Adventure Time vs. Steven Universe: Better?

Here’s what makes Adventure Time better than Steven Universe or vice versa:

Adventure Time is a show that probably better explores complex ideas and gets into adult themes and concepts without alienating young viewers.

Steven Universe is made with higher production value, so it looks, sounds, and feels more polished as a show.

Which show is better really depends on your tastes.

So if you want to learn all about which exactly is better between Adventure Time and Steven Universe, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

Adventure Time vs. Steven Universe: Better? (4 Categories)

What Is Steven Universe?

Steven Universe is a kids’ cartoon that aired on the Cartoon Network from 2013 to 2019.

It is about a boy who is a half-magical alien, and he goes on adventures with other magical aliens.

Often, they explore ideas of life and end up protecting the planet from other aliens.

The show was created and helmed by Rebecca Sugar, who actually world on Adventure Time.

What Do People Love About Steven Universe? (4 Elements)

Steven Universe ran for more than five years, making it a very popular cartoon by Cartoon Network standards.

What makes it great?

Why do so many people love it?

That’s always going to come down to individual preferences, but there are a few things that are frequently mentioned in reviews of the show.

#1 Production

The thing that comes up more than any other is the production value of the show.

We’ll talk about the animation a little later, but aside from how the show was drawn, it is known as a great cartoon.

It has sharp dialogue, compelling stories, great music, and top-notch voice acting.

In general, it’s a cartoon that presents well, has a unique style, and delights the audience with consistently high quality.

The show has even won awards for its production value.

Now, it’s a Cartoon Network show, so the production value won’t compete with major Disney movie productions (which cost tens of millions more dollars to make), but for a regular cartoon series, it definitely punched above its weight in terms of production value.

#2 Stories

This is arguably the best thing about Steven Universe.

The show is rich with interesting stories that lead to character growth, emotional exploration, and all of the things you want out of a cartoon show.

The cartoon itself was story-driven, meaning that stories were developed first, and everything else came second.

This is as opposed to a show that might center on characters first (or other elements) and evolve from there.

Because of this focus, Steven Universe took fans on journeys, and they tended to really love those journeys.

#3 Emotional Execution

Another thing about Steven Universe is the emotional execution.

The show covers very common themes for a cartoon, including love, friendship, family, and all of that jazz.

Even so, the show takes a deeper approach.

The main character is sensitive and often put in situations where he helps other characters express things that they can’t articulate (he’s often interacting with aliens after all).

The show really explores the idea of setting emotional boundaries, which was not common in cartoons at the time.

It manages to approach the depths of emotion in ways that are still palatable to children while also providing a lot for adult viewers.

#4 Humor

It’s a funny show.

That’s a subjective statement, and I can’t promise that you’ll laugh at Steven Universe, but it had a big following because it had a great sense of humor.

With a premise involving magical aliens, Steven Universe had no shortage of opportunities to explore wacky humor.

But, it beautifully interjected dry humor and “smart” jokes throughout, providing laughing material for the vast majority of viewers.

If you don’t absolutely hate laughter, then you’ll probably find some funny moments in the show.

If you’re quick to laugh, then you’ll probably love Steven Universe.

What Do People Dislike About Steven Universe? (4 Things)

For all of the positive points, Steven Universe is not a perfect show.

There have been plenty of detractors over the years, and they often harp on the same notes.

I’m not going to pick apart every aspect of the show. I actually think it’s charming and funny.

But, I will take time to go over the most common complaints and try to frame them in a way that can help you decide if they’ll matter to you or not.

#1 Animation Style

You can say that Steven Universe was drawn well, with qualifiers.

The show had a tight production schedule, and in order to keep up with it, the animation style was simplified.

As a result, this is not the most overwhelmingly beautiful eye feast you’re ever going to watch.

Like I said, this wasn’t produced with a blockbuster Disney budget.

That said, the animation is sharp; it’s just stylized in a way that doesn’t necessarily look spectacular.

Personally, I think Steven Universe is animated better than Adventure Time, but the animation style is a common point of complaint.

#2 Controversy

Awkward conversation alert!

As we get into this, remember that the show first aired in 2013.

The idea of controversy back then was a little different from what it is today.

Also, depending on your own personal beliefs, you might still find Steven Universe to be controversial.

I’m not here to pick sides.

I’m just explaining why people complained about the show.

Rebecca Sugar is the person who created and helmed Steven Universe throughout its production.

Sugar is also known as the first nonbinary person to hold such a role at the Cartoon Network.

That alone was controversial for some viewers, but it doesn’t stop there.

Regardless of how much you care about who writes a show, Steven Universe featured LGTB characters throughout its run.

Considering that Obergefell v. Hodges was settled in 2015, you can see why this was a hot controversial topic at the time.

For those who don’t get that reference, I’m talking about the Supreme Court case that formally legalized same-sex marriage across the United States.

