universe, a human musician, and Rose Quartz, the former leader of the Crystal Gems. Rose is described as having "given up her physical form to bring [Steven] into the world" as the first Gem-human hybrid; her rose quartz gemstone is embedded in his navel. At the time of the show's narrative, he is 13–14 years old, but appears younger (due to the interaction of his gem's magic with his aging process). Steven is caring, protective, brave, gentle, quick to make friends and forgive others, and eager to help the people he loves with their problems; his optimism is often a source of strength for the other Crystal Gems. His gem gives him a wide range of magical abilities; one of the long-term story arcs of the series is his progress in learning about and mastering these abilities, beginning in the first episode with his first successful attempt to summon his "Gem weapon", a shield. Other long-lasting character arcs involving Steven include his anxiety about filling his mother's place in the Crystal Gems and living up to her example, and his developing friendship with his human best friend, Connie.
The disciplined current leader of the Crystal Gems, Garnet is the strongest of the four. She is quiet, stoic, pragmatic, and described by Steven as "mysterious", but over the course of the series she becomes more emotionally open, especially in expressing her love for Steven. According to the writers, her great self-confidence is reflected in the fact that she never asks questions. She possesses red garnets embedded in her hands, from which she summons her Gem weapon, a pair of heavy gauntlets. She also has a precognitive ability she refers to as "future vision". Garnet has three eyes, over which she wears a visor.
In the first season finale, "Jail Break", it is revealed that Garnet is a fusion of the two Gems Ruby and Sapphire. Garnet's existence is thus a personification of Ruby and Sapphire's loving relationship—she describes herself as "a conversation" and "made of love"—and her personality is a stable blending of Ruby and Sapphire's traits. The character of Garnet has won acclaim from critics as a representation of a lesbian relationship. Though she is normally stoic, Garnet's strongest emotional displays are often centered around fusion: anger and revulsion at what she perceives as abuses or perversions of fusion, and delight when Steven develops the ability to fuse. The second-season episode "The Answer", a flashback showing how Ruby and Sapphire met and formed Garnet for the first time, was nominated for an Emmy Award and adapted into a children's book.
Ruby and Sapphire Edit
The two smaller Gems who are the constituents of Garnet, Ruby and Sapphire first appeared in "Jail Break". They are portrayed as having contrasting personalities and abilities: Sapphire is emotionally reserved, has the ability to freeze her surroundings, and is described as a "rare, aristocratic" Gem, while Ruby is impulsive and hotheaded, can generate heat, and is a common foot soldier. Garnet's qualities are the result of a "conversation" between these two contrasting personalities. Garnet's future vision is derived from a precognitive ability of Sapphire's.
The youngest of the Crystal Gems until Steven was born, Amethyst has a rebellious and hedonistic personality. Her mischievous sense of humor often provides comic relief, and her fun-loving and relatively childish nature bolsters her friendship with Steven. Her amethyst gemstone, from which she can summon a whip, is embedded on her chest; she also makes frequent use of shapeshifting capabilities. Late in the first season, Steven learns that Amethyst (unlike the other Crystal Gems) was created on Earth as part of the Gem Homeworld's "Kindergarten" project to convert Earth into a Gem-occupied world; later on, Amethyst herself learns that the Kindergarten produced her malformed, smaller and weaker than other Gems of her type (the "Quartz warrior" caste). Her irreverent personality masks deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, resentment, and fear that the other Crystal Gems do not respect her; a long-term character arc involves her learning to respect herself and her capabilities.
Designed to resemble a ballerina in her slender build, costume, and graceful style of movement, Pearl is a precise, intellectual strategist. Her gemstone is a white pearl embedded in her forehead, with which she can summon a spear and create holographic images. She is the most overtly motherly and protective toward Steven of the Gems. Late in the second season, it is revealed that, on the Gem Homeworld, pearls are a "made-to-order" servant caste; but Pearl has rejected her caste role and trained herself to be a capable fighter and technician. Pearl harbored a deep, apparently romantic devotion to Rose Quartz, which has led to lasting grief over Rose's absence and jealousy over her relationship with Greg; major character arcs for Pearl include her slowly learning to cope with and move beyond these emotions. Critical response to Pearl has largely appreciated her portrayal as a complex, sympathetic, yet flawed queer character.
