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  1. #151
    nsfw pilcrow's Avatar
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    Raven + Paul + body horror + maximally squash-and-stretch expressive character models. If you read my garbage you know the drill on these types of episodes by now.

    As always, Raven and Paul's designs look better when they're in effortlessly fluid exaggerated motion, but as a sampler, here's Paul's abandoning eye proportions for Dr. Maheshwaran, Raven abandoning face proportions for Steven, and Raven abandoning literally any proper body proportions for Steven and Connie. Ah what beauties. And the final confrontation between Connie and her mom is relatively toned down for Paul, so it's like they aren't versatile in their craziness.

    And here are all the color schemes designed for this episode, if you are so inclined to click that link.

    Yeah sorry maybe I'll have more to say next time Raven and Paul do boards on a horror-ish episode. probably not though. not my fault they're so consistent at it.

  2. #152
    hickory smoked dude tyler's Avatar
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    #79: SUPER WATERMELON ISLAND
    johnston/liu

    chille tid was one of the neatest episodes of s2. watermelon steven was one of the neatest episodes of s1b. so lets combine facets of both in a wickedly fun tale that revisits the ongoing conflict of malachite um hell yes season 3 we out here yeehaw! s2 definitely did alot of groundwork laying, and i was left wondering "when will we see the results of all of that?" when will it all begin to reintegrate and make the show larger than ever. well hot damn, right at the front of the season! i like almost every episode of this show but i feel like i rarely get to fanboy out but boy does this episode practically beg it of you. this feels like a big reward, a glimmering treasure for everyone who has stuck around. you get to see the watermelon stevens - and watermelon dog omg awww! - as they've grown together and forged a culture, but just when the episode seems like it might be a quaint classic silent type toon where we just get to see the watermelon stevens going about their day and getting a sense of the lives of one of the neatest and strangest lingering ideas of the series so far, BAM fuckin malachite rises from the sea and reminds us oh yes, there is alot of loose ends to tie up even ignoring the cluster. then we see its steven actually embodying the main watermelon steven himself and witnessing the oncoming disaster using his awesome dream powers from chille tid, one of the coolest episodes of s2 just because its such a neat breather, it has this lying in wait quality, and now we get to use it for an epic explosive confrontation where that buildup and implication is used to its fullest. using these elements from these two particular episodes provides a stunning emotional and visual dynamic. the episode begins lush, pleasant, its emerald greens reminiscent of island adventure, adorned with their huts, tilling their crops, raising their watermelon babies (hmm how does that work nevermind dont answer!), riding Watermelon Horse and Buggy, just when you think they're outta watermelon jokes they just get more absurd and i remain loving it. its lovely and calming, lulling you into a false sense of security as we tour their lands to Bit Folk Music, before the shit hits the fan, and from there the intensity raises significantly. no time to waste or think, from the lush land of the island to the visceral intensity of titan fusions clashing and splashing in the ocean, firing massive neon beams and conjuring huge Ocean Hands. i feel the need to emphasize, the melon stuff in this is so good that if they just made it that, just the fun little melon tale, this would still be a great excursion. no though, that simply wasn't enough, this had to be a moment, and they put the heart of the show into it. its amazing watching even later in the episode as this raucous immense battle gives way to bombarding malachite with watermelon stevens, firing bows and arrows, catapulting rocks and even tossing themselves at her. maybe it should be jarring, but it totally works, because steven universe is all of these things. it can flip from cute and endearing to a genuine potent intensity on a dime, so seeing all of that congeal feels so rewarding as a fan, who is feeling like his time with the show is being actively thanked by the show's gargantuan effort, and by its reminder of just all the things it can be, without any of them disrupting one another.

