Homestuck Mini(?)-Post: In Defense of Act 6 Act 1

This isn’t really a mini-post at all; it’s pretty much a full blown essay. My Homestuck posts are still on a short pause, but I have an announcement post planned for Friday!

Late in Act 4 I fell behind in the Homestuck community reread and made my own blog posts instead. But in the past few days, when the reread went through Act 6 Act 1, I decided to join in again and share my thoughts.

It’s no secret that the early Act 6 acts with the alpha kids are polarizing. Some people like those acts, some people can’t stand them. Rereading the first of those acts, my feelings are more positive than negative but I do have some issues. What follows is a rundown of my thoughts on this act; skip to the end if you want it briefly summarized.

Note in advance: I still stand by most of what I said in my Act 6 Act 1 posts from 2016 (Part 60 / Part 61 / Part 62 / Part 63). Feel free to refer back to those for more detail. 

– – – 


INTRO

Overall, Act 6 Act 1 is a remix of Act 1 done a bit more in the style of Act 5 Act 2. While Homestuck itself opened with a single introductory page, Act 6 opens with a big flash teasing our four new heroes and their new alien friend; I absolutely love that flash and it still gives me chills. After Jane and Jake are introduced we get a character select screen, where you can start with Jane or start with Jake. This time I started with Jane, then did Jake. 

SELECTION SCREEN: JANE

Jane’s half of the selection screen is a bit like John exploring his bedroom, but without any of the captchalogue nonsense and modernized in many other ways. A whole different kind of nonsense is shown in Jane’s half: she is shown to be badly brainwashed by the Condesce, who has led her to believe Betty Crocker is just a friendly company that makes super awesome technology and the hyped up game of Sburb.

Jane has three pesterlogs in her selection screen:

  • One with Jake which is mostly filler and some hints at plot stuff. Kind of boring and reads way better from Jake’s perspective.
  • One with Calliope which is also mostly filler and some hints at plot stuff. Again a little boring but it works because it’s a brand new character’s debut.
  • One with Roxy which is incredibly fun and hilarious, setting us up for a brand new character readers will surely be excited to meet and with some actually exciting plot stuff. Is it any wonder Roxy is everyone’s waifu?
General thoughts on these pesterlogs: My biggest issue with the Act 6 Act 1 pesterlogs is that they tend to start with a bunch of general nonsense, setting the rough tone of the characters’ personalities. It wasn’t really much of a problem that the Act 1 pesterlogs were short; the characters were set up in a perfectly fine and enjoyable way. And this is a case where if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

SELECTION SCREEN: JAKE

Jake’s half of the selection screen is more interesting than Jane’s (who would have guessed?). We get a much more subdued and lonely spin on Jade’s magical home life and it’s surprisingly well done. The narration also doesn’t take long to establish how the bunny mission goes from Jake’s perspective, which also works really well. I’m pretty happy the story gets that arc out of the way early on; it only makes sense to do it now rather than pretending it’s a big mystery.

Jake has four pesterlogs in his selection screen:

  • One with Calliope which gets a lot of nonsense out of the way fast and has more plot hints. Still does get kind of rambly though.
  • One with Dirk, no wait, his auto-responder. Probably the most stupidly rambly of them all, mostly tolerable because the whole pesterlog is pretty much a ruse.
  • One with Jane that we already saw from Jane’s perspective. As I said before, it reads better from Jake’s perspective because the rambly opening seems a bit less out of place and it’s a little more enticing seeing Jane vaguely describe mysteries from Jake’s perspective rather than her own perspective.
  • A second one with Dirk’s responder. This time it’s actually useful to the plot and interesting to read. It also shows some parallels between Dave’s relationship with Bro and Jake’s relationships with Dirk’s splinters.
In this short reread, I wanted to see if Act 6 Act 1 read better from Jane’s perspective first instead of Jake’s perspective. Now I know that the answer is Jake. Jake’s pages give Act 6 a strong start with some plot stuff tying back to earlier acts and ruses involving Dirk; Jane’s pages are more laid back and seem harmless after reading Jake’s. If you start with Jane, you’re more likely to think “oh my god this is so boring” in her half. 

General thoughts on the guardian traits: A lot of what we learn about the alpha kids and their ancestors is extrapolations from the beta kids’ guardians and their traits. Act 6 Act 1 is weird in that regard, both in Jane and Jake’s parts; it’s loaded up with early installment weirdness. In those pages, the author chooses guardian and beta kid traits to call back to, and some of them work while others don’t. If you want specific examples, just reread the act yourself. I don’t want this post to get even more rambly than it already is.

