Steven Universe: Onion Trade
January 13, 2015 12:32 AM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Steven trades Onion Pearl's Replicator Wand for an action figure. Yeah, this won't end well.

Written and storyboarded by Lamar Abrams.
posted by JHarris (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
  • Steven is half human and half magic being. His guardians are three of those magic beings. They often go on dangerous, high-powered adventures. That's weird, yes. But just as weird is Onion. Where are his ears? How does he live? Does he have no moral sense at all? Onion has a father who we've met before, Captain Yellowtail. (We know his name because it was revealed on the production Tumblr, Steven Crewniverse.) Rebecca Sugar's AMA reveals that Onion also has a brother, Sour Cream, who is one of the cool kids Lars tries to get in with.
  • Continuing with that theme... lately there's been a lot of discussion around these parts about Steven's nature, what Gems are, what's up with the Gem Homeworld, etc. So it's entertaining to watch an episode where Steven is pretty much a normal kid, getting excited about action figures. "There's Ninja GUY, Construction GUY, Cop GUY, Eye GUY, Invisible GUY, Jagged GUY, Cat GUY, Apple GUY, and my main man Ranger GUY, the best of all the GUYS!" Each of the GUYS has his own sound effect when Steven says his name. Ranger GUY's is a whipcrack.
  • Pearl's at her most mom-like here, scolding Steven for his messy room. Well in the kid's defense, most kids' rooms don't contain a full kitchen.
  • The GUYs machine at the arcade is basically a deluxe kind of Gachapon machine, a toy vending machine. In the US the closest real analogue are those pitiful machines in front of some grocery stores, that take small change and dispense plastic bubbles containing particularly cheap toys. They're a bigger thing in Japan.
  • There's a lot of great dialogue in this episode. Greg: "Wow you're looking sad and wet. What happened to your life, little guy?" Steven: "I lost something... something precious!" Greg: "(gasp) Your innocence??"
  • There are balloons in Greg's van. We never find out why.
  • The mystery of Steven's early years remains unsolved, but the recent Newsarama interview fixes that Greg raised Steven at that time. It's unknown how long Steven has been living with the Gems as of the first episode. I speculated earlier that it might have been a year, because that's how long he kept Connie's bracelet in the freezer for a year, and Greg's van doesn't exactly have refrigeration. Wait a moment, where did Steven live while Greg was raising him??
  • Greg has a bag of quarters. What's he doing with all that change? Does he have popular vending machines at the car wash?
  • There are three kinds of GUYS pictured the GUYS machine that Steven didn't name. One of them is the dreaded Dave GUY....
  • Suitcase Sam's is a place we've never been before. It's never explained what the heck Onion is doing in there, just that it ends with him carrying a bag of fast food.
  • We end up back at the docks. Last time we were here was in Bubble Buddies, in a sequence that also involved Onion.
  • We do hear both Capt. Yellowtail and Onion talk here, but it's in gibberish we can't understand.
  • We find out that Steven doesn't attend school. Does Onion?
  • It's clear at the docks: Onion is much smaller, and probably younger, than Steven.
  • Onion: (negative head shake, confident gimmie-gesture). We'll see Onion doing more of this. It seems to have a magical effect of getting him what he wants. The way it seems to work is, by not saying what he wants, his trading partner feels the need to guess, and in so doing reveal what he's willing to give up. When that doesn't work, there's always larceny....
  • Steven: "Dave GUY! Look at him. Does it look like his life is going anywhere?" Amethyst: "Aww, cut him a break. Maybe this is the year he gets his life together? Maybe he'll get a cool internship?" Amethyst is good for these kinds of conversations. Unfortunately, Amethyst is also good at supplying magical MacGuffins that cause chaos.
  • The packets that Onion throws out into the street read Hynes Tomato Ketchup. THE MORE YOU KNOW. He then runs over them with the motor scooter he traded for back in Arcade Mania, which he then wrecks.
  • The sequence where Onion gets the Replicator Wand is awesome. Look at his eyes. Will Steven actually trade him the Replicator Wand for his action figure? What do you think?
  • What does Steven say when Pearl says "Why didn't you just replicate Ranger GUY?" It sounds a bit like damn it, although I'm sure it's actually dang it.
  • In a sea of gachapon bubbles. Amethyst: "Aack! How do you move in this stuff?" Steven: "Try and act like a rich duck." Amethyst: "What does that mean?" SO AWESOME!
  • This whole episode shows Onion can be pretty bad-ass if he's got power. Which is why you don't give Onion power. Keep him away from elected office!
  • Steven makes amends with Onion pretty readily. He's awfully forgiving considering that he threw cars at the Gems.
  • Amethyst: "So, all the stuff that got copied turned into nothing?" Pearl: "Yes." Amethyst: "Rats." Sometimes the best jokes are the ones in the viewer's mind.
  • Greg: "You went through all that trouble for a toy?" Steven: "It was more about the memories than the toy. Now we have new memories. Horrible, horrible memories!" Greg: "Awww!"