    yet, here's whats crazy. that altogether would make for one of the best episodes yet, easily, as is. its just such a pure blast of su joy, its fun and wild and EPIC AND BADASS AND KEWL and cute and creative and diverse and unpredictable and multi-layered and has good jokes and aaaaa me likey alot. its a great episode, but even that isn't enough. this isn't just a great battle that leads to another cliffhanger, a mere reminder of great pieces set up to be eventually toppled down. no, this Is the toppling down. i was actually mouth agape when they split jasper and lapis up. ive said it before but this show is written so organically that there's often no easy way to track When a crucial event will happen, because they dont time it in such a way that you can easily guess. i expected s2 to end Big, but it didnt really, and that was nice. as such though i kinda thought s3 would slide back in casually and help assemble the finishing touches to the groundwork for dealing with the cluster. turns out i was half right, but man again this episode just adamantly refused to, i wont even say half-ass, it didn't even whole ass. this episode is like two asses. but in a good way. thats good writing there kaos you do this for a living? oh you dont? hmm wonder why. no but you totally could have just left the cluster thing lingering here, leave some loose ends. maybe i was just used to it from s2, the theme of lingering. here though, s3 seems to have an opening statement. its time to grab these threads and do something with them. lapis and jasper have split, and jasper manages to..i dont think id call it escaping, just sorta sliding away. hey though, lapis is with the cgs! neat! hyped to see how that evolves. yet yeah, danger has been a-brewin'. when peridot was quick to alert everyone of the worrying tremors earlier, that was no idle fear, that was an active terror about something currently happening. plus its the way the cluster actually cracks the island that jasper gets away. its all this cause and effect, its this glorious domino toppling that feels like the viewer's patience paying off. this episode is so fucking good i didn't even really talk about the characters here! so lets cap with steven, it is his show after all. i liked that the cgs told steven to stay with peridot and the drill instead of endangering himself, almost like a test because they knew how he would choose to help them, and the fact that his help was actually valuable. it makes sense, malachite can tackle another fusion because she's fueled by jasper's laser focus on sheer power - another great fanboy moment was calling back to jasper's perception of fusion in jail break. of course she loves it now that it benefits her - but she would of course in that sense underestimate the true power of Melon People! its also vital to get us to our final powerful moment, of the gems telling steven to leave them behind to get working on the drill. things escalate fast, and emotions run high. yet if i may just praise the team behind the show one last time for putting beyond 100%, that final star wipe. jeez. you coulda totally ended this one more typically and had me eager for the second half and seeing the cluster dismantled, but the way they have the other gems fade out, the way it emphasizes steven having to do this big task dealing with a disconnect from the others and not knowing if they're okay, the way it fades and from the perspective of steven anyway, there's a worry that he may not see them again. that hits hard. i will definitely have to mull over just where this episode fits in the list of bests (though so far it is absolutely up there), but i can comfortably say this is the #1 Best Star Wipe Of All Time. beyond that though, its really heartwarming and potent to see them entrust steven in this massive task. merely a season and change ago they were afraid to even let him join in on dangerous battles. my how far we've come. now lets destroy a bad evil gem thingie!


  3. #153
    nsfw pilcrow's Avatar
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    lol I'm 10 episodes behind



    I get why both the fans and the crew have to prioritize the show's gem lore, but it's still a damn shame because when Steven gets the chance to take a break from all the crazy gem-related arcs and just interact with the townies for a bit, the show's effortlessly good character writing gets to take center stage. It's especially apparent with Sadie, who's one of the few townies to have a really fleshed-out character arc. Drama with Lars, stuck in a temp summer job for years, overbearing mom...there's a lot to her character that proves the show is every bit as good at tackling relatable stories head-on as it is doing them through wild fantasy gem metaphors.

    Admittedly, the overbearing mom story is well-trodden ground, but I think there's a lot here that gives the story a distinctly SU flavor. Steven plopping himself in Sadie's mom's corner really hammers home the sympathetic portrayal of both sides that the show is pretty much all about. And even the towniest of townie episodes is a part of the ever expanding lore puzzle, as Sadie's mom (and Connie's mom just one episode prior) get brutally contrasted with the gaping mother figure-sized hole in Steven's life. It's a poignant reminder of what Steven's character arc is all about, even as season 2 preoccupies him with dealing with Garnet/Pearl and Peridot for two full-sized arcs.

    Storyboard-wise, Raven & Paul aren't the best team on quiet townie episodes but their squash-and-stretched exaggerated take on this ep adds a uniquely spicy personality flair befitting the equally spicy (but criminally short) perfect pop song. Sung by Olivia Olson of Adventure Time fame, too. Rebecca with those connections.

    Here are Paul's storyboards for Steven's ending performance if you care

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  5. #154
    hickory smoked dude tyler's Avatar
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    #80: GEM DRILL
    molisee/villeco

    hey. i've done alot of these "i've been gone but now i'm back" things. hopefully this will be the last one, especially because i've completely run of out ways to frame "oops life is hard and i'm still learning how to handle many longer-term task at once", so instead ill just say...hey. remember steven universe. that's a pretty good show! yessir, like it a lot. let's watch more of it, and talk about it extensively, perhaps exhaustively!

    so when we last left off was quite the cliffhanger, the fate of the earth hanging in the balance as steven and peridot are entrusted with destroying the cluster. what initially ensues is another grand opportunity to shove characters together in close quarters to get the intimate feelings out of them. it's nothing new for these two in particular but it still makes the ride down to the center nice and breezy, a result of hard-earned trust and mutual understanding, concern for each other's well beings, and acceptance of the position peridot has found herself in. i've long suspected peridot doesn't really have an emotional tie to her homeworld as she's more of a grunt birthed and programmed to fulfill directives, but i didn't consider that having no immediate emotional connection can hardwire its own emptiness, absence of closure, or feelings of regret in the presence of something more emotionally tangible. now that she's found a place with genuine acceptance, she sees the gaping hole in the original circuitry. there's nothing all that illuminating to it but there's no real need for that right now, more or less this is just showing off the effortless relationship of the two characters now, after tireless character sculpting they've chiseled it into something the most closely approaching normal, the kind of dynamic that feels much like steven and the other gems, just with much more recent baggage with regards to homeworld. also a great help as we take our vertical trip to the cluster are the stunning visuals, small moments like the ground passing by in steven's eyes, when they pierce through to the molten peridotite (to peridot's apparent pride) and some wayward gem experiments try to damage the drill, these moments keep it from being just anticipation, and even help build the crux of the episode thematically, aaaaand if i'm talking about the episode's aesthetic majesty i have to address the cluster itself.

    lemme back up though. everytime i've written "the cluster", every time i've thought about the cluster as a concept, as a danger, as some massive crystalline time bomb, i thought of it in the worst case scenario apocalyptic, mangled nightmare form it Would take if it managed to eliminate the earth. i thought of it in strictly negative terms, as a thing that should be destroyed because it's them or our heroes and planet earth, and surely the choice is obvious? this show consistently presents its value in genuinely teaching viewers to see "evil" as just being some form of troubling programming, misunderstanding, corruption, something more than a pure storybook manifestation. the truth is often way more nuanced than that of typical fiction in SU, and i treasure that. i believed it firmly with lapis, i knew peridot would come around, and i honestly even still feel like there's hope for the brutish jasper because in the end, she's still a lackie of a higher power. really only yellow diamond seems beyond reformation for reasons that don't quite feel apparent yet but well, there has to be Some villain that's not gonna change, not that they can't, just that they won't. but here's the thing, i didn't think of the cluster as a character, or as characters, or even as gems. obviously they were, but the way the show presents the gem experiments as such starkly damaged nightmares engineered beyond repair, it made me think of the cluster as that but well, more. even when steven initially suggests that the experiments could be bubbled, i thought it was a moment when the lesson would be for steven to accept that he can't save everybody. i still believe that to be true, inevitably all his good intentions will fail him, to an extent things like that have already happened, but this time steven was right. when we reach the cluster, what we are met with is absolutely spellbinding in its all-encompassing beauty. this destructive force, well we were told what it was after all, but the connotations somehow masked all that for me, and to see it so differently, well it didn't immediately change everything but it was a great start. still initially things are pretty intense, the eerie phantasmic arms of the mass unraveling to envelop the drill, the core of the conglomeration unbreakable, the answers seeming buried. steven still wants to save them, but again, i took it as a moment where steven Has to accept this, sometimes we won't be able to save them.

