Steven Universe: Lion 2: The Movie
January 19, 2015 2:39 AM - Season 1, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Steven asks Lion to take him and Connie to the movies. They go on a detour to a strange cavernous place.

  • Another five-star episode. How can someone see this and not immediately fall in love with Steven Universe's world?
  • DOGCOPTER 3. Ronaldo didn't like it. "First of all, it’s a huge mistake to turn the last Dogcopter book into THREE movies." And: "Dogcopter is supposed to be an uncompromising look at the military-industrial-pet complex, not 'fun'! Fun is the worst." And: "Also, if you live in the Delmarva area - do not see it at the Beach City Cineplex. The parking lot is a mess!"
  • I love the bits of normal life that sneak into Steven Universe, like brain-dead action movies. The Dogcopter 3 trailer hits all the right notes as a pop culture parody. The kids' enthusiasm for it helps establish both Steven and Connie as normal children, important in a show where so many strange things keep happening. (Seriously, did you see Alone Together?)
  • "SOME PEOPLE SAY" (helicopters) "YOU CAN'T TEACH" (robot walker shooting lasers) "AN OLD DOG" (dog lifts head with a mechanical noise) "NEW TRICKS" (helicopters hit by lasers, explode, close up on robot) "UNLESS YOU'RE" (lady smirks at dog, which sprouts helicopter blades out his back, they spin, he squints) "DOGCOPTER 3... IN 3D!" (dog flies around to robot, turns, lifts tail, a missile fires out his back end destroying robot) "THIS FEBRUARY, THE FUR HITS THE FAN!" Aaah, that fixes the time of year of the episode as February, which is different from what I had guessed earlier, which was April.
  • Between them, the trailer and Connie reference a ton of action movie cliches. Connie: "In a world where humanity is pushed to the brink, it turns out the one who's the most human is a dog! ...copter." Steven: "And did you see where that missile came out of?" Connie (blushing): "Hee hee... yeah! I just hope it stays faithful to the book." Wait what? If the whole episode were just two kids enthusing over a goofy action movie parody it'd work, I think. But there's a glow from the warp pad and...
  • "The Gems are back!" This seems to be Connie's first sight of warp pad operation, in fact it's the first time we've seen any normal human witness it. Let's review the rules for warp pads that have been established (as of E37): Only Gems (including Steven) can activate them without aid. With a special tool, however, Greg was able to use one too. Apparently the destination of the Temple warp pad can be set somehow, perhaps mentally, to one of the other Earth warp pads. Once active, both Gems and humans can travel by pad. (Established in Island Adventure.) Rules to the warp streams themselves have also been established, but we'll go over those once we get to E36 Warp Tour.
  • This is an important scene for establishing a few things about the show's world. The Gems are surprised, but not particularly dismayed, that Connie is there, perhaps because it is Steven's room, not part of the Crystal Temple* proper. They remember Connie from Bubble Buddies, and seem like they've met her at least once in the interim. Importantly, while Steven has cosmic adventures in strange ruins more often now, he still has a kid's enthusiasm for popular culture, and exhibits his trademark eye stars when excited over either Gem or human stuff. It's the same to him. Connie is excited about both too, but recognizes that Gem business is something grander. (* "Crystal Temple" is the name for it I've seen recently on the internet, it seems to be a better one than Gem Temple, which I've used up until now, since it specifically relates to our heroes and not the rest of Gem culture.)
  • Connie is obviously an important character to the show, but interestingly she's only been in seven episodes of the 37 shown to date, and one of those is just an image of her (in Rose's Room). Steven Universe has so many wonders to display that even interesting Beach City characters don't get to show up that much. Steven's friend Peedee has just one major episode, and only one besides that where he gets a speaking role. (The exception is Lars and Sadie, who I count are each in 12 episodes in a substantial way. Greg is also in 12.)
  • When the beam turns off, the Gems are in one of their warping poses. It's obvious here that they're posing, especially Amethyst. Why do they do this? I guess they know the importance of making a good entrance.
  • S: "We're going to see a movie about a wacky flying dog!" C: "Well, it's about much more than that...." Maybe I choose to obsess over smaller details of the Steven Universe universe than most people, but I like to speculate on the details of this vast Dogcopter mythos that Connie is no-doubt familiar with. What's up with the smirking woman in the trailer? Is Dogcopter entirely robotic or a dogborg? (Cydog?) How do they, um, load missiles into him, via a suppository? Okay, that's a good place to stop speculating about Dogcopter.
  • One interesting thing about Steven Universe is how it's embraced smartphone culture. Steven has had two smartphones, and Connie has one herself. Moving with the times. I notice, however, that of the show's cast only Ronaldo has been seen with a traditional computer, apparently a Macbook.
  • Amethyst turning into a Dogcopter sparks a gasp from Connie, and continued amazement. Of all the humans, she's the one who's been the most impressed with Gem shenanigans, maybe because she's spent a lot of time outside of Beach City. Presumably Beach City residents are used to it, to some degree. (BTW: One of the little details revealed by Keep Beach City Weird, the in-character Tumblr maintained by the show, supposedly kept by Ronaldo, is the name of another city in Delmarva: Charm City. Also, Ronaldo is known to go to Delmarvacon, which I think is held there.) And then:
  • "Introducing the finest in luxury transportation: LION!" I think it's Lion's fourth appearance. (1.Steven's Lion, 2.So Many Birthdays, 3.Cameo in Steven The Sword Fighter.) Up until now he's just been this weird friendly pink lion who tags around with Steven for an unknown reason. This story is the first hint that he has some important relationship with Steven's mother, Rose Quartz, something even the other Gems don't know about. The story of their relationship grows more mysterious. Note: they didn't know about Lion, they weren't the ones entrusted with the Light Cannon, and they apparently didn't know about the additional Light Cannons shown in this episode. Since the cavern is apparently only accessible by Lion, it seems safe to assume that everything in the cavern is unknown to the other Gems. Apparently Rose knew how to keep secrets, even from her teammates, and Steven is starting to gain custodianship of those secrets.
  • This episode is full of adorable growling noises from Lion. I'm just warning you now.
  • C: "You have your own pet lion?!" S: "Lion is sorta like a pet! He does his own thing most of the time though." We see Lion has been eating... something... that's like a lizard with jeweled backplates, and there's also feathers around. WTF? S: "See? Who knows where he got that?" So Lion also needs to eat, though he seems able to sustain himself by hunting. Also, we find out later, he sleeps. He seems to be about as organic as Steven is.
