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Steven Universe: End of an Era Hardcover – October 13, 2020
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- Publisher : Abrams (October 13, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1419742841
- ISBN-13 : 978-1419742842
- Item Weight : 2.71 pounds
- Dimensions : 10 x 1 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #41,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The book is titled "End of an Era" for a couple reasons--obviously because it is released after the show has wrapped, but also because Gem history recently ended its "Era 2" and began Era 3--an age of prosperity and peace. The author--the person in charge of adapting all of this information into this slick, readable package--is Chris McDonnell, whose work was previously applied on the Art and Origins book.
The foreword is by N.K. Jemisin, a well-known science fiction author who's a huge fan of the show (and wrote a really excellent series that also has a weird geological connection, by the way). And the cover, like its predecessor, is shiny and decorated with a beach scene featuring minimalistic characters--this time it's the Gems at night in front of the Temple, and on the back cover is a big pink leg ship in a cross-legged pose. The interior covers are decorated with tons of amazing sketches of Steven and Connie on the front, and a bunch of Gem sketches on the back. Every interior page that most would leave blank is highlighted with some kind of sketch art or character exercise--it's so much to look at, so much to absorb. The book is dedicated "For Eddie." Its organization is different from the previous book in that it shares applicable work in chunks associated with groups of episodes rather than pertaining to different aspects of building the show.
N.K. Jemisin gives us a great introduction to the book. She says it was clear Rebecca Sugar knew what she was talking about and was saying important things about identity and the radical power that comes with accepting it and demanding respect. Part of the reason Steven Universe speaks to so many is because we see ourselves here, and know stories can be about us.
1. END OF AN ERA
This section discusses identity and childhood--and how different it is if who you are and who you become is restricted, mocked, erased, or Not Allowed. Most people, if not ALL people, can relate to this, but for those of us with a special relationship with Steven Universe because of queer identity, this hits hard. Rebecca Sugar offers some perspective on why "writing female characters" was difficult for a nonbinary person who'd been socialized as a girl and a woman. The Gems in the story are all "she/her," but on their planet they're defined by their work, not by emotion or relationships (unlike women in our society), so having them be socialized opposite to how she was and be able to claim those emotions through choice and NOT as just an expectation "as women" was revolutionary. Rebecca wants her show to tell all marginalized people that they don't deserve to be in the margins. Other show creators were interviewed here as well, and we're treated to loads of great supplemental art.
2. THE BEGINNING OF THE END: A SINGLE PALE ROSE
In this section we explore pacing and planning, and making all the pieces fit. What was always part of the plan and what was collaboratively created later in the game. There's a great deep dive on the writing process from several creators and the way group discussions and organized charts helped keep a storyboard-driven show on track despite so many moving parts. They also discuss the stress of leaks and the difficulty in not accidentally leaking any big reveals in interviews. This section also explores conveying information through visual cues, background art, and character gestures that help tie everything together and keep it consistent. We're even treated to some Diamond history and info about each major character's emergence!
3. THE HEART OF THE CRYSTAL GEMS
Who's the heart of this team? We discuss Rose Quartz, Garnet, and Steven. Rose had her first partner willing to be an equal in Greg, and this section explores how rare and special that was. Garnet's storyline as a relationship (and the story of her components' romance) is covered here, as well as a measured examination of the difficulties they had with Cartoon Network's objections to queer content. And Steven is the heart of the team, but here it's emphasized that he is NOT its leader. That is and will always be Garnet, though CN was also pushing them to make Steven be described as the leader. No thanks, give that job to an adult please!
4. ERA 3
The Diamonds as a dysfunctional family are discussed here. Yellow is physical, Blue is emotional, White is judgmental, and Pink is impulsive. Some philosophy on why Pink is naturally manipulative and why she clashes so much with White is offered. White believes her identity is to be imposed on all because she is the pinnacle of what should be--and therefore, she has the right to make decisions and statements about and on behalf of everyone. But her secret is that she can't do what the others do--act or feel or want. In trying to be everyone, she is no one. And this becomes very important when she confronts Steven about his identity and turns out to be wrong. The triumph of Steven being totally, fully himself is a beautiful, simple revelation that's described as far more satisfying than the theories about Pink living inside him or Rose returning from his Gem.
This section also includes design notes on Homeworld environments, the use of princess tropes to enhance the feeling that Steven is being made to be someone he's not, White Diamond's unusual "feminine" features, and again tons of art.
5. CHANGE YOUR MIND
This section focuses on the last episode and Steven's identity. The idea of a "perfect Steven" form (later used in Future) helped fuel heated discussions of how toxic this idea was and what it really meant to be half Gem and have his mother's Gem. Pink's escape from Homeworld to have a new identity on Earth is compared by Ian Jones-Quartey to the way some immigrants (including his family members) transplant themselves in a reinvention and may end up hurting people in their old and new lives because of it. The new Fusions are spotlighted in this section and there's a nod to James Baxter. And there's plenty of concept art and other material, plus photos.