    then things go deeper. steven experiences some form of Gem Hernia and conks out, awakening in a void of the myriad gems within the cluster. certainly doesn't seem so destructive, so evil, so INTENT to do harm to the Earth. all the frightening boogeyman stories of peridot and others aren't entirely unfounded of course, after all it was still formed to destroy the earth, but its so fascinating how perception is affected by taking their word as it is. the doomsaying doesn't mean ignore the cluster, but once steven arrives here and sees it for himself, its so amazingly different. these wandering, aimless gem fragments merely want to connect with others, to find some way to be together. these aren't EVIL SHARDS that want the same thing the Diamonds want, they're shards who's innate desires to be whole and together are easily manipulated By the Diamonds for this destructive purpose. in hindsight, it seems so obvious, but who was I to question the words of the other gems about this considering the immense power and ruthlessness of the Diamonds/Homeworld Gems? even though i knew change could happen, that change could only happen on a smaller scale surely, to individual gems who are questioning their ways or find something more meaningful in steven and co.'s naturally kinder being. that's definitely how it seemed, but once again the ultimate sensation of edging closer towards total unity rears its head again. as steven bubbles these gems with help from each other, the cluster doesn't even feel like a cluster. even that name was telling of its intent, the individualism scrubbed from the equation, but once acknowledged and given agency by steven, their value returned and their desires can be met in a safe way. gems desire to be together clearly, but it is still a desire based on mutuality, consent in a way, agency and case-by-case decision. to look at any gem mass without considering the equation takes completely away the gem nature, so steven broke through that and helped them fulfill their inherent desires without doing any damage. truth be told i wasn't sure if the cluster would be destroyed or defeated all at once in this episode, but i especially didn't expect it to be taken care of so completely with nary a drop of...well not blood, i guess a drop of nothing on his hands because there's no drops in gems. you get what im saying, its been awhile im a little rusty i'll work on it. all said a fantastic return, still maintaining the same important values even in the face of something that surely couldn't apply them, and then i'm proven wrong in the best of ways. it really begs the question of what steven can't do. it seems like he has the capability to bring anyone and everyone together or away from any dark side. this is but episode two of season three though, i know this show has some things up its sleeve, and per usual i'm sure great success is a vicious deceitful maiden indeed. heck even though the cluster has been bubbled its still present, maybe that itself will come back to *puts lips on microphone* burst his bubble. yes i'm ending on that.


  6. #155
    d=(^_^)z kupomog's Avatar
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    Encountering the Cluster gave me some chills, not gonna lie. So miserable and tragic, but so beautiful at the same time. A definitely high point in the story as far as me Needing more.

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  7. #156
    hickory smoked dude tyler's Avatar
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    #81: SAME OLD WORLD
    abrams/mitroff

    y'know, i don't take alot of pride in my procrastination, nor do i necessarily know how to articulate the myriad places it comes from, nor do i know if i should even be droning on about it ad nauseum every time it happens, especially when i said last time i wouldn't do it again. i can confidently say that its a little daunting when a momentum is squandered for a series where prior context and knowledge makes all the difference, and i'm forced to leap back in and do my best. however, as i look back on where i am, i realize i stopped at a very interesting space. when last i caught up with the latest endeavors of steven universe if you live in a universe that happens to be about three seasons behind, something happened that i spent the majority of my analysis on, that being steven's bubbling of the cluster. it was a moment that took an imminent death sentence and turned it into a compassionate act of grand-scale heroism, for every human and non-human on this orbular planetoid, and for every shard encased inside it, my thought of the cluster changed from inanimate doomsday weapon to imprisoned mass bent to the will of someone else's much more devious plotting, and really it should have been at least obvious as one of the more likely possibilities, if you're someone like me who was actively tracking the series beat by beat and catching the rhythms, learning the themes and appreciating the ever expanding heart of the series. i guess i should have kept "keeping it together" a little more firm in my mind as not just being an indicator of how far the homeworld gems are willing to take things to achieve their goals, but as a precursor to how that was mere small fry experimentation, that what we were seeing was not the ugliest way in which this could happen. perhaps im still learning to reconcile steven universe's way of presenting "villains" or "conflicts" with how i'm so used to doing it. perhaps that will be valuable in the future to maintain. yet it goes even further than that. see i think the main reason that i solidified the cluster in my mind (not literally that would be bad i don't have a nano-steven to go in my head and bubble them and my head would consequently explode. just so we are clear. cool? cool) is because regardless of what i know or knew or even expect of a show that is always willing to knock the compassion into motherfuckers kingdom hearts style, there's always gonna be that inkling of how i'm just plain used to stories being told. you tell me somethings bad, i'll probably by it. beyond that even though, it just felt a bit like the final step of something. it felt so massive, so impossible. i expected the gem drill plan to fail, i expected s3 to be them figuring this cluster situation out for at least half of it, i expected. rookie mistake. obviously after the end of s2 the interaction between peridot and yellow diamond looms large and ominously over the possible events to come, but you can't just barrel into those (or is assuming that just an inverse of the exact same mistake? hmm). so i guess i just felt, without the cluster...what now?

