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"We... are the Crystal Gems, we'll always save the day, and if you think we can't, we'll always find a way!")
Debuting on November 4, 2013 and ending on January 21 2019, Steven Universe was a Cartoon Network show from Rebecca Sugar, an Adventure Time alum who also created Pug Davis. It was also the first Cartoon Network original created by a team headed solely by a woman.
The show is about the adventures of a boy named Steven, the youngest of a team of magical guardians of humanity: the Crystal Gems. Steven may not be as powerful as the other Crystal Gems. Or as savvy. And he doesn't have much control over his powers, which originate from the gem in his bellybutton inherited from his late mother. But that doesn't stop him from joining Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl on their magical adventures and finding a way to save the day. And as Steven slowly starts to find out what exactly they're saving the day from, the plot comes to encompass much more than just one sleepy beach town.
- Adults Are Useless: A recurring theme in the show is that whether it's Greg, the Maheswarans, Barb, Mayor Dewey, or even the Crystal Gems, the parents of Beach City often struggle to understand their childrens' needs and drive a rift between them as a result. But it's played realistically in the sense that they're not stupid, but imperfect. Communication between parents and their children is key, and thankfully both parties tend to walk away from these conflicts with better understanding of one another.
- Adult Fear: This show does not pull its punches when it shows children in life-threatening situations that prey upon the real fears of many a parent. Examples include Greg and the Crystal Gems fretting about having to watch Steven slowly die without being able to help him (Cat Fingers, So Many Birthdays), Steven getting kidnapped by adults with ill intent and traumatizing his friends and family in the process (The Return, I Am My Mother), and him and Connie being attacked by vicious wild animals/monsters (Bubble Buddies, Nightmare Hospital). Greg and Priyanka Maheswaran have also been shown to really get stressed out over the adventures their children go on, which is to be expected when they're your average parents in a setting full of magic and alien technology that's beyond their understanding.
- The death of Pink Diamond is a parent's worse nightmare: after spending millennia demeaning and hurting her, the other Diamonds realized far too late that they were cruel to Pink and never got to apologize before her death. It combines the worst aspects of Outliving One's Offspring and Parting Words Regret, and emotionally devastated them in different ways.
- Alternate History: Though not touched on very much, the Earth of Steven Universe is very different than its real life counterpart. The Gem colonization left several continents cut up or outright not existing, there are only forty states in the USA, Kansas is the local equivalent to Hollywood, Canada is called "The Great North" and has a green flag along with Christmas and Halloween not existing.
- Amazonian Beauty: Quartzes seem to be dedicated to this trope: whether they're Amethysts, Jaspers, Agates, or Rose Quartzes, they tend to skew towards being tall, thickly-built, and gorgeous. Garnet and Yellow Diamond are non-Quartz versions, where their fierce combat ability, height, and beauty all go hand-in-hand.
- Ambiguous Gender: Stevonnie, the fusion between Steven and Connie, is nonbinary and has a more androgynous appearance since they're a fusion between a boy and girl, unlike other fusions that are between female Gems. Steven's later fusions Smoky Quartz, Sunstone, and Rainbow Quartz 2.0 all invoke this, though the latter two are also referred to as "she" and "he" respectively.
- Ax Crazy: Most evil Gems aren't exactly perfect pictures of sanity: Jasper is a sadistic thug who relishes in beating people into the ground, Aquamarine is thrilled by the thought of casual murder, Yellow Diamond is willing to wipe out a planet with a geoweapon made with the tortured souls of her enemies out of grief, and White Diamond strips people of their free-will and nearly kills Steven with disturbing serenity.
- Balloon Belly: At one point, Amethyst swells up after eating a cloud.
- Beach Episode: Steven lives in a place called Beach City, meaning that most episodes are technically this! Beach Party is more of a proper example, and sees Steven and the Gems hanging out with the Pizza family by grilling and playing volleyball on the beach.
- Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst respectively.
- Big Bad: The Diamond Authority, a tyrannical trio of genocidal Gems with godlike powers. They rule the Gem homeworld with an iron fist, and are responsible for most of the strife faced by Steven and the Crystal Gems.
- Big Beautiful Man: Greg was still a tad round as a young man, but it didn't stop him from being a heartthrob. He still has this appeal going for him in the present day, where his kind and goofy personality help him come across as more of a cuddly teddy bear of a man as opposed to an old, washed-up schlub.
- Vidalia definitely seems to view her husband Yellowtail as this, and at one point she can be scene painting a picture of him while he's striking a glamour pose in his underwear.
- Big Beautiful Woman: Rose Quartz has this going for her in spades: she's noticeably plumper than most of the other Gems but still breath-takingly gorgeous. She's spent hundreds, if not thousands of years getting frisky with humans, while having more dedicated relationships with Pearl and Greg who were and still are head-over-heels in love with her.
- Amethyst is similarly chubby, but also the flirtiest of the Crystal Gems. A lot of shots like to emphasize her curvy figure, and she's more than happy to show it off when posing for some of Vidalia's paintings.
- While not as big as the other two, Holly Blue Agate still has a Rubenesque figure and gets a lot of fan attention for it.
- The non-binary Smoky Quartz isn't outright gorgeous, but their round figure and playful attitude still makes them adorable.
- In Last One Out of Beach City, Pearl is enamored with an attractive human girl who's a dead-ringer for Rose, chubby figure included.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Assuming you have a working spaceship at least but travelling galaxies is a very mundane affair.
- The Chain of Harm: White Diamond was abusive to Yellow and Blue Diamond who took it out on Pink Diamond and their subjects.
- City with No Name: The Gem homeworld is simply "Homeworld".
- Color-Coded Characters: Many of the characters are personifications of real-life precious stones and metals.