Secondary Characters Edit
Greg Universe Edit
Steven's father, a former rock singer who now lives in his van and runs a car wash in Beach City. Although Steven lives with the Gems during the time period of the narrative, Greg remains a constant presence in his life. Greg is laid-back, accepting, and supportive of Steven's adventures, though often made uncomfortable by Gem magic. In a series of flashback episodes, framed as stories told to Steven by Greg, it is shown how Greg abandoned his career as a touring musician to settle in Beach City and pursue a romantic relationship with Rose Quartz.
Connie Maheswaran Edit
Steven's closest human friend, Connie is introduced as an intelligent, introverted, and lonely person in the episode "Bubble Buddies", and she rapidly develops a close relationship with Steven. An avid reader of fantasy literature, she admires what she calls Steven's "magical destiny" and is eager to be a part of it; her increasing involvement in Gem adventures is a long-term plot arc of the show, including learning to fight with Rose Quartz's sword and coming to see herself as Steven's equal despite not having magical abilities of her own. Another character arc involving Connie is her learning to push back against her strict and overprotective parents.
Lars and Sadie Edit
Employees at the Big Donut, the donut shop that Steven frequently visits. Lars is inconsiderate, irresponsible, and abrasive, but insecure and desperate for the friendship of those he considers to be the "cool kids"; Sadie is friendly and supportive toward Steven. Despite Lars's negative attitude, Steven considers Lars a close friend, and Sadie has a crush on him. Lars and Sadie's intermittently affectionate and antagonistic relationship is a recurring focus of episodes in which both characters feature. Matthew Moy has stated that Lars is one of his favorite acting roles, and has described his character as a "complicated fellow". According to Rebecca Sugar, Lars and Sadie are based upon characters she created while in college. They appeared in both the pilot episode of Steven Universe and the first episode of the series proper; they are the only characters other than the Crystal Gems to have speaking roles in either of those episodes.
Lapis Lazuli Edit
At the time of her introduction, Lapis Lazuli is a Gem from Homeworld who has been trapped in a magical mirror on Earth for thousands of years. When the mirror is given to Steven in the first season, she forms a friendship with him, but she initially mistrusts the other Crystal Gems and attacks them upon being freed by Steven. As the first sentient Gem other than the Crystal Gems to appear in the series, Lapis's appearance sets the stage for deeper plot developments and is cited by the show's writers as "really the beginning of the show". In "Jail Break", the first season finale, she prevents the Homeworld Gem Jasper from attacking the Crystal Gems by fusing with her and imprisoning themselves at the bottom of the ocean. After being released from the fusion in "Super Watermelon Island", the first episode of the third season, her character arc in her intermittent appearances has involved recovering from the psychological trauma of having been imprisoned and having been part of an abusive fusion. She has extremely powerful telekinetic control over water, and can produce wings made of water from the lapis lazuli gemstone embedded on her back.
Peridot is introduced as a technician dispatched by the Gem Homeworld to check on remaining Gem installations on Earth; her appearance late in the first season becomes an ominous sign that the Crystal Gems are under threat from Homeworld. Stranded on Earth after the events of the first season finale, Peridot becomes a recurring antagonist in the first half of the second season, until she is eventually captured by the Crystal Gems; she then chooses to ally with them to defuse the "Cluster", a Gem entity placed by Homeworld to destroy the Earth. When the Crystal Gems first encounter her she wears technological "limb enhancers", giving her a fearsome and robotic appearance; when she is captured, she loses them and appears child-like without them. She plays a prominent role in the last part of the second season, during which her character arc centers around learning to outgrow the hierarchical, utilitarian mindset of Homeworld and appreciate the value of friendship, individuality, and life on Earth. She is cranky and self-aggrandizing in demeanor, but demonstrates willingness to learn from her mistakes and attempt to treat others with greater respect and kindness. Her gemstone is a triangular peridot embedded in her forehead. She discovers in the third season that she has the ability to telekinetically control metal objects.
