Steven Universe, when it’s all said and done, will go down as one of the greatest animated series ever created. Creator Rebecca Sugar and the writing/directing team that includes Ian Jones-Quartey, Joseph D. Johnston, Kat Morris, Matt Burnett, Ben Levin and the fantastic cast deliver mature, complex material that most adult-oriented series wouldn’t dare attempt while wrapping it in a candy-coated shell that’s accessible to kids and adults alike. It’s astounding just how solid Steven Universe has been throughout its run and just how much better it continues to get even in its fifth season, especially considering its short episodic run-time. A brilliantly shining example of just how good Steven Universe can be is found in the new DVD release, Steven Universe: Heart of the Crystal Gems.
Rather than wrap up a season on home video and slap a few gag reels or collection of deleted scenes onto a disc, this DVD aims for a more thematic collection. Curated episodes pulled from multiple seasons of the Cartoon Network hit have been put together to tell the arc of Rose Quartz and the Crystal Gems, their battle against the Diamonds of Homeworld, and Steven’s part to play in that millennia-long story in the making. So while it might be a daunting first step to take into the animated world of Steven Universe, this collection does a solid job at explaining the sometimes difficult to piece together backstory that is otherwise scattered across multiple seasons. What it does equally well is put the show’s humanity, exploration of LGBTQ+ relationships, completely unique heroes and villains, and wholly original story on display. Pardon the obvious pun but it’s an absolute gem to add to your collection.
Sometimes, in order to recognize and appreciate true greatness when it comes to art, you have to view it alongside its compatriots. I happened to review the Steven Universe: Heart of the Crystal Gems DVD just after watching the latest season of Voltron Legendary Defender, a show that’s become popular in LGBTQ+ circles but may have made a major misstep in its recent seventh season. I’m sure there are some crossovers in the Voltron and Steven Universe fandoms, but by a wide margin the latter series handles more taboo themes in a much subtler and more effective way. Voltron may outshine Steven Universe when it comes to action, but in terms of sheer originality, inclusivity, and representation, it’s hard to beat Steven, Connie, and the Crystal Gems.
It’s taken a while for the mythology of Steven Universe to start to coalesce into something the fans could really start to get ahold of, but that’s exactly what makes this particular DVD collection such a fine example of curated material. Steven and the Crystal Gems may defend the current Earth from various threats, but these battles are but the aftershocks of the great rebellion against the Gems’ Homeworld, once ruled by three great and powerful Diamonds. That rebellion, which recruited the likes of Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst, was led by Steven’s own mother, Rose Quartz, who defeated the mighty Pink Diamond to overthrow her dominion over the Earth. But that story is not nearly as cut and dry as it seems. In its telling, one that’s conveniently recaptured in this DVD collection, Steven, the Crystal Gems, and many others will discover the truth that turns their world upside-down, even in the midst of the war itself.
The DVD includes the following episodes:
- “Bismuth” (22-minute special) – Season 3, Episode 20
- “Mindful Education” – Season 4, Episode 4
- “Storm in the Room” – Season 4, Episode 16
- “The Trial” – Season 5, Episode 2
- “A Single Pale Rose” – Season 5, Episode 18
Along with the five episodes from the “Heart of the Crystal Gems” linear event–“Now We’re Only Falling Apart”, “What’s Your Problem?”, “The Question”, “Made of Honor” and “Reunited”–including the 22-minute special which makes for one fantastic closing episode.
Finally, two music tracks from select episodes are also available now for download from digital music stores including iTunes, Google Play and Amazon, as well as on all major streaming platforms including Spotify, Tidal, Pandora and others:
- Ruby Rider from the episode “The Question” featuring voice talent Charlyne Yi
- For Just One Day Lets Only Think About (Love) from the “Reunited” 22-minute special featuring voice talent/cast Zach Callison, Deedee Magno Hall, Michaela Dietz, Tom Scharpling, Shelby Rabara, Uzo Aduba
Steven Universe: Heart of the Crystal Gems is available on DVD now!