Tempest’s Downpour – Homestuck

Posted on Apr 15 2012

Once again, I’m celebrating April as Stuff That Isn’t Anime Month. The topic of interest is Homestuck.

What is Homestuck?
Let me tell you about Homestuck.

Homestuck is a webcomic video game flash animation musical extravaganza new form of entertainment that combines several forms of storytelling that Internet-goers can all enjoy.

With a complex plot, huge cast and intricate characterization, Homestuck is a style of storytelling that most writers warn you not to attempt. This writer took those risks and has succeeded.

Why the hell should I care?
You know those grey-skinned cosplayers that have taken over anime conventions numbering in the hundreds? Yeah, those are Homestucks.

Homestuck cosplayers from Katsucon, credit: Kacie Doran (kdoranphoto.tumblr.com)

Is Homestuck an anime?
Homestuck was written by a guy named Andrew Hussie who lives in Massachusetts. So the answer is no. His art is stylistically simplistic to the point where comments on how his characters don’t appear to have arms. As the story unfolds, different artists contribute different pieces that may resemble the signature anime-style, but this comic has no basis in Japanese entertainment.

Then why are these freaks at anime cons?
I think J. Michael Tatum answered this best when he explained to me why he has such a love for anime. He said that anime is a complex, character-driven style of storytelling with strong, linear, interconnected plots. Anime affects us on an intellectual and emotional level: we bond with characters as we actively view their adventures.

Homestuck is all that and more, condensed into a fast-paced plot that is littered with little jokes and gibes that take up most of the story. We’re introduced to four friends, two boys and two girls all with completely different personalities, and we follow their adventure as they play a video game that affects their world and destroys everything we thought we knew about reality.

Slowly, we start to connect to twelve more characters, aliens this time, who have a different culture. We learn about their culture, making fruitless assumptions along the way, and we begrudgingly find ourselves loving them.

Then we’re introduced to several more characters, all of whom are important.

Then everything gets taken away from us.

It’s an emotional game where the author inserts himself into the story so we feel a connection to him, and yet he is still the puppet master behind all of the thrill and grief we experience. And he doesn’t care if he causes us sadness or joy because he’s writing the story for his own amusement.

Just a taste of the drama that unfolds.

Why is the fanbase completely crazy?
Homestuck has a very large fanbase. And like anything with a large fanbase, you get a fair mix of people. On the Internet, the most socially-awkward are sometimes the loudest.

The wonderful thing about such a large fanbase is the connections people forge with one another. Newbie cosplayers are assisted and supported by veterans who willingly share expensive grey makeup, while people find an emotional outlet to discuss how much the latest update has messed with their heads.

People are tight-knit and though there’s drama on places like Tumblr, there will ALWAYS drama on places like Tumblr. Finding your niche is the reason why anime fans have flocked together, and within that realm why Hetalia fans, Homestuck fans, and MLP fans have connected as such massive groups. There’s a safety, support, and kinship in numbers.

Should I read Homestuck?
Not unless you have a ridiculous amount of free time on your hands, a lot of patience and a dictionary.com tab open. The author updates between three and five times a day, sometimes with long flash animations. Homestuck is now the longest webcomic in the history of the Internet, and it’s only three years old.

Seriously. The text alone in this story is nearly twice the length of War and Peace. The first three acts come across as useless and it isn’t until the fifth act that you realize all the shenanigans were entirely relevant.

More than once, I read a passage that caused me to throw my arms into the air and shout, “NOPE. NOPE. NOT DOING THIS ANYMORE.” I walked away from the computer, made myself a sandwich and came back not ten minutes later, grumbling to myself as I read the next passage.

Recap 4 done in typical Hussie fashion.

Why do you like Homestuck?
It’s the only form of entertainment I’ve seen where ALL of the female characters have been loveable in some shape or form. In nearly every series I’ve experienced, the female characters are either too sappy or too gung-ho. They’re entirely impossible to connect with.

The story has more than a dozen female characters who are all different: all distinct personalities that nearly everyone can relate to on some level (yes, even Vriska). Also, with the way the alien culture’s romance works, it’s totally legitimate to pair all the females off with one another.

The series invites trolling because most of the cast comprises trolls (even the Internet-variety). Homestuck rarely takes itself seriously, and when it does, it doesn’t give us long to dwell on the emotion before something slapstick pops onto our screen, much to the chagrin of fans. “Damn you Hussie!” we shout relatively often, or else curl into fetal position and mutter, “too many emotions…”

There’s no warning when the style of entertainment shifts. I’ll click along and then suddenly I’m presented with a video game. I play through that and watch a flash movie as the most gorgeous violin/techno music plays in the background. Then I’m suddenly reading frustratingly large chunks of text and I find myself thoroughly enjoying it. Then there’s a splash of color as something moves. No one image is stationary in Homestuck. That’s why I think it’s a shame that Hussie is turning it into a book: books seem like a step backwards from a technological and entertainment scale.

I can’t stand the fans of Homestuck.
That’s nice. You should tell those whippersnappers to get off your lawn as well.

With everything in life, this enormous, occasionally raucous fandom is temporary. We know this. Most of us understand this. The story has gone beyond its halfway point and it will eventually end.

Some of us may move onto Andrew Hussie’s next work. Most of us probably won’t.

But one thing remains: there will always be some series with some ridiculously large fanbase. Because nerds enjoy being entertained, but most of all nerds enjoy connecting with one another.

Got any questions for me? Want to troll me? Leave a comment.

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  • ShoujoNihonjin April 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Ha! I was at Khaotic Kon last Saturday and I wondered why there were so many cosplayers with yellow and red horns.

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