Hello readers, and welcome back to the Steven Universe episode collection! I know that it’s been a minute since we’ve done one and it’s been several months since these episodes aired, but I’ve decided to catch up on them and then change to a weekly recap format! This is the first of several, so strap in and enjoy yourselves!

So Many Birthdays (1×13)

Summary: Steven finds out that the Gems have never had a birthday party and tries to make up for lost time, nearly causing him to lose time himself.

Rating: ★★★★☆

You know, I didn’t expect an episode about Steven throwing birthdays for the Gems to get me so emotional.

The episode opens in typical fashion, with the Gems searching for the stench coming from Amethyst’s part of the temple. While she eats a rotten burrito, Steven finds a picture of the Gems dressed in old timey clothes and finds out that the Gems are immortal! Well, kind of. They can still get hurt and be killed, so they’re more like lobsters.

Punching a shark for justice! [toonzone.net]
Punching a shark for justice! [toonzone.net]
This revelation causes Steven to make an off-handed comment about how it must be hard to put that many candles on a cake, which causes them to reveal that they don’t really celebrate birthdays since age is kind of an illusion for them. Steven simply won’t hear it though and decides to throw them a big birthday party to make up for lost time. However, since Steven is still pretty young, his birthday party experience also skews that way and the Gems don’t have as good of a time as he would have hoped. Pearl makes a comment about how they feel a bit too old for it, and that’s what begins the train into Feels Town.

As Steven begins to contemplate his age, his gem begins reacting to this and starts to age him rapidly. Steven doesn’t notice it at first until he goes to Big Donut and Lars and Sadie don’t recognize him since he keeps getting older by the minute. Lion manages to rescue Steven and bring him to the Gems, but they struggle to figure out how to make Steven stop aging. This is probably because it’s the first time they’ve actually come to the realization that Steven isn’t as durable as them. He’s half human so it’s likely he’ll die of aging if injury doesn’t get him first.

Man… Mortality is a beast.

Steven finally manages to snap out of it when the Gems realize that whenever Steven acts like his normal self at his regular age, it deages him back down. They’re super relieved, but man, that can’t possibly be the last time that’ll happen if the gem is so perceptible to thoughts like that. Maybe keep an eye on that in the future, Gems…

Lars and the Cool Kids (1×14)

Summary: Steven encounters Lars trying to impress the cool kids, which leads to a cruise around town involving magical moss.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’ve watched this episode a couple of times now and it really hasn’t grown on me like the moss does in this episode.

The Gems inspect a lake that’s overrun with a magical moss that Rose Quartz grew on a hill above Beach City. Not certain how to stop it from overtaking the lake and any humans that might encounter it, the Gems decided to block it off with police caution tape for the time being. While the Gems inspect, Steven goes off to have lunch and encounters Lars trying to look “cool” outside of Fish Stew Pizza in order to impress the cool kids.

Just some cool guys being cool. [Cartoon Network]
Just some cool guys being cool. [Cartoon Network]
The rest of the episode is Steven and Lars cruising around with the cool kids with Lars acting extremely awkward around them and constantly sticking his foot in his mouth while Steven appears to be a natural. They eventually go to the lake and Steven tries to warn them off, but they don’t listen before the moss overtakes them. Lars blames Steven and his “weird mom” for everything going wrong, which causes Steven to understandably go off on him. Lars doesn’t really apologize, but the two work together to get the still growing moss to the top of the hill, where it blooms and the cool kid named Sour Cream raves on. Well… at least the moss bloom is a pretty shot and it was nice to hear Joel Hodgson as Mayor Dewey again. The rest of it left me feeling a bit cold. Not cool… cold.

Onion Trade (1×15)

Summary: Steven attempts to trade Onion for a particular toy he has. It doesn’t go as planned.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Is it me, or does Onion terrify anyone else? Creepy little sociopath.

Steven spends the day lamenting over the fact that his toy, known as Ranger Guy, has gone missing. His dad won it for him on a day they had together, but Greg doesn’t seem to remember it. Typical parents, huh? However, Greg gives Steven a bunch of quarters and tells him to win a new one. Steven is ecstatic, but his excitement turns into disappointment as all he wins is Dave Guy. As Onion crawls out of a vending machine with a Ranger Guy in his pocket, Steven begins to follow him to figure out how to trade for it.

