Steven Universe: Frybo   Rewatch 
December 29, 2014 3:21 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Trying to help his friend Peedee escape the crushing weight of his mascot job, Steven uses a Gem Shard to animate his costume. Goes about as well as you'd expect.

Written and storyboarded by Raven M. Molisee and Paul Villeco.
posted by JHarris (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Points of interest for sightseers in Beach City:
  • No Garnet or Amethyst in this episode.
  • This is the first real Beach City episode. It's not a large town (despite being ostensibly a "City"), but it's a nice little place, apparently sustained by the tourist trade. The practice of giving super-powered heroes a fictional, yet realistic, setting of course dates back to Superman, and in comedy super action shows shares territory with The Powerpuff Girls' City of Townsville and The Tick's The City. The closest site to the Gem Temple seems to be Big Donut. There must be parts of town that are not in easy walking distance, or else Steven and Connie wouldn't need Lion to take them to the movie theater in Lion 2. Beach City is important because it keeps the show grounded. It's not even a big town, yet it still manages to fuel Steven's relentless enthusiasm, because that's the kind of kid he is. The Gems are strong, but they're not hugely powerful, so they fit in almost as equals when they interact with townsfolk. Still, one gets the sense that they're kind of laying low here. While Steven says the Gems are often out "saving the world," most of their fights that we see seem more like they're either saving the town or dealing with monsters proactively before they become a threat. But the modest scale of their goals changes somewhat when we get to episode 26....
  • Speaking of which.... Beach City suffers from serious Townsville-itis. Why do they suffer so many monster attacks? Could it be that the Gems' presence attracts them? Or maybe all the Gem artifacts and caves in the area draw them there, or maybe even produce them?
  • Some of Pearl's speech can be made out behind Steven's thoughts. As much as I can make out: the Gem Shards, she says, are the home of a powerful semi-consciousness that was harnessed by Gemkind to provide manual labor, but they gained sentience and turned on their creators. Rebellious servitors, eh? HMM DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING LOVECRAFT WROTE ABOUT? Once Frybo start growing thick veins running all over and making demon squeals, well, Lovecraft would have approved.
  • There's some great comic beats in this episode. "...could create a monster! That's why it's very important that it be kept from any kind of garment." (Background: Steven's pants run by.)
  • When Mr. Fryman is telling "Frybo" to put his costume back on, you can see Ronaldo futzing with his phone in the background, who I don't think it's spoiling anything to mention gets a more formal introduction later.
  • The closest the show's had to real villains so far? Seagulls. Lapis Lazuli is maybe redeemed, but seagulls are shown to be unrepentant bastards, which they are in real life, and their mindless aggression continues in Monster Buddies.
  • Steven's friend's name is "Peedee," not "Petey." I've said before that Steven Universe's human characters are all interesting for their own sakes, and Peedee is a good example. Sadie and Lars are high-school age; Peedee is the first character who's a peer. Steven doesn't have many of those: the only others, as of this date [ep 35], are Connie and Onion. Maybe this is because, as we discover in Mirror Gem, Steven doesn't attend school. Anyway, he's a good foil for Steven's boundless optimism. My favorite character moment in this one is Peedee's delight in escaping the costume ("Let go be kids!"), then how rapidly his joy decays once he starts riding the seahorse.
  • A couple of the citizens grabbed in Frybo's attack are among the cool kids Lars tries to get in with later. and one of those is Mayor Dewey's son. Also in the shop when the incident goes down is Mr. Smiley. Lars is also there, and gets thrown through a window.
  • "The truth is, you're a valued member of Fryman Brothers Incorporated and all its affiliates!"
  • Action moment with Pearl! After which Steven's lateral thinking comes to the rescue again. His strategy wins the fight pretty easily... but at what cost??!!?!?
  • Steven has ducky rainboots. They get animated here. It's not the last we'll see of them.
  • They give Frybo a Viking funeral.

posted by JHarris at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2014

Beach City reminds me of FLCL's Mabase. Part of it is the brighter range pastel-ish palette and all the stylized scenic aerial shots. Part of it is that this show really reminds me of FLCL in the way it perfectly blends the mundane with the fantastic and the childlike with the adult. There's a lot more going on there than we (or Stephen) see. It's also like an idealized version of the world of my (and the show's creators') youth with all the late 90s/early 00s details littered around. I love stuff like the boardwalk, the arcade lineup, Stephen's Gamecube, the wilting existence of VHS, etc. that's in the background. A lot of the music captures that era really well, with its dreaming-of-Genesis/Gameboy-songs-chiptunespop vibe.

I like Frybo. It's way creepier than it needs to be. I like this show a lot. Sometimes I think it's better than Adventure Time. It feels like it knows who it is and what it wants to be, where AT still sometimes scrambles for a cogent identity.
posted by byanyothername at 6:43 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Gems are strong, but they're not hugely powerful, so they fit in almost as equals when they interact with townsfolk.

I say this here, but there are other episodes where they seem much more powerful, and their alienness also kind of excludes them, although the townsfolk seem to be used to them. (Proprietorship of Fish Stew Pizza notwithstanding.)

I love stuff like the boardwalk, the arcade lineup, Stephen's Gamecube, the wilting existence of VHS, etc. that's in the background.

Heh, yeah if you need any more proof that this show is a fantasy, it's that Beach City still has an arcade.

Sometimes I think it's better than Adventure Time. It feels like it knows who it is and what it wants to be, where AT still sometimes scrambles for a cogent identity.

That's true, but I think Adventure Time is also freed up to be a lot of different things. It can tell so many kinds of stories. This week the Lich threatens to destroy the universe! Next week, a horse balancing on a beachball spreads joy through Ooo! Week after that get pounded right in the feels by a Simon & Marcy episode, then next time the Earl of Lemongrab sentences everyone to ONE MILLION YEARS DUNGEON. From Jake being a brick in a wall to Princess Bubblegum's Machiavellian antics, the show can go anywhere and still feel like itself.

But I love Steven Universe too. I don't think I could choose between them, although S.U. is edging it out at the moment because of the nuclear strength of my obsession.
posted by JHarris at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2014

Adventure Time is improv TV, where each team of storyboard artists composes a new riff based on what the previous ones did, with nobody having any idea of where thing will end up. And since it's animation, there are very few restraints on where it can go. The result is amazing, and something that's bigger than any one person, such that Pen could step down from running the show without it losing a beat. It took me a little while to realize this, but speculation about the show's future and looking for spoilers is kind of pointless, because not even the creators know where it's going; you just have to watch and let things unfold organically.

I get the impression that Rebecca has a plan in mind, and she knows exactly where Steven Universe is headed. Not that one is better than the other, it's just a different kind of show.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:47 AM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

She said in her AMA that she has a vision for the ending, but also doesn't want to tie the hands of the writers.
posted by JHarris at 1:20 PM on December 30, 2014

Storyboards for Frybo.
posted by JHarris at 3:48 PM on January 24, 2015

I'm starting my binge of this show and just got up to this one. SO GREAT.

"As soon as I bared my butt, I knew he'd crack."
posted by numaner at 8:00 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, just you wait....
posted by JHarris at 11:31 AM on October 3, 2015

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