I love Steven Universe. I think that the show is very mature in its themes, characters, and dialogue. I truly believe that it is a masterwork of cartoons. After watching the show, I decided to rank each and every one of the main group of characters, the Crystal Gems, in order to give an in-depth opinion. I determine characters’ rank based on their growth, their backstory, and even the way that they interact with other characters. This list does have spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the show, then I would advise you to watch it first.
9. Rose Quartz
As the founder of the Crystal Gems, and as Steven’s mom, Rose is one of the most important gems; but ever since the big reveal about her in season 5, we know that she isn’t who we thought she was—she has actually done a lot of terrible things. She may care for the Earth, but she doesn’t care as much about people as she is terrible at being considerate to those around her. Rose leaves Pearl, a dedicated companion, in favor of Greg. She also caused Spinel from the Steven Universe movie to attack Earth. She is probably the least likable on this list.
This gem has certainly gained some fans since she was introduced in season 3, but my biggest problem with her is that she is barely used in the show or movie. In her first episode, we get a really compelling backstory about her by how she was poofed by (guess who?) Rose Quartz, and bubbled away until Steven found her later. Of course, Rose did this because Bismuth was getting too passionate during the Gem War and wanted to use weapons capable of shattering gems. Shattering is essentially the equivalent of killing in Steven Universe, though, so Rose’s actions were sort of justified. While her connections to the other gems is interesting, Bismuth isn’t very exciting on her own.
7. Lapis Lazuli
Lapis was the first gem from Homeworld that we got to see in the show, all the way back in season 1. The two episodes focused on her were two of the best episodes in the season. When she was brought back for the finale of the first season, fans see a very interesting plot line concerning her and Jasper. Lapis trapped herself and Jasper under the ocean so that they could stop causing trouble, and we learn more and more about this plot during the whole of season 2. We also get some backstory for Lapis later in the show, like why she was trapped in a mirror: she was confused for a Crystal Gem and put in there. After being freed from under the ocean with Jasper, she started to show signs that she had PTSD from being trapped so long, so she ran away from Steven. Steven later managed to encourage a friendship between Lapis and Peridot, where they discovered the beauty of Earth together. When she heard that the Diamonds were coming, she fled and left everyone behind, only to redeem herself by coming back later to help the team fight the Diamonds. She was kind of underutilized after season 3, but Lapis is a great character.
In season one, Connie Maheswaren was introduced as Steven’s new friend. She was a nice little addition to the show, but she was really just Steven’s friend for a while. They did have some nice moments together, especially fusing into Stevonnie, but Connie really started to be more interesting in season 2 when she wanted to learn to protect Steven if anything bad ever happened. She learned to sword fight with the help of Pearl, and later, she realized that she and Steven should fight together instead of fighting by herself in order to protect him. Connie also has to face her issues concerning her overprotective mom, and tries to convince her mom to stop being so overbearing. In season 5, after Steven sacrifices himself to go to Homeworld with Aquamarine, Connie is awestruck. When Steven comes back and acts like it’s no big deal though, she gets mad at him and doesn’t talk to him for weeks. They become friends again later in the season, but it was still interesting to see them apart for a while. Nothing really happens after this that is particularly interesting with Connie, but she was still a nice little addition to the show.
Starting off as arguably the main villain of the show, this character managed to become one of the most beloved characters in the whole show. Her redemption arc monopolizes a lot of season 2, which sounds like a bad thing, but they fleshed out her as a character so much and portrayed her in such a realistic way that it didn’t even matter. She starts out as just another one of Homeworld’s soldiers and listening to everything they say. But after being captured by the Crystal Gems, she reluctantly agrees to work with them to save the Earth. if they didn’t stop Earth from being destroyed by the Cluster, then Peridot would have died as well because she was stuck there. In each episode, her whole world view is tested, and she learns something new, like how Pearls are not just used as servants, which differs from how they work on Homeworld. She learns that Earth can set you free, and she starts to wanting to protect it. After making one last effort to betray the Crystal Gems and contact Yellow Diamond, though, she learns that Yellow wants to destroy the Earth and doesn’t care what Peridot has to say. Peridot ends up yelling at her, calling her a clod, and becomes a true Crystal Gem. After destroying the Cluster, Peridot has a few more episodes in her character arc, but the show sort of left her behind, just having her stay in the barn with Lapis. After Lapis leaves, Peridot has to deal with her depression over it, but she doesn’t appear enough to place her higher on the list.
