Paying homage to the ever popular Studio Ghibli film ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ episode 91 of Steven Universe was already off to a great start. It was part of last summer’s ‘Summer of Steven‘ event on Cartoon Network and was released on July 26th 2016. Following on from the previous episode, ‘Restaurant Wars,’ this episode also focuses on minor Beach City characters. Namely, Kiki Pizza and her family.
The episode starts with Steven preparing a fancy dining experience for himself after ordering some pizza. To his surprise, Kiki delivers it instead of her twin Jenny. Steven earns that Jenny has broken the pizza truck and Kiki is covering for her until she gets it fixed, which means delivering all the pizzas by foot. The two part ways rather uneventfully but later that night Steven accidentally finds himself in Kiki’s dream. There, she is attacked by an ominous cheese monster and Steven uses his dream powers to save her. Later on that day, Steven learns that Kiki has been having that same dream every night for weeks and it always turns into a nightmare where she drowns. He promises to help her beat her cheese demons and sets to work being a “dream warrior.”
Over the coming days, Steven comes up with more elaborate ways to beat the cheese demons in Kiki’s mind. Meanwhile, Kiki herself continues doing more and more favours for Jenny, such as covering for her shifts when Jenny wants to go to a rock concert. Steven eventually becomes exhausted as he’s not getting enough sleep himself. Kiki comes to his house and finds him passed out at 3pm, visibly worn out. He begs her to quit her job as he claims she has “a serious problem with pizza.” They realise that the only way to put a stop to her nightmares is to figure out what’s causing them. Steven says he can help her for one more night but after that he won’t be able to.
Cutting to the Cheese
That night, Steven gets to work being Kiki’s dream warrior one last time. They battle the cheese with pizza cutters but the monsters are relentless. They discover a large cheese bust of Kiki herself and enter its brain. Following the ominous groaning sounds, the two are confronted with a cheese monster Jenny. Jenny grabs Kiki and begins to trap her in cheese, asking her for more favours. Even though Kiki insists that she doesn’t mind because Jenny is “her favourite twin,” Steven realises that she does mind and that Jenny is hurting her. He tells her that Kiki has to learn how to say no and understand that Jenny won’t mind if she needs a break, similarly to how Kiki understood that Steven couldn’t keep helping her. Kiki tells Jenny no and the nightmare ends, leaving the two of them on a relaxing beach.
The next day, Steven goes to Fish Stew Pizza and Jenny tells him that the two of them had a talk and Kiki’s taking the day off.
Most animations fans would not have missed the obvious reference to the Studio Ghibli classic in the title. However, this episode of Steven Universe pays homage to more than just Hayao Miyazaki. The fact that Steven calls himself a dream warrior could easily be a reference to the third installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Dream Warriors. Similarly, the beach scene after Kiki finally beats her cheese demons is thought to be a reference to The End of Evangelion. The way the pizzas stand slanted in the background and the lighting is very similar to one of the ending shots of the film.
Steven Universe Relevance
This episode once again deals with Steven’s dream powers. These were first seen in ‘Chille Tid’ and last seen in ‘The New Lars.’ His dream invasions not only appear to be more frequent, but he is also demonstrating more control over his powers. He doesn’t choose when to use them yet, but he’s capable of using them to his advantage when needed.
Otherwise, this episode appears to be simply yet another fun episode. There is no pressing plot relevance or deep foreshadowing noticeable. However, Steven interacting with the lesser known members of Beach City is just as important to his development as fighting battles with the gems. Episodes which focus around minor, but lovable, characters such as Kiki are just as valuable in my opinion.