Steven Universe – The Answer Review
“Don’t ever question this. You already are the answer.”
I was a little late to the game when it came to this StevenBomb, and, in all honesty, I didn’t have the sense of anticipation that I would have expected to have upon the show’s return. I think this is due to the fact that I felt I knew where the show was going and what to expect. It seemed that the narrative had reached a point where the cast of Steven Universe could no longer afford to just putter around the barn anymore, so it would probably charge headfirst into the voyage to destroy the Cluster, and for whatever reason I felt sense of apathy towards the scenario. Fortunately, if there is one thing that Steven Universe excels at it is defying expectations, and The Answer does just that. That is to say that we get to spend more time puttering around the barn! I’m largely kidding since much of this episode was centered around a flashback, and was a great character building episode for Garnet as we get to learn more about how she came to be.
The setup of The Answer is an interesting one as Garnet wakes Steven on the midnight of his birthday, and, given that he already knows the truth about her being a Fusion, she offers to tell him the story of how Ruby and Sapphire met. Now, the show has offered brief glimpses of the war between the Homeworld and Crystal Gems in the past, but this is easily the most extensive view that we have gotten. Rather than offering a single big reveal about Gem culture and society, it serves to polish down and expand upon many of the minor details that had previously been hinted at, and in doing so, allows for a clearer picture of how Homeworld operates. Before we even reach the midway point of this episode, we get confirmation that Sapphire’s precognitive abilities are unique, that Ruby was a type of footsoldier used as a bodyguard, and that when Gems of the same type fuse they simply become a larger version of themselves. That last detail in particular is significant in that it serves to link the classism of Homeworld with their aversion to fusion. Apparently fusion between Gems of the same type, such as the three Rubies seen in the episode, is seen as an acceptable tactic for combat, but it doesn’t serve as the mental or physical transformation that viewers have become accustomed to. It does raise the question of what would happen if a Gem that had departed from their original purpose, like Amethyst or Pearl, were to fuse with another of their kind. One would assume that there wouldn’t be a significant physical transformation, but would there be a mental one due to the differing personalities? It raises some interesting questions while also providing answers to some old ones.
The production for this episode is notably unique, though it does remind me a bit of Garnet’s Universe from back in season 1. The comparison is mainly due to the fact that both were Garnet-centric episodes that told a story that was presented in a different style, but I found The Answer to be, by far, the superior of the two episodes in terms of both animation and narrative. That is not quite a dig at Garnet’s Universe so much as it is praise for the unique quality of The Answer’s presentation. The subtle details are quite nice, such as how Garnet voices all of the Gems with the exception of Pearl, Rose, Ruby and Sapphire, and how the Gems in the background are presented as colorful silhouettes. Even the backgrounds have a notably different style, building off more simplistic geometric structures to create some downright gorgeous images. Steven Universe has always been wonderfully creative with its visuals, but seeing the same effort put into a subtly different style really serves to highlight the talent behind the whole production. The Answer even features a song with Ruby and Sapphire in its second half. Given the nature and subject of both the song and episode, the slightly unpolished quality of the song actually works to its benefit, and as it comes to an end it slips neatly into the notes of Stronger than You.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Much like the music in this episode, the version of Garnet that is formed is not quite constructed to be a cohesive whole. It serves as a great visual illustration of her confusion and sense of internal conflict as she tries to define herself. The design is filled with aspects of Ruby and Sapphire while still quite clearly being Garnet.
- We also get a look, albeit an obscured one, at Blue Diamond and her Pearl. Since they were not presented in the same silhouetted form that other gems were depicted with, I wonder if they will reappear in later episodes.
The Answer proves to be a superb episode that plays to all of the shows strengths, while delivering what can only be described as a unique experience. It not only serves as what might be my favorite Garnet-focused episode, but also delivers on some excellent world building. Steven Universe is back.