- Color-Coded Elements: Some of which possess elemental powers: Rubies have fire powers, Sapphires control ice, Yellow Diamond uses instant-poofing lightning bolts...
- Creepy Centipedes: The very first Corrupted Gem Steven fights is a huge acid-spitting centipede called the Centipeetle Mother. As her name would imply, she can create baby Centipeetles to make life more difficult for the Crystal Gems. But she becomes a lot less creepy after forming an adorable bond with Steven.
- Dean Bitterman: Holly Blue Agate carries herself like a strict schoolmarm, and spends most of her screentime shrilly ordering her Amethyst and Jasper underlings around while scolding them for trying to have any sort of fun.
- The Empire: The Gem Empire.
- Five-Token Band: Not apparent at first, but the team started out with 5 members, two of which are a perma-fusion.
- For Want of a Nail: Had Steven not stuck his head outside the warp in "Warp Tour", it's possible that the Gems might never have found out about Homeworld's interest in Earth.
- Fusion Dance: In order to fuse, two or more Gems have to dance with each other, though this gets faded out as the series goes on.
- Gemstone Assault: Gems vs Gems.
- Great Offscreen War: The Crystal Gem Rebellion.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Steven, Stevonnie, and Smoky Quartz, plus Rainbow Quartz 2.0 and Sunstone. And Steg.
- Heel Face Turn: Peridot and Lapis defect from Homeworld during the transition between seasons 2 and 3 while Jasper becomes corrupted through an attempted fusion. The Diamond Authority as a whole turns over a new leaf as well.
- Innocuously Important Episode: "Marble Madness". Steven listing out the names of his friends to Peridot led to the Season 4 finale, Lars' death and resurrection, and Steven being tried by the Diamonds which led to him really becoming curious as to what became of Pink Diamond. She became Rose Quartz.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: "Mom was Pink Diamond..."
- Monster of the Week: The conflicts of earlier episodes mainly focus on Steven and the Gems fighting a random Gem monster that's been causing trouble, or some kind of other Gem artifact or related nuisance. Once the plot really kicked into gear though, this trope would become a lot less prominent as time went on.
- Mysterious Past: The Gems seem to reproduce by someone else first putting an injector into the ground of a planet. But the show never explains how White Diamond, implied to be the first Gem, came about.
- Nice, Mean and In-Between:
- Obliviously Evil: The Homeworld Gems. They've been brought up in a strict system and they're fulfilling their role in it. To them, committing genocide on other planet is simply spreading their society and allowing new Gems to be made.
- Poor Communication Kills: Pretty much every problem can be boiled down to this.
- Reference Overdosed: See for yourself.
- Seldom-Seen Species: From a geological standpoint. Rebecca Sugar had a lot of fun showing off all kinds of obscure gemstones when designing characters: you have characters based off of sugilite, sardonyx, padparadscha, snowflake obsidian, rainbow quartz, orange spodumene...
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: The Gem War left its survivors with a lot of baggage. Rose Quartz would be haunted by guilt for the rest of her life, Pearl and Garnet are still reeling from the fallout of losing all their companions over the years, Lapis' imprisonment emotionally traumatized her, and Bismuth is willing to commit war crimes to avenge friends she lost to the Diamonds.
- Sigil Spam: The Era-1 emblem of the Great Diamond Authority is shown on the ancient Gem structures long before Yellow Diamond is name-dropped.
- The Sociopath: While most antagonists aren't purely horrible and evil, there are still a few notable exceptions to the rule.
- White Diamond is a total egomaniac who believes herself superior to all life in the universe, her fellow Diamonds included. She strips free will from Gems who rise against her and oversees planetary genocide without breaking her calm, motherly facade, and nearly kills Steven by removing his Gem with a seriously chilling sense of serenity. And when she isn't unnervingly calm, she's violently angry when things aren't going as she planned. She gets better about this after Steven convinces her to change her ways, but she's still struggling with the empathy bit when it comes to organic life.
- Aquamarine is a murderous little brat who's more than happy to have Topaz crush her human hostages to death to make the Crystal Gems cooperate, and doesn't give a rip about Topaz aside from how useful she is to her. Even when she talks her down from trying to poof her and is merciful enough to not tell the Diamonds, it comes off as her trying to save her own skin more than anything. And unlike most Gems, she never loses this nastiness and is still a self-absorbed little scumbag in Future where it's made clear that she's beyond redemption.
- Marty may not be a genocidal tyrant or even a criminal, but he's a realistic example of a mundane sociopath. He's a hedonistic creep who only cares about money, doesn't see any value in women aside from being able to sleep with them, and was an abusive manager to Greg during his rock star days and didn't give a damn about his feelings. When he shows up in the present day he hasn't changed a bit, and pretends to want to bond with his son Sour Cream after spending years of being a deadbeat dad, only to try and use him as an avenue he can peddle crappy soda through. He's so bad that Greg utterly hates the guy!
- Straight Gay: There are quite a few characters who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but most of them aren't stereotypical in the slightest. Pearl, Rose, Mr. Smiley, and others are characters who happen to be gay/bi instead of defined by their sexuality, which is what led to the show being such a hit with LGBT audiences.
- Type Caste: Gems on Homeworld follow a strict caste system based on their types, and will be shattered if they defy it. It's what contributed to so many Gems rebelling in the first place, with Pearl being the most prominent example.
- Was Once a Man: It's revealed early in the show that the monsters Steven's been fighting used to be normal Gems, only to have been changed into nearly-mindless monsters by an attack from the Great Diamond Authority.
- Youkai: Sugilite's appearance and attitude invoke that of the Oni, Japanese demons that are big, brutish, and while not necessarily malevolent, have an appetite for destruction.