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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Steven Universe: Future is an animated series that continues the characters and storylines of Steven Universe, with the main character now aged up to 16. As the show takes place during a time of peace on Earth, major battles and villains aren't as common as in other Steven Universe stories, but there's still some violence and conflict, such as a fight between Steven (voiced by Zach Callison) and Jasper in which the two punch each other/make each other fly into the air (no one is injured except for a crawling bug that Jasper stomps on). There's no cursing, but characters sometimes say rude things to one another, like when Steven is called a "weak, sappy, useless piece of dirt." Characters show strong empathy and compassion for each other; as Steven says, "If there's a chance I can help, shouldn't I at least try?" As in previous stories, Steven is a terrific role model: kind, thoughtful, brave, and loyal. He also enjoys having a good time and shows appreciation for his friends and family. The mostly female characters in his universe each have their own quirks, as well as agency and dignity. By taking an unusual focus -- how people heal from trauma -- this animated show reaches impressive emotional heights. It's both entertaining and moving for tweens, teens, and adults, especially families who want to watch together.
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What's the story?
After five seasons of facing down his adversaries on Steven Universe and combatting a world-ending threat in Steven Universe: The Movie, limited series STEVEN UNIVERSE: FUTURE meets up with the half-human, half-alien Steven (Zach Callison) at age 16, living on a peaceful planet. With humans and Gems alike on track for a happy ending, Steven, Pearl (Deedee Magno), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Garnet (Estelle) have set up Little Homeschool, a place where Gems new to Earth can get the tools they need to build new lives. But just because humans and the Diamonds have settled their feud doesn't mean that everyone is settling peacefully into what's supposed to be a bright future, and Steven and friends have more work to do.
Is it any good?
Just as the Harry Potter series famously matured with its readership, so Steven Universe is taking on increasingly deep and complex ideas, though they're disguised in seemingly simple episodes. What Steven Universe: Future is working out is something quite rare for TV and movies: how to pick up the pieces after a climactic battle, when all the traumatized people left in its wake have to find a way to go on and seek happiness. As Steven Universe: Future picks up, some characters are happy and content: Amethyst is finding new inner dimensions as a teacher at Little Homeschool, Steven's taking advantage of his post-battle free time to welcome damaged Gems to Earth and help them start building a new life.
But though the Earth's at peace, not everyone there is. Jasper's built a fortress of solitude where she waits bitterly to fight against anyone who shows up; Pearl's leftover pain shows up as a giant crack on her face; many Gems aren't settling well into a new place where all their old expectations are upended. What does the future look like for survivors? Is there a happily ever after, or is that something to be worked towards that never quite arrives? As Steven and the other Gems continue to mature into their powers, this deceptively simple series with its straightforward problems and quick solutions builds a whole new world for its characters, and reaches emotional heights few animated series have matched.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of fantasy stories like Steven Universe: Future. Why is it fun to imagine supernatural forces at play around us? How would it change the world if such things could be true? How does the fantasy aspect of the show make storylines about emotion land more lightly?
The Gems teach and mentor Steven. Can you think of any other shows where female characters are as powerful as the Gems? What about a world with so many female characters compared to male ones? Why are there usually more animated shows focusing on male characters than female ones? What's different about the people working behind Steven Universe: Future?
- Premiere date: December 7, 2019
- Cast: Zach Callison, Michaela Dietz, Jennifer Paz
- Network: Cartoon Network
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2020
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