Steven Universe: Arcade Mania   Rewatch 
January 3, 2015 7:51 PM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Steven shows the Gems the wonders of the local arcade, where Garnet becomes dangerously enthralled.

Written and storyboarded by Lamar Abrams, Aleth Romanillos, and Luke Weber.
posted by JHarris (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
  • This is a pretty light episode, but it's notable because it's the closest we've gotten to a Garnet episode so far.
  • Of the Gems, Garnet is the one we know the least about. We're not even sure of her role among the others. Sometimes she's leader, sometimes she's a pal, and sometimes she's a forbidding presence. Most of the Gem-centric episodes we've seen so far (throughout the whole run, not just up to this point) have been Pearl episodes. Amethyst has had just one spotlight, but several where she instigates the plot. But Garnet pretty much just has this, unless you count the one where she's fused with Amethyst (Coach Steven), and Garnet's Universe, which is really more about Steven's ideas about Garnet than anything else.
  • So, what do we know about Garnet? She's kind of indulgent towards Steven; Pearl's the primary mother figure, but sometimes Garnet overrules her, and even thought that sometimes puts Steven in danger Pearl goes with it. Previously I've referred to the roles of Amethyst, Pearl and Garnet in Steven's upbringing as pal, mother and trainer, respectively. She's probably the strongest of the Gems in a combat capacity, she's frightening when angered (sometimes enough to drive Pearl to hysterics), her sunglasses are independently summonable and seem to have some sensory function, and, as we discover in this episode, she has three eyes. Also, she has two gemstones, one on each hand. I've speculated she may actually be a fusion herself, which might also explain the third eye. Of the Gems, she may also be the one who knows the most about Steven's mother, Rose Quartz.
  • On to the episode. This is the first time Steven wears his jacket, which the show is careful to point out by having the others get annoyed by the noise it makes.
  • "I'm taking you guys to the best place in Beach City: Funland Arcade!" Magic gem women? How ordinary! You know Steven Universe is a fantasy because here, arcades still exist. In front are the jellyfish and seahorse Steven and Peedee rode back in Fribo.
  • While we still don't know where Steven gets his food or clothes from, or how he pays utilities, we find out from were Steven gets his arcade quarters at least: metal detecting at the beach.
  • Some contents of the arcade. * The back wall of the arcade has a row of pinball machines. * A good mixture of arcade cabinet is seen in the place, including large console multi-joystick games, sit-down racers and prize and ticket games. The place even has a row of Skee-ball machines. Oh, and Sour Cream (Onion's brother, although this hasn't been said on-screen yet) is standing around in the initial pan shot.
  • Games in the arcade: Road Killer, Turbo Race (aka Start Your Engines), Race Rush, "Pogo?", The Claw, Teens of Rage, Golf Quest, Battle Frog (logo involves a frog in armor with a sword), Punch Buddy and Meat Beat Mania.
  • The game that Garnet gets into playing, Meat Beat Mania, is obviously meant to be a Samba De Amigo clone.
  • Pearl gets led to a "Road Killer" machine. One thing her reaction points out that gets demonstrated again later on: Pearl knows how to drive!
  • Onion is shown trading tickets in for a motor scooter. That scooter shows up in a later episode, where he totals it. We also find out, later, that he gets tickets by breaking into machines.
  • Omnipresent Mr. Smiley runs the arcade, and mans the prize counter too.
  • Blink and you'll miss it: for a split second, a "WINNERS DON'T USE DRUGS" messages flashes on-screen on Teens Of Rage, with its own fake federal seal. (Alternate universe note: the US Government in Steven Universe appears to use a segmented, coiled "Don't Tread On Me" snake for its symbol instead of an eagle.) Teens Of Rage is made by "CARPCOM."
  • When Garnet punches the Teens Of Rage machine, it howls in pain. When she smashes Punch Buddy out the door, it screams "Tell my wife I'm sorryyyy!"
  • The show is careful to show us: when Steven takes off Garnet's glasses and drops them, they flash and disappear when they strike the ground.
  • When Steven unplugs the game, Garnet powers it back up again with electricity generated by her hands. She's never done that before, or since.
  • Some thought appears to have gone into the visual design of Meat Beat Mania. P1 is a pig, and her maracas are hams; P2 is a chicken, and his maracas are chicken legs. When P2 loses, the pig is shown with a bucket of chicken on the Continue screen.
  • Blink and you'll miss it: when we see Garnet's three eyes in close-up, they're each a different color.