THE FOREBODING DREAM

The next big thing that happens is a pesterlog between Jane and Jake, where she recounts a foreboding dream where Prospitians gathered around holding a funeral for Jake’s dream self. The surprise factor in this scene, as well as the message it gives, is worth analyzing.

A player’s dream self being dead in advance isn’t normally something that just happens. You can’t do that, you just can’t. Prospit and Derse both follow strict rules which are always followed without questioning. What factor could have possibly caused these rules to be thrown out the window?

I bet many readers did not expect the Condesce to be behind these rules getting broken. Jack Noir is the one carapacian who isn’t afraid to break rules, but is always held in check by the black queen. With the queen usurped, everything breaks loose; for more discussion on this topic, check out this post.

Jane thinks the dream was supposed to warn her of something, but she wasn’t sure what. It’s our very first clue to readers that things are going to go even more off the rails than ever before.

SETTING THE STAGE ON JAKE’S ISLAND

As Jake explores his island, everything we knew about Jade’s home life is beautifully subverted. His house was destroyed, with only his room and the small area below remaining; his island is a dark forested area, filled with replications of the trolls’ lusii. I think these scenes are a highlight of this act: it puts a new twist on Jade’s magical life on an island and brings back the lusii in a magnificently unusal way. 

Jake’s following conversation with Roxy is pretty cool too; a decent mix of character stuff and plot stuff. Roxy’s use of troll terminology is a subtle hint that she lives in the future, which I kind of wish was done more often rather than coming across as early installment weirdness here.

JANE’S FINAL(?) MOMENTS

Jane and Jake both have robot pseudo-guardians that I consider to count as Dirk’s splinters. Jake has Brobot who does much more later on. Jane has Lil’ Sebastian who creates a mess in the house. Jane’s conversation with Dirk (finally, the actual Dirk!) is super fun and balances characterization with plot discussion, plus a quick look into Dave’s adult self; a very strong start for Dirk’s character.

Jane’s echo of the nonsense where John (with Rose’s help) messes up his house is quite an oddity. The antics in the early acts were just the kids playing Sburb, but the antics in this act are Jane making a fool of herself trying to leave her home. It’s a much more literal interpretation of the title “Homestuck” than before.

The end of this act is super interesting to me. It’s an echo of the end of Act 1 in a way as direct as possible: a surprise explosion that, to our knowledge, would kill our new hero. In both cases, we have no idea how the victim could possibly have survived.

The Hussiebot interlude following this act is just as hilarious as I remember it being but I’d count it more as Act 6 Intermission 1 so I won’t talk about it here.

– – – 

Strong points: Three of the four protagonists are engaging to read and follow.* The twists upon the early acts are surprising and subvert many expectations. And lots of cool mysteries are teased.

Weak points: The pesterlogs spend too much time with lengthy greetings and closings. Some of the guardian callbacks are forced and then left in the dust due to early installment weirdness. One of the four protagonists is not that engaging to read and follow.

* This also holds for the beta kids in the first two acts. Jade in the early acts is kind of a shit character.

Overall: Act 6 Act 1 isn’t as bad as people say but is certainly flawed in its presentation. I can understand people’s annoyances with it, but the positive aspects often aren’t appreciated.

Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Commentary Part 63: Dirk’s Ironic Robot Company

Introduction

Part 62 | Part 63 | Part 64 >

Act 6 Act 1, Part 4 of 4

Pages 4227-4284 (MSPA: 6127-6184)

In a callback to a scene in the trolls’ arc, Jake discovers a grumbling giant version of Karkat’s lusus. Presumably the callback is there to make it extra obvious those are the trolls’ lusii—this isn’t the only time such a thing is done.

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Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Commentary Part 62: The Housetrapped Heiress

Introduction

Part 61 | Part 62 | Part 63 >

Act 6 Act 1, Part 3 of 4

Pages 4195-4226 (MSPA: 6095-6126)

NOTE: This will be my last post before leaving for my next vacation, from which I’ll return on August 6. After that I’ll go back to regular posting, hopefully at a less sluggish rate than previously.

Jane leaves her room and examines her hallway, which is quite different from John’s without any clowns or anything.

Just one of your dad’s bland HALLWAY DOUCHEBAGS. Another example of his cornball dad tastes, which make you roll your eyes and shrug. Still, it’s preferable to how it used to be.

