Steven Universe. The cartoon that changed Cartoon Network… and possibly the whole world.
First airing in 2013, the story of a human boy and his alien ‘mothers’ may seem like a whimsical Saturday morning cartoon to the casual viewer, but it’s much deeper than that. The titular character – Steven Universe, born Steven DeMayo – is actually half-human and half-Gem. His adoptive mothers – Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl – are Gems, a race of alien humanoids who are all named after precious gemstones.
(A word of warning – Steven Universe is heavily serialized, and many things have happened in the show since it first aired, so there may be spoilers aheads.)
Here’s the boy himself and the Crystal Gems, as they call themselves in the theme tune. While it’s usually hidden due to being under his shirt, Steven has a Rose Quartz gem on his belly, which sometimes glows as seen in the first episode, “Gem Glow”. This is where the Gem half of himself comes from; the human half comes from his father Greg. Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, as previously mentioned, are his adoptive ‘parents’ who have been looking after him since he was a baby. Also from the theme tune, they’ll always save the day – even if it doesn’t look like it, they’ll always find a way.
When two or more Gems (or humans, in some cases) are harmoniously connected with each other, they go through a process known in-universe as ‘fusion’ – they become new, bigger Gems with new powers. One important detail which is revealed much later in the series (in the episode “Jailbreak”) is that Garnet is actually a fusion.
As from that episode, Garnet is a fusion of Ruby, a red Gem, and Sapphire, a blue Gem. Although Ruby and Sapphire’s personalities contrast dramatically – Ruby being rash and hot-headed and Sapphire being calm and more passive-aggressive – they have grown to become the show’s most definitive couple. Ruby and Sapphire are only seen when Garnet is ‘unfused’, since she is nearly always in this fused state. Garnet has a Gem on each of the palms of her hands – one representing Ruby, the other representing Sapphire, which was one of the earliest hints that she was in fact a fusion.
Garnet and Pearl are probably the more ‘serious’ of the Crystal Gems, but when they fuse, they become the fun-loving Sardonyx. She is technically made up of three Gems in one, as Garnet is already a fusion herself (as seen above). Sardonyx’s outfit reminds one of an entertainer or a circus ringleader; she even has her own TV show, named Sardonyx Tonight.
In the episode “Giant Woman”, Amethyst and Pearl fuse to make Opal, a skilled archer. Due to her bigger size, she is called a “giant woman” by Steven – and even her theme song refers to herself as this. Opal has four arms instead of just two, possibly taking one pair from Amethyst and the other from Pearl.
Very rarely, humans can fuse with other humans. Steven was the first person to demonstrate this with his best friend Connie, the girl on the right. They first fused accidentally, becoming “Stevonnie” (a portmanteau of Steven and Connie). Stevonnie does not go by male or female pronouns, but rather by “they” or “them”. They are 75% human and 25% Gem – Stevonnie even has Steven’s Rose Quartz Gem on their belly.
There are many more Gems and fusions in the show, as well as regular human characters, but these are the ‘main’ cast of the show.
We… are the Crystal Gems,
We’ll always save the day,
And if you think we can’t,
We’ll always find a way,
That’s why the people of this world believe in
Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl…