Created by Rebecca Sugar, Cartoon Network's Steven Universe is an intriguing fantasy series about the adventures of the titular character, a young boy (Zach Callison) whose father Greg (Tom Scharpling) is human and whose mother Rose is a humanoid alien from species known as Gems. Rose is no longer around as she "gave up her physical form" so Steven could be born, yet rather than live with Greg, who loves his son, Steven resides and is cared for by the Crystal Gems: Pearl (Deedee Magno), Garnet (Estelle), and Amethyst (Michaela Dietz). In addition to the typical travails a young person experiences growing up, Steven is frequently battling with the Crystal Gems against other Gem creatures.
The show jumps right into this world without fully explaining what's going on in "Gem Glow", but over the 52 episodes presented in this collection, Steven learns about his abilities as a half-Gem boy as well as information about Rose, the other Crystal Gems, and their interpersonal relationships. For example, the Gems are able to fuse together and create another, larger Gem. In “Giant Woman”, Amethyst and Pearl fuse into a four-armed giant named Opal (Aimee Mann). In “Coach Steven”, Garnet and Amethyst fuse to form the equally large Sugilite (Nicki Minaj). And in "Fusion Cuisine" the three Gems fuse together into Alexandrite (Rita Rani Ahuja), which is done for a touching reason. Steven doesn't know which of the Gems to invite to meet his friend Connie's parents, so this way he can bring them all.
"Fusion Cuisine" is one of the many examples of Steven Universe dealing with parental units different from the traditional roles of male father and female mother, as the Gems are a mix of mother/big sister to Steven. Also, Pearl was clearly in love with Rose and there is an understandably slight resentment to Greg and Steven as they are reminders she is no longer around. Presenting different types of love and families from what is typically shown allows viewers in those situations to see representation and offers insight to those who aren't. The ideas may seem to sophisticated for kids, but the show handles them all well.
During the first season of Steven Universe, the show forces viewers to start from the beginning because of the way the backstories are revealed. Watching them out of order wouldn't deliver the same satisfaction. I can't even imagine how little I know about the Steven Universe universe with the show currently airing in its fifth season. However, there a plenty of entertaining stand-alone adventures, such as “Steven and the Stevens”, a funny time-travel story as Steven can't get along with himself and "Alone Together" where Steven accidentally fuses with Connie and they go to a dance party.
The artwork is filled with colorful imagery and the fantastic other-world settings look believable. The character designs look purposeful with Gems particularly being based around shapes and colors. They mostly seem unique without coming across referential, although Greg, with his balding head, brown Goatee, and big belly, bears a slight resemblance to Homer Simpson.
The DVD comes with several extras. Creator Rebecca Sugar talks about the making of the show during Behind the Music” (10 min) and composers Aivi and Surasshu talk about creating music for the show and the characters. An abbreviated version of the “Listening Party” (18 min) for the Steven Universe Soundtrack, Volume 1 with Sugar held on May 31, 2017 at Pacific Theatres at The Grove in Los Angeles. She talks about the music and creation of the theme song, “Be Wherever You Are”, “Stronger Than You”, and “It's Over, Isn't It?” Sugar also performs “Something Entirely New” and “Both of You” for the fans.
Sugar sings during the “Music Video Performances” (12 min) and is accompanied on “Something Entirely New” and “What’s the Use of Feeling (Blue)?” by herself on ukulele; on “It’s Over, Isn’t It” by Aivi on keyboards; on “Love Like You” by Aivi and Surasshu on keyboards; and on “Here Comes a Thought” by herself on ukulele with Aivi and Surasshu on keyboards. It's too bad there's not a play-all option.
There are “Animatics” (55 min), a look at the early stage of production with storyboards over audio, for five episodes:“Gem Glow”, “Full Disclosure”, “Steven the Sword Fighter”, “Steven and the Stevens”, and “Island Adventure”. This is for the animation aficionados. There are “Song Demos” (3 min) by Sugar for “Be Wherever You Are” and “Full Disclosure” with an image from the episode appearing on screen.
Steven Universe: The Complete First Season is recommend for kids of all ages and families of all shapes and sized. Can't wait for the Second Season to hit DVD because with the way the show doles out information, I am too far behind to jump the currently airing fifth season.