The show Steven Universe has made several references to different kinds of pop culture, from video games to anime. For most of the series, it seems like Steven Universe draws some inspiration from a variety of anime series in their characters and in some scenes. Fans of the show can find some of these anime references pretty easily, but there are some that aren’t so subtle and require a second watch to spot them.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
One of the biggest anime influences on Steven Universe would come from the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. If you have watched the sword fight between Pearl and her hologram self during the second season, you may notice that the movements are similar to the series. Even the arena in which they fight is reminiscent of the same one from the anime show. With the main character, he would often defy gender norms just like Utena in the anime series. Throughout Steven Universe, you can find some subtle references to the Revolutionary Girl Utena in various of the earlier episodes as well as the epilogue series Steven Universe Future.
Dragon Ball Z
Steven Universe has some memorable fight scenes and crazy transformations, some of which can easily be drawn from one of the most well known anime shows out there. Of course we are talking about Dragon Ball Z. One good example is when Garnet uses a pose similar to the anime where she increases her powers and grows here hair like a Super Saiyan would. Even the dance that the Gems use to fuse their gems seems to take inspiration from the show. There was also a time where Amethyst uses a cloud as a mode of transportation, which is similar to Goku’s flying nimbus in the series. It seems like Steven Universe represents what was great about Dragon Ball Z.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Speaking of transformations, you can see that certain changes that the Gems go through in the series does seems familiar to what we saw in the popular show JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. With the character Ringo, his transformation does have some qualities that are similar to Kars from the anime show. This is especially true when Ringo applies the red stone on his head just like the antagonist in the second arc Battle Tendency. Another one taken from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was Garnet’s battle with her Water Clone during an episode in the first season, where the fight is visually similar to Star Platinum’s ability to hit a thousand punches in mere seconds.
This might be Steven Universe’s biggest influence by far as it incorporates the magical girl genre into this series. The show pretty much has the DNA of Sailor Moon written all over it. You can even spot an Easter egg to the popular anime series during the episode “House Guest” where you can spot a volume of the manga sitting on Steven’s book shelf. There have also been times where some moments were recreated from the anime to Steven Universe. One that is obvious is the transformations from the Gems like Spinel’s akes some nods from Usagi. Jasper using her Scepter is shown in a similar style to the Sailor Scouts using theirs in the series. In a way, Steven Universe shares their love for the magical girl genre in their storytelling.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Another big influence in the Cartoon Network series would have to be one of anime’s most acclaimed treasures. Strands of Neon Genesis Evangelion can be found on numerous occasions, especially in the epilogue series Steven Universe Future. When you see Alexandrite opening her mouth during “Super Watermelon Island”, that can possibly be referenced to the Eva Unit 01 in a berserk mode in the anime series. The one that clarified the anime’s influence would be the end of “The Test” where the Crystal Gems would congratulate Steven mirroring the final scene of the anime with a piano cover of the opening theme playing in the background.
Steven Universe has made several references to the mecha anime series Gurren Lagann. It holds especially true during the final season when both Garnet and Peridot gain new sunglasses that are strikingly similar to the ones worn by Simon and Kamina in the series. Even the memorable line that Steven tells Peridot on believing in oneself might be referenced to the way Kamina spoke to Simon. Another wink at the anime can be found in Steven Universe: The Movie where Spinel uses a huge drill as her weapon just like Simon. Storyboard artist Jeff Liu even admitted that some of the animated sequences with Garnet’s final move were inspired by Gurren Lagann.