  • C: "Wow Steven. Everything in your life is so awesome and magical. The only thing exciting in my life is tennis practice. Forehand! Backhand! Overhead death strike!!" S: "Wow, tennis is rad!" That's why we love Steven.
  • Steven seems to expect Lion to just ferry them to the theater. Has he done this before? Has it happened often? If so, why isn't it happening now? Is it because Connie's there?
  • What do we know Lion can do? Normal lion things. Carry two child-size passengers. Walk on water. Roar and make portals appear. He seems to be of a bit higher intelligence than normal lions, but not of much higher intelligence. Particularly, he knows some commands but may not understand English, and definitely can't talk. He can produce a sword (presumably Rose's weapon) from his head, and much later we discover there's a strange pocket dimension in his mane.
  • S: "Lion's not trained very well, but I'm not trained very well either...." It's on the word trained that Lion reacts and runs off over the ocean. Presumably this is a command word he recognizes. Why he has to run over the water to make the portal, I don't know.
  • The portal seems to have its own effects and space within it. Is this related to warps, and warp streams? Is there the same kind of space outside of it that we see in Warp Tour?
  • The chamber the portal takes them to is very interesting, and seen only once in the show so far. My guess that it's a training chamber of Rose's is based on the command that set Lion off.
  • S: "Lion, normally I'm all about this stuff, but this is not the movies." Lion: "Rarrgh." S: "What does that mean Lion? What does that even mean??"
  • In the cave is a mysterious hand-shaped pedestal with a rose pattern on it, and so we guess is an artifact of Gem technology related to Rose. It reacts when Connie puts Steven's hand on it. Connie (a good problem-solver) discovers that pressing different parts of Steven's body makes things appear. (Or does it? It's kind of mysterious. They may just be obscure command words.) These things appear: Swords, armor, three Light Cannons, axes, spiky chain balls, and a giant penny. Wait, what? Is this a Batman: The Animated Series reference? Is this place like Rose's Batcave? NOTICE: the back of the penny is pretty close to the back of the standard, current design of the penny; it doesn't have Monticello on the back but the shield reading E PLURIBUS UNUM, a banner saying ONE CENT, and additionally the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Further confirmation that Steven's country is the alternate world version of the USA.
  • C&S: "A giant..." S: "...penny?" C: "Does that mean it's worth more than a regular penny?" S: "Well, that would make CENTS!" Both: laugh. Lion: annoyed look.
  • The key phrase that made the robot appear was Steven saying that he wants to see lots of explosions. The following action sequences are pretty harrowing for what is, still, a couple of normal kids. I don't think the show cheats too much with them though. I'd guess the robot isn't meant to be lethal, just for training purposes, although it's also meant to be used, I'd think, in the cavern, which explains the damage it inflicts on the movie theater's street.
  • Steven purposely throws up his defense bubble around himself and Connie! He seems to have better control over it now, although it gets zapped away pretty quickly by the robot. In the Newsarama interview with Steven, Greg and Pearl, which was published during the hiatus following E35 (Lion 3), Steven says he can bubble at will now, though I don't know if he means his protective bubble or his gem sealing bubble. After the explosion, Steven and Connie's hair is mussed for the rest of the episode, and their burns and bruises remain; those doesn't go away cartoon-style when the scene changes.
  • When Lion finally brings them to the movies, Steven gets over their dangerous experience in the chamber very rapidly, while Connie, unused to the kinds of danger Steven's already faced on several missions, seems a bit more shaken up.
  • S: "I ruined everything, didn't I? I don't know why you hang out with me. I mess stuff up all the time!" C: "I don't know why you hang out with me! I'm so much more... less... interesting than you! And obviously you have some sort of magical destiny... why would you even care about something like Dogcopter?" S: "Why? Because it's DOGCOPTER! He's a dog, and a helicopter, and a cop! He shoots missiles out of his butt, AND HE'S GONNA SAVE THE WORLD! Dogcopter is very cool and important... to me."
  • The portal Lion made didn't dissipate right away this time; it's how the robot followed them to Beach City. Bad magic extra-dimensional lion!
  • The signfronts of the other stores on the theater's street: Sports R Us and Miroslaws Jewelers. The robot causes some pretty heavy damage on the street, destroying at least one car and the neon sign of the theater.
  • The sword Lion produces has a rose-themed design on the hilt. It's this, and the rose-themed apparatus in the training chamber, that are our clues here that Lion has a connection with Rose.
  • It's really Connie's tennis practice that saves them, Link-fighting-Ganondorf style. This is the beginning of Connie's development as something slightly greater than a normal human. I've remarked elsewhere that her friendship with Steven results in her becoming kind of Gem-touched, in a way that even Greg doesn't seem to be. This is most evident in Alone Together, where she fuses with Steven, which nearly makes her a Gem herself, at least for a while. And other kids don't destroy amok robots with magic swords.
  • As the robot blows up, note. Connie's eyes have four-pointed stars in them, while Steven's has his five-pointed ones. Steven can do the four-pointed ones as well, but the five-pointers are unique to him (and, in one shot so far, to Greg). We don't know if there's any significance to that, or if it's just a stylistic thing. Connie: "Just like tennis practice...." Steven: "Magical destiny practice...."
  • (At ticket counter) S: "Hi!" (burning tire rolls behind him) Clerk: "Uuuuh... hello." Connie is carrying Rose's huge sword on her shoulder, it's so cute! S: "Two kids, and one lion, to see Dogcopter." (Lion clouds up the window with his breath.) Clerk: "Um... do you have a rewards card?" Movie theater clerks see all kinds of things, this is nothing at all to them.
  • The three of them (in 3D glasses, Lion included) are alone in the theater. I guess either Dogcopter 3D is nearing the end of its run or it wasn't a big earner.
  • After their magic adventure, Steven retains his enthusiasm for Dogcopter, and Connie does too, with Steven's help. That's a good place to leave our young heroes. The End.
posted by JHarris (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
GAH, two things:
1. I meant to include the above text as a comment, not a More Inside. Sorry about that.
2. I also meant to mark this as a Rewatch.

