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A Mom’s Journey into Homestuck Part 5

Lori Henderson

Well, this is it. The infamous Act 5. I call it infamous, because any search on the web for Homestuck will inevitably lead to some comment about skipping Acts 1-4 because they are boring, and going straight to Act 5. Of course you can do this. My youngest started with Act 5 but eventually went back to read the first four. To really understand the story and the mechanics of the game the kids are playing, you have to have read it all.

Act 5 Act 1: It’s All About the Trolls

Karkat 300x207 A Moms Journey into Homestuck Part 5Act 5 opens with the introduction of the planet Alternia, which has two moons orbiting it. As we zoom in to the planet, we are introduced to a boy who is celebrating his Wriggling Day. He is Karkat Vantas. He likes bad romantic-comedies and thinks he is good at programming, but he really isn’t. He also has anger issues. He and his eleven other friends are going to start playing an ancient game tonight, one that their hacker friend Sollux found and has called Sgrub. This Act introduces us to the trolls and their society and shows us the game session of their version of Sburb.

The introduction of the trolls starts slowly. After meeting Karkat, who is carcinoGenetist in the previous Acts and the sign of Cancer,  we start to meet his friends. Gamzee is the sign Capricorn. He loves clowns and is very low key and relaxed. He reminded me of a stereotypical stoner from 80s movies. He really likes the soda Faygo. Terezi is Libra, blind, and wants to practice law. We’ve met her as gallowsCalibrator in the previous act. Sollux is Gemini, and appeared briefly as the tech guy in Act 4. He is big into programming and computer tech. Tavros is the sweet adiosToreador from Act 4 and is still just as sweet. He likes to play card games and Extreme LARPing. From these five, we move quickly to Nepeta, Leo; Aradia, Aries; Vriska, Scorpio; Equius, Sagittarius; Kanaya, Virgo and grimAuxiliatrix from Act 4, and finally Eridan and Feferi, Aquarius and Pisces respectively.

troll romance 300x207 A Moms Journey into Homestuck Part 5A lot of this Act shows how these 12 friends interact. I say friend, but that word doesn’t have the same meaning to trolls as it does to us. The Alternian word for “friend” and “enemy” are the same. So these characters say they are friends, but they can still say and do things to each other that would end friendships in a heartbeat among humans. They are violent and can be downright hostile and cruel to each other and not really think anything of it. Vriska did something terrible to Tavros in their past but turns out to have feelings for him later. This gets us into Alternian relationships. To say they are complicated would be an understatement. Several pages of text and animations are used to try to explain it all. The suits and colors from a deck of cards are used as the best representation of the different facets that troll relationships can take. It is so long and convoluted that Hussie inflicts the whole explanation at once to on the reader as a punishment. The basics are that Trolls can go from platonic friendship to steamy hot passion or love-to-hate, and all the shades in between.

But this is just one aspect of troll society. Trolls are insectoid in nature. They are hatched from donated genetic material given to the Mother Grub deep underground, and they spend their first few years fighting to make their way to the surface. The survivors are given to a caretaker, a Lusus. Lusus come in all different sizes and shapes. They can be very difficult for the young trolls to deal with, but the kids care for them just the same, just like real parents. The Lusus end up playing an important but heartbreaking role in the trolls’ game session. There were some sad, touching moments with them. Troll society also seems to have a hierarchy that is based on the color of one’s blood. It isn’t explained exactly in the Act, but Vriska makes a big deal about not knowing the color of Karkat’s blood, and Karkat tries to take great pains to guard it. Jack’s stabby-stabby moment with him gives the secret away.

Trolls group 300x300 A Moms Journey into Homestuck Part 5Much like the human kids’ game session, the troll kids’ game session is broken up with flashbacks and introductions. It’s pretty far into the act before the last two trolls, Eridan and Feferri, are introduced. We don’t see a lot of the game session either. The trolls’ session lasts for 600 hours, approximately one month. Over that time, we see Karkat make contact with Jack Noir, Vriska and Tavros take on quests, and chat board sessions that, thanks to the trolls’ technology, allows their past, present, and future selves to talk to each other. The present and future Karkat argument is quite funny, as is the fact that the board updates are often used to ask Karkat for romantic advice.