A powerful fighter and veteran of the ancient war against the Crystal Gems on the Homeworld side. Jasper is introduced at the end of the first season, assigned to accompany Peridot to Earth. She is openly contemptuous of those she perceives as weak or defective and takes pride in her status as the ideal Gem soldier. Her gemstone is a yellow jasper in the place of her nose, and her Gem weapon is a heavy helmet. As a perfectly formed Quartz warrior, she becomes the target of Amethyst's resentment and desire to prove herself. Although she dismisses Gem fusion as a "cheap tactic to make weak Gems stronger", when she is defeated in battle by fusions she resorts to attempting fusion herself, with disastrous results. Trapped in a fusion by Lapis Lazuli in "Jail Break", the first season finale, she escapes in the third season premiere and becomes a recurring antagonist to the Crystal Gems in the second half of the third season. At the end of the season, she attempts fusion with a corrupted Gem monster, becomes corrupted herself, and is defeated by Steven, Amethyst, and Peridot.
Rose Quartz Edit
The original leader of the Crystal Gems and Steven's mother, who "gave up her physical form" to allow Steven to be born. Her gem is a pink rose quartz that was embedded in her navel. Although she appears only in occasional flashbacks, her legacy and her absence define the lives and relationships of the other main characters. Fascinated by the diversity of life on the planet Earth and the wide range of experiences and growth available to its creatures, she led the ancient rebellion against the Gem Homeworld and its plans to destroy Earth for its resources. The Crystal Gems describe her to Steven as loving and seeing beauty in all forms of life, and flashback episodes show the development of her relationship with Greg from infatuation into love and understanding. Steven feels great pressure to live up to her example as a compassionate leader. His relationship with her memory is complicated at the end of the third season when he learns of morally questionable actions she undertook during the war. "Lion 3: Straight to Video", the first episode in which she appeared (via a videotaped message to Steven), was nominated for an Emmy Award for short-form animation.
A mysterious pink lion-like creature who protects Steven and possesses a variety of magical abilities. Lion provides Steven with connections to Rose Quartz's legacy—he brings Steven and Connie to Rose's secret armory, and a number of Rose's keepsakes are stored in a pocket dimension in his mane, including her sword and a videotaped message to Steven—but his origin and the nature of his connection to Rose have not yet been revealed. Steven regards Lion as a pet. Lion is introduced in the early episode "Steven's Lion", in which he appears mysteriously in the desert and follows Steven home.
In Badfic and the PPC Edit
Due to its extensive worldbuilding, deep characterization, and often heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) episode content, Steven Universe has gained a lot of critical appeal and a massive fandom presence. Unfortunately, as with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, this has attracted a lot of extremist "fans" who, in the true spirit of "rabid fans", will defend certain pairings to the death, even if they don't make sense (Lapis/Jasper being especially blatant, given that the episodes in which they've interacted suggest that their relationship was likely abusive). Given that many character interactions between the gems have been interpreted as being romantic (despite only two confirmed canon relationships so far - Rose Quartz/Greg Universe and Garnet a.k.a. Ruby/Sapphire, and one possible relationship between Steven and Connie), pairings exist for virtually every combination of major gem characters. Other fandom aspects include fanmade gems (including the obligatory "gemsonas"), reinterpretations of characters from other continua as Steven Universe-style gems, and fanmade fusions between canon gem pairings that haven't been shown on the show directly or between fanmade gems (or occasionally, a fan gem and a canon one).
Minis from this continuum are Mini-Centipeetles.