Well, it was late when I made it. Sorry.
posted by JHarris at 7:45 AM on January 19, 2015

This episode is important to me because Connie is, in many ways, evocative of the character Himemiya Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, a show that Steven Universe is clearly influenced by in style, but also sometimes seems to deliberately reference and immediately subvert into something positive.

Throughout Utena, Anthy is repeatedly used, abused, and treated as an object, and also a love interest, and most importantly, she somehow holds within her a rose-embellished sword that the person using her can pull out of her body. The show tells some very cruel stories about abuse and the only character to see Anthy as an actual person is Utena herself, and only sometimes. We eventually learn that Anthy is a witch who has committed herself to what amounts to eternal torture for pretty shitty reasons, imo. The relationship of Connie and Steven in Steven Universe is a complete rejection of this, while still playing with a lot of the same visual motifs and basic structure of magical friendship. Of course, Utena is also telling a story about sexuality and romantic love (and distortions thereof), while Steven's still uncomfortable with the idea of a crush, keeping the whole thing in a safer zone.

Connie is pretty fascinated by all the Gem stuff, and her life is being changed by her association with them. But unlike Anthy who allows herself to be manipulated for the purposes of the people around her and the world she's in, Connie is always shown taking her own initiative. She is shored up by Steven and has moments of self-doubt and anger, but Connie's facility with taking her mundane skills and applying them to whatever improbable thing that's happening is important as a theme for Steven as he learns and also as metatextual commentary.

That shot of Connie with the sword on her shoulder isn't just cute. It's important.