That’s all I really want to say on this topic.

Some people disliked Steven Universe over LGTB representation.

Others praised it for it.

In either case, it’s a topic that has been heavily politicized, so you can take your own position.

#3 Positivity

On a much lighter note, Steven Universe, by and large, always aimed to present a positive message.

The show was intended to be bright and hopeful, and that’s absolutely why a lot of people loved the show.

But, the show also tried to tackle topics with emotional depth, and that’s where it sometimes came up short.

When you’re trying to be perpetually positive for a young audience, that commitment can take away from episodes that might explore darker tones.

This is another thing that is very subjective, but it’s one of the more reasonable criticisms of the show.

What Is Adventure Time?

That’s enough about Steven Universe for a minute.

It’s time for adventure. Er . . . let’s talk about Adventure Time.

This is another Cartoon Network show, and it ran from 2010 to 2018.

That’s one of the longest runs in the network’s history, making this among the most popular shows of all time, for the Cartoon Network.

This show is about a kid named Finn who goes on adventures with Jake the Dog (his brother/dog . . . yeah, it’s a little weird).

The show is set in a post-apocalyptic future, and it has strong fantasy and magical elements.

The characters are constantly exposed to rather zany moments, and it really serves as a vehicle to explore a lot of ideas in a kid-friendly way.

Why Is Adventure Time Popular? (3 Components)

Clearly, Adventure Time has a large fan base that stood with the show for almost a decade.

Why?

Well, there are some things you’re going to see in Adventure Time that you just won’t find in other kids’ cartoons.

#1 Uniqueness

Let’s start here.

There isn’t another show like Adventure Time.

At best, you can say that a few shows that came out later shared some elements, but those shows were directly inspired by Adventure Time (looking at you Rick and Morty).

There really wasn’t anything else like Adventure Time, and it remains unique in many ways.

For some, this was actually a turn-off.

If you want more cookie-cutter stories and cartoons, this isn’t for you.

But, Adventure Time built its success on being easily distinguished from everything else.

#2 Dark Undertones

The show is about a boy going on magical adventures in a world that was ravaged by nuclear war.

That’s not exactly a happy-go-lucky premise, and it really does set the tone for the show throughout.

Adventure Time is really a cartoon that uses strange adventures as a way to explore complex emotions, and it excels at this.

You would be hard-pressed to find another cartoon that really is suitable for children and explores dark ideas with the same level of maturity.

On this front, Adventure Time is something of a masterpiece.

#3 Humor

This won’t surprise you, but Adventure Time has a dark and dry sense of humor.

As a kids’ show, there are plenty of jokes aimed at the younger audience.

But, if you’re watching as an adult, you’ll be able to enjoy all of the winks and nods that are at least aiming to go over the heads of the kids who also like the show.

Despite all of that, Adventure Time is never grotesque.

It’s clever with its dark humor, and for a lot of people, that makes it even more fun to watch.

What Do People Dislike About Adventure Time? (2 Details)

I just poured some heavy praise on Adventure Time.

It’s time to talk about where the show falls short.

Just like with Steven Universe, I’m not here to say mean things about a show you might like.

I’m just addressing common criticisms.

#1 Animation

We really have to talk about the animation.

Adventure Time was deliberately drawn in a way that the animation could match the oddness of the show as a whole.

Because of that, it really doesn’t look like any other cartoon.

It almost looks like a self-made YouTube cartoon from the early 2000s. Almost.

It’s not a pretty cartoon, and if the animation style isn’t your cup of tea, it’s enough to ruin the experience.

Personally, I enjoy the show despite the animation, and others enjoy the show partly because of the animation.

All of that said, this is definitely not in the upper echelon of beautiful cartoons, and that’s worthy of a moment of honest criticism.

#2 Shifting Tone

Another major problem for Adventure Time really comes down to production.

The show was created by Pendleton Ward, but he left the show well before the final season.

After his departure, you can really see a shift in the tone.

On top of that, Rebecca Sugar was one of the lead writers who left to run Steven Universe midway through the run of Adventure Time.

A few other high-level changes also shifted the production of the show.

After about season 5, the show is a lot less consistent in tone.

The world is still fairly consistent, and it’s still Adventure Time, but there’s a little more whiplash from episode to episode as the production crew saw a revolving door of contributors in the second half of the show’s run.

Which Is Better: Steven Universe or Adventure Time?

That’s enough analysis.

Which one is better, and why?

I like Adventure Time more.

I think it does a better job of exploring ideas and emotions, and I think it takes on a greater overall range of telling stories and relating to characters.

I would say that the relentless positive tone of Steven Universe holds it back.

But, that’s just my opinion.

Everyone will have their own, and the best way to decide for yourself is to watch a few episodes of each show.

I’ve given you enough information that you know what to expect.

It’s really a matter of which show’s style really lands better with you.