6. STEVEN UNIVERSE FUTURE
Some of the newer writers get a chance to share their perspectives on coming into the show when it was already in an epilogue. They were excited to have Steven make HIS OWN mistakes instead of trying to clean up someone else's! Now, instead of doing the usual shonen anime thing and having the final battle be a big physical rumble, Steven has to make peace with himself and take an active role in coping with what all the fighting has done to him and what effect it's had on who he is (and who he wants to be). There is no sudden "I love myself!" answer, either. It's always a process.
We also get some information about how the Crew felt behind the scenes due to fan reactions and negative press. A long reflection from Rebecca discusses people's infighting about her show and what she had a responsibility to show or not show in the story. She learned a lot about bullying from Cartoon Network's anti-bullying program and learned that bullies thrive on whatever attention you give them--unless it is made clear to them by a peer group that no one is impressed by their cruel actions. Also, not all negative feedback is bullying. Constructive criticism is different. Self-awareness can help you avoid internalizing what bullies might do or say to you.
We then discuss how they chose as a team what should be covered as the show came to a close. They didn't have time to do quite a few stories they wanted time for, like a Rhodonite story, a Lars side story, and Diamond "prehistory" and religion; all of it was put aside for the main arc with Steven. They thought people would find those stories about Homeworld and Off Color history very interesting, but so much of the show had been about Steven's Gem adventures, so keeping him mostly on Earth seemed appropriate. The acknowledgment of his battle damage, of his trauma, was necessary and real, and helpful in an important way to the core audience. Oh, and there was some stuff about a cheeseburger tree. Don't ask.
In discussing the "reverse escapism" of the original show (Gem aliens are intrigued by everyday human culture, and realism is necessary), Rebecca says her views have changed on escapism and gets why some people want a soothing feel-better show. She acknowledged also that her own escapist dreams-come-true fulfilled in the show didn't feel like escapism because they were givens to the majority of mainstream culture, but were never guaranteed to marginalized people. Feeling like someone will like you less if they know you more is terrible. So sometimes a show like this can be helpful in telling people that they belong when their fantasies are things like "I want to be loved" and "I want to know I exist." In Future, Steven has to connect to who he is and love that person--and understand that person enough to finally feel that even if he's not fixing their problems or saving their world right this second, Steven deserves his family's love and support, and they WANT to give it to him.
There's a huge amount of supplemental material in this section too, including timeline charts and concepts, boards, and gift art.
1. The first timeline chart in the book features a cool sketch of the original Off Colors, which at the time this planning document was drafted included unused Off Colors Flint and Chert. We knew of their existence already because of an episode of the podcast, but these two unexpectedly appeared as incidental characters in the Steven Universe Future episode "Homeworld Bound," identified only in the credits. Sad to think that instead of banding with the Off Colors, these two were probably shattered for their crime (being Quartzes who don't want to fight) and that's why we see them being repaired in this episode. Later, there's some brainstorming for types of Off Colors and "a Ruby that wants to wear limb enhancers" is mentioned as well.
2. It looks like there was also originally more juice to the story of tracking down the events of the war culminating in Pink Diamond's assassination. Also, Garnet's story from "Your Mother and Mine" was originally meant to inspire the Off Colors to become pirates and freedom fighters, though in the show's canon this storytelling happened after Lars had already reinvented himself the way he did.
3. A chart lines up Sadie, Greg, Rose, and Lars as having reinvented themselves and makes comparisons.
4. One of the concept art images for the Off Colors features Rhodonite crouching by Padparadscha saying "Don't worry, I won't let them hurt you." It's very interesting because she DOES seem to protect Padparadscha in the show, but doesn't seem confident about it in her final version, even though it does seem like she'd be "programmed" to guard aristocratic Gems because of her Ruby and Pearl makeup. Cool.
5. A "Crew Cameos" spread was included, which is of great interest to some of us who loved seeing the Crew insert themselves into the show.
6. The official national flower of South Korea, Hibiscus syriacus, is the name of Pink Diamond's flower.
7. One of Steven Sugar's comments about the silhouette difference between humans and Gems points out that humans have ears.
8. Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond is characterized in this book as "self-hating" in a really interesting way, saying that because she believed she was not capable of compassion, she practically worshiped those who demonstrated that ability and thought they were so much better than her--which is described as "intoxicating" and resulted in others being drawn to her. How interesting is that!
9. Timelines reveal the original Pink Pearl was initially planned to be shattered during a game, then she was to be destroyed for talking back to the Diamonds in defense of Pink. They did something more like the first example when they finalized this.
10. A timeline is pretty revealing:
20,000 years ago: The Diamonds emerge.
