Sep 13, 2013

Homestuck: 9/5/13 – 9/12/13

By Ian Cory


Like most kids in first grade, I was really into Saturday morning cartoons. More hours than could be easily counted were spent glued to the TV as a mix of superheroes, robots, and all around do-gooders devoured my day 20 minutes at a time. And like any cartoon fanatic, Sunday mornings were the bane of my existence, filled end to end with real people dealing with mundane problems. None-the-less, I tried in vain every week to find something that would fill the void. My quest finally came to an end at 6 in morning after a sleepover with a friend, who I still keep in touch with to this day, when the two of us stumbled upon an episode of Dragon Ball Z. This was still a few years before Pokémon and Digimon swept across the nation, so the art style was immediately attention grabbing. On top of that, no cartoon I had ever watched had so casually included such insane levels of violence. The broad characterizations of good and evil remained, but were littered with dismembered body parts, charred corpses and buckets of blood. From that day forward Dragon Ball Z defined everything that I thought was cool. It was the code word that I used to gain new friends and to keep out kids far less nerdy than I. In retrospect, DBZ is almost objectively terrible. Its characterization is hilariously shallow, its animation quality wildly inconsistent, and it is probably the poster child for what happens when you ignore the concept of pacing. Still, the show’s iconography is a huge rallying point for a certain generation and it remains close to my heart despite, and sometimes because, of its flaws.

I can’t say if Andrew Hussie has the same sentimental attachment to DBZ that I do*, but it’s clear that he’s at least familiar with the basic gist of the show. In a sequence that will be familiar to anyone who can break down the differences between the various forms of Super Saiyan for you, Arenea begins the process of unlocking Jake’s untapped potential, unleashing a wave explosive energy that threatens to envelop all of Derse. Safe on LOTAK, Arquiusprite is stunned at this sudden burst of power and declares, in a much more obvious reference to one of DBZ’s most enduring** meme’s, that it’s “exceeding a certain amount in quantity.” After teleporting the conflict to LOFAF, Jade enters a classic beam-o-war with Jake, only to be quickly overwhelmed by the endless power of HOPE. If it were only the first and third scenes it would be feasible to dismiss the DBZ connections as coincidence, but the “Over 9000” bit clears this week of any ambiguity. Of course, when looked at from the right angle, Jake’s character arc has always drawn from the shonen tropes that Akira Toriyama codified. Like Goku, he grew up isolated from the rest of the world after the death of a grandparent, developing a love of fighting and naïve worldview that borders on delusional and completely incompetent. And like Gohan, an outrageous amount of time has been spent discussing his hidden potential, which this week was finally brought to a head, repainting Perfect Cell as Jade for the equivalent of Jake’s Super Saiyan 2 transformation.

There is a vast gulf between Homestuck and DBZ and most of that distance is made up of character development. What happened this week happened all the time in DBZ, but with none of the shock*** or gravity. Hussie knows that his readers are going to pick up on his references, but what lets him get away with this blatant appropriation is that he makes these stock moments carry significance and consequence to characters we’ve grown to love. For all the talk of how “crazy” Homestuck is, the majority of it is based in small character moments. The contrast is what makes it work. You can scream for as long as you want, but it won’t mean shit if it wasn’t preceded by whispers. As for what its followed by, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Miscellaneous: 
  • As of 9/9/2013 I’ve been a serial reader of Homestuck for a year. Time sure does fly.
  • Looks like Eridan was right to spend his time shooting angels on LOWAA, those motherfuckers are TERRIFYING 

*In fact, despite having read almost all of MSPA and following him on twitter and tumblr, on top of having read the backlog of his formspring, I know very little about Hussie as a person. Other than one or two well-known references to The Sims, Earthbound and Spore, it’s hard to tell exactly what art Hussie draws influence from or appreciates. It’s kind of incredible that someone with as fanatical of an Internet following as him has been able to remain so private. Kudos to that I suppose.
**Here’s hoping that when he sees Lord English he blurts out this gem

***Okay, MAYBE the first time Goku went Super Saiyan had that effect for people watching it live, but for us American viewers, the merch had him sporting the golden hair for months before we saw it go down on the screen.

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