Also Lion is adorbs, please Cartoon Network, make plushie pink Lions immediately. Did you know Cartoon Network is no longer airing Steven Universe repeats and historically this means it's in extreme danger of getting cancelled? And there's very little merch out for people to support it with. Why?! I want both a plushie Steven who will shout encouraging things and laugh when I press his tummy gem, and a plushie pink Lion. Why do you force me to go buy pink yarn and make my own, Cartoon Network? Why??
posted by Mizu at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Steven Universe has already been confirmed for a second season of 52 episodes, and its ratings are very good, at one point approaching 3M viewers. While network execs are only slightly more predictable in behavior than the position of subatomic particles, I think it's premature to start panicking yet.

People love Steven Universe, and Tumblr *exploded* with art about Stevonnie. And if it continues, there will probably be toys, the shows just about a year old at the moment, give it time.
posted by JHarris at 12:02 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Furthermore --

Cartoon Network has been involved in something like a turnaround lately. With shows like Steven Universe, Regular Show and Uncle Grandpa infiltrating the airwaves, and of course Adventure Time, there is starting to be a sense that the good old days are back. I read somewhere that the guy who was forced out over the (remarkably bullshit) Aqua Teen Hunger Force subway LCD scandal, who was part of the soul of the old guard, is back on board. There's probably a FPP to be made there, I'd have to research it to get my facts straight though.

So please don't stress out over Steven Universe leaving! I agree, if there was a solid chance of it getting cancelled I'd be beside myself too, it's the best thing on TV right now. The night I discovered the show, I started watching it on little sleep at like two in the morning. I literally "just one more show"ed until two in the afternoon, and afterwards was so jazzed up that I didn't sleep for several hours after. That's something I hadn't been able to do in a long time. It's something special, and needs a long life.

And haven't having seen Utena, I think that's an interesting comparison! Some anime squicks me out, a bit, and that sounds terrible. Steven Universe has done a good job, I'd say, of taking some of the energy and weirdness of your better anime series and infusing it with a huge amount of heart. The best of Japanese and Western storytelling disciplines in one.
posted by JHarris at 12:11 PM on January 20, 2015

But I could crochet a pink Lion in less than a week! And then I can take a deep breath and stick my face in its mane and--[spoiler censor]

Anyway yeah after posting that comment I went and did my research and determined it was mostly tumblr having a freak out. But that still doesn't explain the lack of something so obviously merchandisable as some plush toys from a show that is all about round curves and squishy looking character designs. The Adventure Time official merch is delightfully well made, inventive, and very whatever-gender-welcoming. I have a BMO, myself. I hope some Steven Universe items are being worked on by the same team.
posted by Mizu at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree, a plush Lion would be great. But it does take time for these things to be made. The market for plush Gen4 ponies was huge but it took Hasbro surprisingly long to capitalize on it, and they're a toy company. So yes, I am pretty confident (as confident as one can be about these things anyway) that the toys will come.
posted by JHarris at 12:20 PM on January 20, 2015

An aside about Utena:

It is one of my favorite shows and was extremely formative to me as a queer teen and an anime nerd, but I recently rewatched the whole thing from start to finish and it was tremendously offputting in numerous ways. It jives really poorly with contemporary western perspectives on gender, sexual consent, healthy friendships, acceptable sacrifices, and horticulture, to name a few. But it is still an absolute classic. The word "revolutionary" in its full title isn't just about Utena herself showing up to shake up stuff at a mysterious boarding school, but also about breaking past and reinventing the boundaries and possibilities of the magical girl genre. It was the first really successful one to do that in a remarkable way. You might have heard of another anime called Madoka, which owes a great deal to Utena.

I feel like Steven Universe is one of the first western shows to directly respond to Utena and the other anime of its time period, which is particularly interesting to me because of the mismatch in intended demographics between cultures. SU is a kid's show through and through, but it is undertaking the impressive task of telling stories about problems usually presented in media for a very different audience, and using some of the visual language for that audience to tell stories for those western kids, too. It is fascinating. The end result appears to be that I want to shout from the rooftops that everyone needs to watch SU, but I am extremely careful to talk about triggers and feeling safe with people I have accidentally encouraged to watch Utena.
posted by Mizu at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

(reading reading reading)

Wait, horticulture?
posted by JHarris at 2:46 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Roses are a theme in Utena. Mostly it was a throwaway joke because I can't keep myself from doing that when I make lists, but also Anthy appears to be the only one taking care of all the millions of roses but she only has that tiny water kettle? It's all very suspect.
posted by Mizu at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was at the Steven Universe panel at Wondercon last year and Rebecca Sugar said "if you think it might be an anime reference, it probably is" so chances are the Utena references are intended.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:06 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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