Years ago he would work really hard to mimic your interests throughout the household. Gaudy paintings of sitcom legends covering the walls, hideous detective figurines littered everywhere. You think it’s better that he embrace his own interests rather than try to pander to yours.

This description of how Jane’s relationship with her father progressed away from a mirror of John’s life seems to me like another “what could have been” sort of thing: in this case, what John’s relationship with his father would have become if he kept living a normal life for a few more years. And maybe what it would’ve become if not for Gamzee doing the whole clown doll thing. Oh, and that’s another thing that’s better off in the scratched universe. Even during Dad’s mimicking interests phase, this time around at least it’s mimicking a real interest of his child’s.

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Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Commentary Part 61: Your Mail Man Is a Dumbass

Introduction

Part 60 | Part 61 | Part 62 >

Act 6 Act 1, Part 2 of 4

Pages 4122-4162 (MSPA: 6022-6062)

NOTE: My two week blog pause will actually only be one week, specifically the first week of August. More on that here.

NOTE 2: Act 6 Act 1 will be divided into four posts instead of three because a week is more than enough time to wait for a post, assuming there are people who care about this blog post series. The next two Homestuck posts will both most likely be relatively short, which I think works better than making one extra long post that’ll take quite a while to make.

Now that I finished Jake’s half of the selection screen, it’s time to do Jane’s half.

Earlier this morning you thought you heard the mail truck, even though the mail never comes in the morning. But just to be sure, you rushed downstairs to check, even though due to recent events, you are FORBIDDEN FROM LEAVING THE HOUSE. Alas, it was not there, and you sort of spaced out at the sky with a goofy grin on your face for no great reason, and then you were caught red handed by your guardian. Then you got in trouble. 

This description of the stuff Jane did in Act 6’s opening makes it seem a lot more ridiculous than the “breath of fresh air” feel it had earlier. It also establishes that Jane is homestu—I mean locked inside her house.

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Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Commentary Part 60: Bedroom Screwaround Session, Remastered

Introduction

Part 59 | Part 60 | Part 61 >

Act 6 Act 1, Part 1 of 4

Pages 4113-4121, 4163-4194 (MSPA: 6013-6021, 6063-6094)

So remastered, in fact, that SBaHJ is now a moive.

NOTE: Tomorrow marks my two-year anniversary of first reading Homestuck. (actually I was wrong, I released this post exactly on the anniversary)

Before I start Act 6, I’d like to talk about the alpha kids in general, just as I opened Act 5 by talking about the trolls.

Like the trolls, the alpha kids are a group of characters who didn’t exist from the start. However, unlike the trolls, they haven’t grown to become part of the comic’s premise. This may be because it takes quite a long time for them to be introduced and thus their existence is a major spoiler, or simply because the trolls have such a special appeal. When I was early in my first read of Homestuck, I accidentally found out early that there was a character named Jane, who I thought was some kind of fifth kid who shows up a lot later (which is half-true). I think this goes to show that the alpha kids are not as distinct and special as the trolls, especially when the beta kids have always been a group of four main characters. But despite that, the alpha kids are most certainly not simply a repeat of the beta kids. Even though they’re all young versions of existing characters (the guardians), they are still very much their own characters, since we only saw what the guardians are like from the kids’ often distorted perspectives. You can’t map each alpha kid to a beta kid without ignoring other major similarities between them; this second group of four kids is definitely its own group of characters, with a lot of new things about them that make their story a tale with a much more complex premise than the beta kids’ story. This brings me to the second part of my Act 6 introduction.

Act 6 starts off with the players of the kids’ post-scratch session. The Scratch was stated to reboot the conditions of the kids’ universe for a more ideal session. This applies not only to the story’s plot, but to its narrative as well. Act 6 Act 1 is not just Act 1 with a different set of main characters; it’s a remastered version of Act 1. While Act 1 starts off in a rather generic setting and builds up from there, Act 6 Act 1 immediately gives us a very colorful premise. In the scratched universe, Sburb is released by a company which clues already suggest is owned by an evil alien queen, rather than a seemingly generic mysterious technology company; Jane is the heiress to that company, and doesn’t know anything about what she’s getting into—not even whose company she will inherit—but we certainly do. There’s also a lot of other parts that refine what the beginning of the comic was like; I’ll go over them as I go. For now, you should know that the theme of remastering the beginning of the comic also applies to the post series, hence the title of this post. I will analyze Act 6 Act 1 the way I retrospectively wish I went over Act 1 when I started this big project.

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