Steven Universe Recap - S04E05 - "Future Boy Zoltron"

Contrary to my worries, the latest installment was in fact a breather episode – with a touch of potential foreshadowing hidden between the lines. And boy, did we need it after Mindful Education.

The title – which, per the show’s custom, has nothing to do with the episode’s plot – comes from two anime titles. One of them is Voltron (the anime, not the 2016 Netflix show) and the other, one of Rebecca Sugar’s primary influences on SUFuture Boy Conan, a post-apocalyptic story Hayao Miyazaki worked on. The title also references the 1988 movie Big, where a fortune-telling machine called Zoltar Speaks grants the main character's wish to be "big," by aging him from a kid to a 30-year old man.

(The rest of Sugar's self-professed influences, in case you’re wondering, were Revolutionary Girl Utena – obviously – and The Simpsons.)

The last one is the most plot-relevant influence, because the titular Zoltron is an old fortune-telling robot that Mr. Smiley bought years ago and decided to put to use again. After Steven tries it out and accidentally breaks it, he ends up taking its place to repay Mr. Smiley. He forgets that he could avoid this by using his healing saliva, but whatever.

At first, these circumstances allow for Steven to regain his confidence by making everyone’s day brighter. For the last stretch of episodes, Steven was unable to talk down any of his opponents, and even the Beach City episodes have often shown Steven choose his strategy wrong in dealing with the residents’ drama.  And then he meets Mr. Frowney – Mr. Smiley’s old comedic partner. And we finally learn what’s hidden under Mr. Smiley’s constantly-smiling face.

The buildup to the meeting between the two men takes up most of the episode. The writing is verisimilar enough: we don’t get a lot of backstory between them – only as much as they would naturally reveal to a bystander. It works, especially thanks to the voice actors, who manage to infuse unspoken history shared by the two characters. While we don’t learn the specifics of their relationship (though I’d like to point out that the dialogue along these lines is commonly used in romantic comedies) we can sense that their history reaches far into the past, and that it is fraught with melancholy. In the end, with Steven’s nudging – helped by the temporary gift of Future Vision thanks to Garnet – the two men reconcile and part on good terms.

And now, the promised hidden foreshadowing. Remember the lucky numbers Zoltron – and later Steven – repeats? "16 47 N W”? They’re coordinates – and while in the real world they’re in the middle of the sea, in the show’s world they’re one of the Gem locations on the map from Buddy’s Book. And if they don’t end up leading to Blue Diamond’s palanquin, I’ll eat my hat.

Next week, Steven, Pearl and Amethyst go to a rock concert. I’ll see you then!

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.