posted by JHarris at 7:59 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Minor detail I love is the metal detector is Metal Mutt, which barks when it finds something. Makes it seem more toy-like than tool-like, which is the sort of thing Steven would gravitate towards. And it helps create the odd pop-culture consumer environment, along with Mr. Queasy, G.U.Y.s, the Dog-Nut, Cookie Cat and Lion Lickers, etc.
posted by RobotHero at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is kind of where I stopped sporadically watching the show. I never got into Adventure Time, and thought it would be good to get on the ground floor of some new cartoons. So, I started Gravity Falls and then this, but gradually just totally fell in love with Gravity Falls.

So, should I pick this show up again?

I do really like Bee and Puppycat.
posted by FJT at 9:43 AM on January 5, 2015

Well I might not be the right person to ask considering my geeking out over the show, my answer is obviously going to be yes, but.... FJT, while I think all the episodes of SU have something to offer, this one's in the middle of kind of a slump.

The next one, So Many Birthdays, is better. Starting with E16, Steven The Sword Fighter, I think the show starts building steam. You might want to try picking up from there. E17 is the terrific Lion 2: The Movie. Later on there are some very nice episodes. I'd hate to think of you missing them. Here are what I think are the best episodes so far (up to 1-35):

1-6 Cat Fingers, 1-16 Steven The Sword Fighter, 1-17 Lion 2: The Movie, 1-20 Coach Steven, 1-21 Joking Victim, 1-23 Monster Buddies, 1-24 An Indirect Kiss, 1-25+26 Mirror Gem + Ocean Gem, 1-28 Space Race, 1-30 Island Adventure, 1-32 Fusion Cuisine and 1-35 Lion 3: Straight to Video.

Gravity Falls is awesome too, and possibly the main reason I'm binging on SU now instead of GF is because I watched a lot of SU first.

That article on Cartoon Brew, about the end of the creator-driven era in cartoons (the one that infamously inspired 'channers to watch MLP:FiM and thus founded the Bronies) looks more off the mark every day, although in its defense, it was published before Adventure Time, which seems to be the foundation of the current era of awesomeness.
posted by JHarris at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2015

I'm well in favor of the theory that Garnet is a gem fusion that long ago lost her individuality. It explains, among other things, her relative level of capability compared to the other gems. I think in a fight Opal would be an even match for Garnet. For that matter, the statue that forms the exterior of the temple is pretty clearly depicting the fusion of Garnet, Sapphire, Pearl, and Rose Quartz, since it has gems matching the location of the gems of each.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:50 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

The storyboard for Arcade Mania.

While I'm coming up with half-baked theories for references and influences, here's another one. Garnet without her glasses, I just realized, reminds me of Sharaku without his bandage from Osamu Tezuka's classic (and little-known in the US) manga and anime The Three-Eyed One, although definitely not as Machiavellian.
posted by JHarris at 12:58 AM on January 25, 2015

I think it's relevant that while none of the gems understand the arcade, Garnet understands it the least. She is definitely the most alien of the trio.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2015

How far have you watched? There's a big secret regarding Garnet that's revealed in the season ender.
posted by JHarris at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2015

I'm up to the double-parter that introduces Lapis Lazuli.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:36 PM on May 22, 2015

There is a run of amazing episodes ahead of you.
posted by JHarris at 5:25 PM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Loving the comments! It hadn't even occurred to me that a) any main character might be a fusion gem, or b) that iterative fusions might maybe be possible ("gems all the way down").

As a gaming geek I loved the arcade, esp. StreetsTeens Of Rage. Didn't recognise the specific game Meat Beat Mania was referencing but put me in mind of Meat Beat Manifesto, because word association. Similarly, Garnet sans sun-specs made me think of the classic 3x3 Eyes more than anything else.
posted by comealongpole at 5:15 PM on August 22, 2016

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