11,000 years ago: Pearl is custom-made for Pink Diamond.
8,000 years ago: Sapphire emerges (on Homeworld).
6,000 years ago: Ruby emerges (on a colony).
5,750 years ago: Garnet is formed.
5,600 years ago: Lapis is poofed and put in the mi
5,200 years ago: Jasper emerges (on Earth).
5,050 years ago: The Cluster is planted.
5,000 years ago: Amethyst emerges (on Earth).
4,500 years ago: The Crystal Gems found Amethyst.
3,000 years ago: Peridot emerges (on Homeworld).
40 years ago: Pearl found Lapis's mirror at the Galaxy Warp.
And then Steven is born!
11. Originally the Diamonds were based on a quartet of themes: Love, Fear, Pride, and Sorrow. It got too complicated to keep and it was abandoned, with Pink's identification of "love" being described as "particularly outdated."
12. Notes on a sketch say that Pearl was inspired to become bold and unashamed because Pink's questions drove her to have opinions, and it's said that Rose "fell in love" with her boldness.
13. Rebecca tells the story of driving off a ridge and getting stuck in the desert, comparing this to Ruby's tumble during her Wild West adventure and using it as inspiration. She's told this story before but here it is in print. She also included the story about using the flowers from a friend's wedding to put in Ruby's hair.
14. Rebecca always had to "fight" notes against Ruby and Sapphire's relationship, but once she didn't fight a note because it was just for a signing card. She was also scolded over her book The Answer because the powers that be expected her to downplay that relationship. She always argued that queer youth deserved these things.
15. Tom Herpich describes being inspired to name Blue Diamond's comb "Comby" because he was watching the news about Comey getting fired from the FBI.
16. Rainbow Quartz 2.0's design is not discussed, though the other two new Fusions from "Change Your Mind" (Sunstone and Obsidian) were. RQ2 has some sketches included, but no accompanying narrative in the text.
17. A sheet of corrupted Gems and their healed selves is offered, though it doesn't appear to be final.
18. The Rhodonite side story would have been about the love story of a Ruby and a Pearl working for Morganite. Images of Morganite and her servants, unfused, are in the book.
19. Steven, speaking of the Diamonds, at one point says "I can't believe I helped these" and then there's a censor bar. Welp.
20. Some art by Hilary Florido features Kevin with a Koala Princess car and another where Kevin is staring at himself in the mirror in front of an altar to himself.
21. Rebecca's sweater collection is included in the Crew art.
Much like the previous art book, End of an Era boasts page upon page of gorgeous artwork detailing multiple episodes of the show, from "I Am My Mom", "The Question", Off Colors", "Change Your Mind" and so on. Furthermore, the art is accompanied by various pieces of rough sketches, filled in color or initial black-and-white, with some notes scattered around the art to further detail what occurs in many scenes of certain episodes.
The book also contains promotional art from background characters and art promoting important specials in the show, including "Heart of the Crystal Gems", "Battle of Heart and Mind" along with the movie itself.
Also, the book is divided into sections, with the Foward, by acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author, N.K. Jemisin, and her glowing views on the show, including how it changed her view on American fantasy stories and shaped her greater respect for the power of animation to dazzle audiences with stories of self-acceptance and freedom.
The first official section, "End of an Era", details notes and artwork of most of season five and how the show's crew mapped out the series deep lore and characters, the second, "The Beginning of the End: A Single Pale Rose" speaks about the show building up to its biggest reveals and the way that shaped certain characters. The third, "The Heart of the Crystal Gems" notes how the main characters are affected by important revelations and what they do to adjust and change. The fourth, "Era III", details the aftermath of the previous story arc, and leading into the next as the characters intend to repair multiple relationships and strive to be free of many external conflicts that have been plaguing them for years. The fifth, "Change Your Mind" details about the conclusion of the main story of Steven Universe and how the characters shaped the world around into a greater one, while the last section, "Steven Universe: Future" wraps everything up about the journey the creators and characters have been through to create the show and how that impacts the legacy of Steven Universe going forward.
In conclusion, the outside cover art and inside artwork are beautifully detailed to reflect the change the main characters have had on themselves and the world they inhabit.
Ultimately, this book is fantastic, filled with dozens upon dozens of details that fans old, plus the new will adore, all while being a must-have for those who appreciate the art and medium of animation with its ability to change the lives of those around them for the better.
By Selena on October 13, 2020
Please, get this book.
By Kylie McCrea on October 14, 2020
Top reviews from other countries
Este produto não é um livro: é uma obra de arte!
O produto veio MUITO antes do prazo e veio em excelente estado!
Reviewed in Brazil on October 27, 2020
Este produto não é um livro: é uma obra de arte!
O produto veio MUITO antes do prazo e veio em excelente estado!
Reviewed in Italy on November 5, 2020