    turns out the answer is a little bit of visual poetry. we've spent alot of time saving this big cerulean sportsball in the celestial dreampool of the fictionalized milky way galaxy, but have we really appreciated it? of course steven loves earth, but steven's love of earth is much like his mother's, unconditional, or at the very based on the tranquility of quaint human life. it doesn't take a awe-spiked gradient skyline or a cloud tickling skyscraper to illuminate the brain bulbs of a boy with love overflowing cranial capacity, but it certain doesn't hurt for reminding both lapis and the viewer what this beauty really is and what is being cradled dearly by these protectors of earth. lapis and steven set sail in the skies, giving us a gems-eye-view of a myriad of sights. rural countryside railways, glowing ruby-flecked clouds, autumnal woodlands, purple-gold beaming cityscapes, and jersey! you'd like it in jersey, the people here seem to hate the earth too! steven universe has always been a show with dazzling sights, but to really let an episode settle on and appreciate these things makes it all feel alive. this is what's being fought for, this is everything we care about, and its beautiful. watching the leaves change color as the year passes, admiring the unreal marvels of human engineering, watching the ever-proceeding world like an ant colony from high above, its processes maintaining like a well-oiled circulatory system. yes even jersey, though it could cut down on the smog! its hard not to admire on a meta level, to realize just how beautiful all this stuff really is. just when i think steven universe's love can't extend further it leaps outta the screen and makes me wanna go outside and just...gaze. of course none of this is a deal-sealer for lapis, who is still shaken by the feeling of making the wrong decision, or just plain not understanding steven's attempts to sell the earth by tossing out sitcommy scenarios for city life. of course how is lapis to know what she wants, or what is really beautiful? she hasn't really gotten to see the earth in such a way, and while one nice trip around the sights can help gain a little perspective, its no easier to say that even these experiences cant be tainted. lapis doesn't know how humans live, lapis doesn't know how anything lives with self-induced purpose. it's a process.

    this episode really isn't too complex, most of the later backstory trickled through lapis' monologue can be pretty easily gleaned as is, though said flashbacks do possess some lovely visuals and as-of-now unknown gem warriors oooooooh! we know how lapis feels, she feels used, she feels unable to trust the crystal gems and her experiences on earth do not help create a good precedent for a life lived there. she also feels that she uh totally cannot return home, for reasons made quite clear. lapis has spent most of her time on earth trapped. in a mirror, under the ocean in a fusion, and now maybe most painfully of all, internally and without a comforting answer, and thats compounded by a past of ongoing betrayal, violence, fear and confusion, all contained inside the prison of a big blue burden briefcase that is planet earth. one nice round trip through scenic Wherever probably can't change that. what might can is...well i mean what do you think. starts with a "st" and ends with an "even, you idiot!!". indeed though, when lapis finally starts to embrace the moment and beam with a brief joy is when she and steven begin to just enjoy sailing together, tossing him and doin SICK FLIPS O SHIT. is it more important that earth is beautiful, or that steven thinks earth is beautiful? there's really no greater stem of confidence for lapis to hopefully water than guidance from the only one who gave her a chance and saw her struggle for what it was. its clear lapis barely even feels as though she's freed at all, whose to say how she feels, that she doesnt still feel cramped in a mirror or buried in tons of ocean water, that same pressure may exist because she's not been given the opportunity to feel any different. steven assures otherwise though, this isn't those situations and even if earth created them, it doesn't have to go that way again. its a great moment of granting someone their agency where theres a sincere sense that it was a light that had entirely gone out, where the possibility of Being didn't even seem like an option, where does one even start. how do you even learn to walk when you haven't been allowed to move your own body in so long, yanked by homeworld puppet strings and molded into tools for others. after all as steven is, nothing is still on earth. the struggles come and go, things improve, some things may get worse too, but its always moving, and in that sparkles its ever living breathing beauty, and why can't anyone beholden to that become part of the dance? sometimes all you need is to be told that you Can take the first step.



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