Onion was always a bit weird, but this episode establishes it. He manages to convince a suitcase seller to give him his lunch, only to throw it in the ocean and run over the ketchup packets with a scooter that he crashes. Steven figures this is because he misses his dad. He tries to convince Onion to trade him for the Ranger Guy, but Onion refuses…

AHHHHH! [the-world-of-steven-universe.tumblr.com]
AHHHHH! [the-world-of-steven-universe.tumblr.com]
…until Pearl’s replicator wand comes into effect and Steven trades it to Onion. Steven briefly enjoys his spoils, but it turns into anger when Onion overruns the town with Dave Guys. The Gems fight against the replicating toys (and a couple of full size cars), but Steven gets through by “pretending to be a rich duck.” As he readies to trade the Ranger Guy back, he realizes that it was his all along and that Onion took it. Steven calls off the trade and Garnet destroys the replicator wand.

In the end, Steven decides to give Onion the Ranger Guy because he clearly needs it more than him and Greg praises him for it. Steven remarks that he was mostly holding onto it for memories. I guess even creepy kids need toys.

Steven The Sword Fighter (1×16)

Summary: After an accident with a sword hurts Pearl badly, Steven begins to hang out with a holographic version of her while waiting for her to regenerate.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This episode might be one of my favorites of the season so far. The animation is super crisp and the story is both funny and emotional in a way that’s reminiscent of the 90s anime that inspired this show.

While the Gems are hanging out one rainy night watching Lonely Blade IV, Pearl constantly complains about how inaccurate the sword fighting in the film is. She offers to show Steven how proper sword fighting is done sometime, and he looks at her with literal stars in his eyes.

I also had stars in my eyes. [cartoonbrew.com]
I also had stars in my eyes. [cartoonbrew.com]
Somewhere on a separate field, Pearl draws up a holographic version of herself to be her sparring partner to demonstrate to Steven. The two embark on an intense fight that’s probably one of the best sequences that has been animated for the show so far, but the real Pearl comes out the victor. Steven asks her to show him how to fight, but he seems rather disappointed when it turns out that real sword fighting is way different than the Lonely Blade movies. Pearl insists that her method is better, but in her distraction, she is run through with a sword by her hologram. Pearl’s body dissolves, leaving her gem behind. Steven is understandably upset, but Amethyst and Garnet assure him that it will be okay. As it turns out, whenever a Gem is badly damaged, they will retreat back into their gem to regenerate. Steven perks up and asks how long it will take.

Two weeks go by and Pearl still hasn’t come back. Steven misses her badly and decides that maybe hanging out with her holo version will be a good idea. Amethyst warns him that it really isn’t and to maybe… um… not? She also spends most of this episode either floating on a cloud or eating one, so I don’t know how serious to take her.

Well, pretty serious actually because HoloPearl turns out to be the worst. Her only thought is sword fighting and she ends up not only destroying some of Steven’s toys, but Pearl’s favorite tree as well. Steven screams at her to go away, but she is persistent for a fight. After much screaming, Steven accidentally agrees and HoloPearl is on the hunt. Steven seems cornered, but he remembers Pearl’s training and ends up impaling HoloPearl with a mop after finding his opening. Garnet and Amethyst come back at that moment, wondering if Steven is okay. He assures that he is and that he’ll be patient for Pearl to come back…

…which is right when she comes back in a snazzy new outfit. Steven marches around the kitchen banging a pot in celebration, which causes Pearl to just roll her eyes and declare that she can’t leave them alone for a second.

Welcome back, sparkly Pearl! [artemispanthar.tumblr.com]
Welcome back, sparkly Pearl! [artemispanthar.tumblr.com]
If you need an episode to show just how dark this series can get, this is one of them. Combined with Pearl getting skewered with a sword to her homicidal holographic self, it’s not just backgrounds that are dark. However, it’s still a fantastically animated episode and never gets too dark that it can’t turn back. Plus, it does show that Steven is picking up a thing or two from his Gem-tastic caretakers.

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