The ending of the trolls’ game session is narrated by Aradia. She tells of their difficult battles and how, when they had completed the session and were just inches from claiming their prize, something catastrophic happened: a scratch. She doesn’t explain in detail what it is, but what we do learn is that it’s something that can happen in a game session, and that it came from the human kids’ session through a rift in paradox space. The trolls are banished from their space and are forced to retreat to the Veil. They can neither return home nor enter the universe their game session created. This is why they are so angry at the human kids. It’s not their fault, but you can’t really blame them either.

Bluh 300x207 A Moms Journey into Homestuck Part 5I really enjoyed this Act, as everyone predicted. The trolls are a great, varied bunch of characters. Hussie put in a lot of work creating a very different species with some similarities but just enough differences to make them interesting, and not just “humans with horns.” This act also reconfirms Karkat as my favorite troll. He is John’s counterpart, and John is my favorite human, so it shouldn’t be too surprising. Also like John, he gets a lot of the good, funny moments. I should mention one new character that was introduced in this Act: Vanilla Milkshake. He is a legendary being who is omniscient and omnipotent, wears a green suit, and has a white ball for a head. Some of the things he says and does make me think he will be showing up again later. The Midnight Crew return in this Act as well. They appear to be the Trolls’ exiles, as we see Hearts Boxcar berating poor Tavros from his control room when Tavros gets into a sticky romantic situation with Vriska.

There is only one flash animation for this Act. I was confused by it the first time I watched it, but on the second time through, I got it. It’s very timey-wimey, which is why I had a hard time with it at first. “Make Her Pay” shows what happened to Vriska, Terezi and Aradia that gave them their various disabilities, and what Aradia does when she finally has the ability to give a little payback. I can’t say Vriska doesn’t deserve what she gets. My daughters told me I would either love or hate Vriska for the things she does in this act. I had to go with hate.

Nepata Wall 300x300 A Moms Journey into Homestuck Part 5This is what makes the trolls, and all the characters in Homestuck so good. You definitely develop feelings about them, one way or the other. Of course, the reader isn’t the only one developing feelings. This Act is also where the idea of “shipping” is really introduced. It first comes up after Aradia and Equius start up a black relationship, and Nepeta then updates her Wall of Shipping, which has different pairings of all the friends. Shipping is a fannish pastime where fans pair up characters into relationships that they like or think will work. These pairings can lead to huge flame wars between fans if not everyone agrees and can even lead to fans calling the author of their own work wrong for not following a certain relationship. I have it on good authority that it’s not bad in this Act, but it increases in Act 6.

But for now, I still have a second part in Act 5 before I get to that. And an intermission too, I believe. Maybe now I’ll get to see Jade make it into the Medium? I am excited to see the kids and trolls interacting more. Now that we’ve seen the consequences, I also really want to see what a “scratch” is and how it happens. I think I’m in for another long read.

Images © Andrew Hussie and MSPaintadventures.com

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

Comments

  1. Brady Thompson says:

    Act 5 Part 2 will take you a while. A very long while. I highly recommend that you do Act 5 Part 2 in at least 2 posts, because there will be way too much to talk about in one post. Trust me. Can’t wait to see what you think of some of the stuff that happens there, everything just gets crazy in the best way! Also, another Vriska hater, huh? I guess I hated her too at the point you’re at.

    • Yes, I sneaked a peek at how long Act 5 Act 2 is. A whole year of updates! I’ll look for natural breaks for reviewing purposes.

      Yeah, I liked Tavros too much to like Vriska after what she did to him. And Aradia. And Terezi. And Sollux by extension.

      • Sterling Ericsson (Silver seren) says:

        Maybe break it up via big Flash pages? That might be a good way to do it, though I admittedly haven’t looked at how far apart each Flash is. They start coming more rapidly the farther you get into this Act and even more so onto the next Act.

        And Vriska is definitely one of the best written characters in the comic. She starts off as a person you hate, then Hussie will have her do and say things that will make you feel sympathetic for her and like her for it, then she’ll do things that will make you hate her again and then you’ll keep vacillating back and forth the further you go.