posted by JHarris at 12:39 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the US the closest real analogue are those pitiful machines in front of some grocery stores

Actually in the past few years (I want to say maybe decade?) at least in slightly fancier malls I've see Pokemon-branded machines that are pretty much exactly like the GUYs machine, only, you know, with Pokemon. Admittedly Pokemon is a Japanese thing and I'm pretty sure they're the exact same machines as exist in Japan, just with translated decals and GUI, but it's certainly an object your average-kid-who-gets-cable (and thus can easily watch Steven Universe) would be familiar with. Also, of course, pokeballs themselves are a direct draw from gachapon capsules. All in all it's more common in the US than you might think, although it's largely still all about Pokemon specifically, and if you don't notice such things it might totally pass below your awareness. Anyway, point being, the GUYs concept is one that will have plenty of cache with the intended audience, and not just a pleasing connection to the viewers who perhaps have more in common with the creators of the show, like a lot of the things were in "Garnet's Universe".

Wait a moment, where did Steven live while Greg was raising him??

I've been assuming that Greg doesn't only live in the van, but also in the car wash building itself. It's just that the car wash building isn't really built as a home. But it probably has a kitchenette or something. Alternatively, Greg could have lived with baby!Steven in what is now Steven's "room", which is why Steven has a kitchen and everything practical that Gems don't need. But then when stuff started getting magical and Steven needed more space, instead of doing the logical thing, Greg decided to just live in his van. I mean, who built Steven's room? Certainly not Steven. And the temple certainly has to have been there longer than the beach house, consider both of their states of decay. Maybe Rose built it for Greg?

All in all, this episode felt off-tone. Onion is a creepy little dude and I wonder what the heck is up with him, but I don't wonder enough to go looking for meta about him, either. He feels like he belongs on a different show, unlike the other families we see in Beach City, who are all weird but at least definitely human. Is Onion's family partially magical? Perhaps Onion feels a calling to be a dark wizard. Watch out, Steven! Don't mess with powers beyond your ken!
posted by Mizu at 5:34 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Greg has a bag of quarters. What's he doing with all that change? Does he have popular vending machines at the car wash?

A car wash IS a vending machine, of sorts. It'd be perfectly normal for a guy running a car wash to have a shitload of quarters. See also: Laundromat owners.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2015

Onion: He certainly is creepy. He's known to try to be helpful sometimes too, at least as far as harpoon guns go.

Pokemon gachapon: I have never seen one of these machines you refer to Mizu, but I can't imagine where one would be here in Brunswick, GA. I can believe they're more common in other places.

Car wash vending machine: I suppose so, but I guess local car washes mostly run on credit cards? Landromats are more obvious for me.
posted by JHarris at 9:00 AM on January 13, 2015

All of my local car washes have coin-operated vacuum cleaners.
posted by isthmus at 9:53 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

And the temple certainly has to have been there longer than the beach house, consider both of their states of decay. Maybe Rose built it for Greg?

In Lion 3: Straight to Video, we see the outside of the Gem Temple in the tape. The beach house/Steven's room isn't there at that time; the dimensional door and warp pad are exposed to the air.

My comments in the geeklist nowithstanding (I was being somewhat facetious), I think Onion is not supposed to be read as magical. He's an odd little boy, but still definitely a boy. The fact that he's kind of weird, I think, is supposed to be read that humanity itself is weird, and in its own way a match for the weirdness of the Gems. (I am reminded of the accident Sadie mentions that's the reason Big Donut no longer bakes on-site....)
posted by JHarris at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2015

Regarding the quarters thing: they are clearly from a coin operated vacuum or air supply house, of the kind that you often find near car washes. 🚗
posted by ocherdraco at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2015

I'm not sure why that emoji felt necessary.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:47 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fifteen episodes in, the sequence with Onion on the motor scooter is definitely my favourite of the entire show so far. I also really liked the harpoon gun gag with him back in one of the earlier episodes. I think he adds a nice edge to the show.
posted by Quilford at 10:38 PM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Onion has a two second moment in Political Power, much later, but it's awesome.
posted by JHarris at 11:22 PM on June 27, 2015

I feel like somewhere out there, there must be a Dave that Dave GUY is based on.
posted by redsparkler at 9:12 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love everything about the G.U.Y.S. but especially that their expanded name ("Guys Under Your Supervision") is a recursive acronym.
posted by comealongpole at 4:40 PM on August 22, 2016

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