Being the typical “strong silent type” makes it so that Garnet doesn’t emote very much; but that’s just on the surface level. As the show moves on, Garnet reveals that she was a fusion the whole time. Most of the time, Garnet stays as a fusion; and she is great on her own, but she really shines when she is split up because Ruby and Sapphire are great characters. These two gems love each other so much, that they are fused at almost all times. Most gems only fuse when it is absolutely necessary because fusions are very good in fights, but Garnet fuses just because her two halves love each other. She is, quite literally, made of love, as whenever characters fuse, they always say that it is more of an experience than anything. Ruby and Sapphire are always experiencing the feeling of love. The show has a couple of episodes where they split up because they are mad at each other, and this just shows that they are not a perfect couple; they have problems just like everyone else. It is really touching to see them get married as well, not just because it is the first ever same-sex wedding on a kids show, but also because despite previously splitting up, they get back together. Sapphire starts believing that her relationship with Ruby was based on a lie, and says that they were only together because Rose said that they should be. Ruby believes this as well, and so she decides to go live on her own for a while. After doing this for a little while, she decides that she wants to go back and be with Sapphire—not because someone told them to, but because she wants to. She proposes to Sapphire, and Sapphire agrees. They don’t fuse again until the wedding episode, “Reunited.” This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of the series. Garnet may not be the most changed character by the end of season 5, but that’s because she was great already.
Pearl is by far one of the most developed characters in the entire series. While someone like Peridot had a character arc that consisted of multiple episodes in a row, Pearl’s character arc has been spread throughout the entire series. In the beginning of the show, she was just like a mom for Steven (always worrying about him and caring about him), but as the series went on they started to reveal more stuff about Pearl’s past. The episode “Rose’s Scabbard” was a very good episode about Pearl that revealed her feelings towards Rose. The episode was about how Pearl is still sad about Rose leaving which makes Steven, and viewers really feel for her. In Season 3, there was a fan favorite episode called “Mr. Greg” (which was actually nominated for an Emmy Award), and it explores the relationship between Pearl and Greg and how they really don’t like each other since they were both fighting for Rose’s affection. They end up making each other feel better about Rose’s self-sacrifice to make Steven, and it’s just a great episode with amazing music. Then, in Season 5, fans finally see the biggest plot twist of season 5: Pink Diamond was Rose, and she faked her own shattering with the help of Pearl. Pink made Pearl keep it a secret for the whole show, and it explains a lot about her. This was a fantastic character arc for her, and I hope that in season 6 they will explore it even more.
This one may be personal bias, as Amethyst is one of my favorite characters, but I also think that she has had one of the best executed character arcs in the whole show, and she has gone through a lot of changes. Amethyst was really just the comic relief in the beginning of the show, but they started to reveal that Amethyst has some insecurities about herself and how she was made wrong. See, when gems are made, they appear out of a hole in a rock formation called a “kindergarten” where the Diamonds chose to make gems. In Amethyst’s case, she didn’t come to life until years after every other gem in her area. She was made wrong, and she is really sensitive about it. During season 3, the main villain of the season (Jasper) beats Amethyst in a fight, and Amethyst gets really upset over it. She is desperate to prove herself as strong, and she insists on a rematch with Jasper. When she is about to be beaten by Jasper again, she and Steven fuse into Smoky Quartz, and beat Jasper together. When characters fuse in this show, they create a very strong bond; and in this case, Amethyst finally realized that she and Steven relied on each other, and she finally accepted that she’s not like anybody else. But that’s not a bad thing, so they fused. This was a fantastic way to execute a character arc.
1. Steven Universe
Being the main character of the show, Steven obviously has the most character development in the whole show. Steven learns his place in the world, grows, changes and—most importantly—matures. Steven arguably changes the most out of any character in the whole show. In the first season, Steven is so annoying; and while he is charming, it is clear that he was supposed to be irritating. His voice was very whiny and loud, and with him whining all of the time he just makes a bad first impression. It takes about halfway through the first season for him to realize how annoying he is— he’s a little bit better from then on, but he really only matures once he meets Lapis and learns that all of the monsters that he and the gems fight are gems as well. Because of his traumatic experience stuck on Jasper’s ship in the finale of season 1, he starts to grow up, and even wants to not go near Connie anymore, to keep her safe. From then on, his voice is less annoying, he acts (somewhat) serious, and he isn’t irritating anymore. It’s very satisfying to see Steven learn how to use all of his powers over the course of the show, and he even learns some stuff about himself that he didn’t know originally— like how he didn’t actually have a destiny to begin with, and his mom really did just want to have a son. Later, after learning that his mom was actually Pink Diamond, he decides to go face off against the diamonds, and almost dies. One of the biggest questions that fans had about the show was, “What if Steven’s gem is removed? Is he really Pink Diamond? Or is he just… Steven?” After White Diamond removed Steven’s gem, expecting Pink Diamond to come out, White Diamond realizes that he really is just Steven on the inside, and with this newfound knowledge White Diamond doesn’t know what to do as she really did lose Pink. Steven helps her process the loss of Pink, they become allies, and Steven is finally able to heal the corrupted gems. In the movie, Steven is even more grown up, and much more mature. Between him learning about his mom, maturing, and finding the power within himself, I can easily say that Steven is the best character in the show.