        We clearly need an auspistice to help us out with our love-hate vacillation toward Vriska.

      • Lori Henderson Lori Henderson says:

        I’ll look for point that feel good as breaks. Some fashes don’t do that as they are so story heavy. Hussie’s not back about that. It’s just that his writing can be so darn addicting, that it’s hard to stop!

        See, that’ s what gonna keep me from trusting anything she does. When she’s doing the good things, I’m just gonna be wondering when is she gonna do something to screw it up. :)

  2. Jasper says:

    Act 5 Act 2 is where many of the characters, main or not, are fleshed out to great heights. Nannasprite and the other sprites are even given a lot of characterization during their short stints. Homestuck really is a “coming of age” story when it comes to these parts. A lot of past tragedy, but a lot of hope sandwiched in between. Have fun with your read :)

  3. Jori says:

    Wow, this is great. An actual adult mother reading and enjoying Homestuck. As a teenager who is into Homestuck, other fandoms, and aspires to be an international translator one day, I think this is pretty awesome. Actually, this is way beyond awesome. From my experience, parents don’t usually care about the strange things their kids are into, especially since they aren’t familiar with the workings of fandom/anime sub-culture and the interwebz in general. Needless to say, some teens actually enjoy their privacy with this kind of stuff, but I wish more adults would take the time to explore the sub-culture. As you’ve learned, Homestuck is not some simple comic on the internet for kids, the story is highly complex and has many layers and underlying themes that take a great deal of effort to construct in your mind. I think if more parents took the time to actually sit down and get into something like this, it would benefit both the parent and the teen. I can see it now; a parent and teen talking about the same plot twist, the same favorite character, having a discussion even! Heck, they’d be on the same page for once about something! It would also take a little away from that feeling of isolationism that comes with liking things that the rest of the conforming world rejects. My point is, there’s something for everyone, not just teens and kids, in things like Homestuck and fandom sub-cultures, but many people just don’t know or think it’s weird. I’m glad to see, though, that you’re delving into this head-first, keeping with it, and enjoying it. Hopefully, more parents and adults will follow suit.

    Oh, and one more thing, if you need some aided visualization with Homestuck, I suggest looking up the Homestuck CoLab on YouTube. They put the comic into a video series and voice act as well.

    Carry on, and thanks for being awesome!

  4. ClashingWinds says:

    well, i see you are finally able to call yourself a homestuck. Making it all the way to act 5 without skipping takes guts. welcome. ^u^

  5. Lori Henderson Lori Henderson says:

    @Jasper – Thanks. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the kids’ stories.

    @Jori – I have to admit, I already had a head start with the anime/manga appreciation. I’ve been a fan since way back, and we’re the ones who introduced it to our kids. But I do think it’s a shame that a lot of parents don’t try to understand the things their kids are into. I listened to snippets of my kids talking about Homestuck for over a year before i decided to see what it was all about. But I don’t regret for a moment doing it. I’ve also watched some MLP:FiM with my youngest daughter. I think it’s important to show your kids that what they like is important and not to just write it off as dumb or “just for kids.” That part of the problem comics still have today.

    @ClashingWinds – Thanks. Do I get a trophy or brownie point? Or maybe that should be troll point. ;D

  6. Kroll says:

    I recomend the Homestuck Colab Project. http://www.youtube.com/user/HomestuckColab?feature=watch
    they did a great job voice acting up to Act 5.2

  7. argentConflagration says:

    I’d second the recommendation to split Act 5 Act 2 into at least two parts. It’s about two or three times as long as the sections you’ve been reading so far. If you split it into three parts, my suggestions for splitting points would be page 5139 (“Highlighting all that white text crashed my browser.”) and page 5597 (“==>”, a few pages after “[S] Seer: Descend” and just before “Dave: Answer”). Not only is Act 5 Act 2 long, it’s also quite dense, especially the last portion.

    It’s very interesting to watch you read through Homestuck, because your feelings about it are much the same as mine were as I read through it! John was my favorite character during the first few acts, Karkat was my favorite during Act 5, I hated Vriska, and so on. I’m just a little on the older end of Homestuck’s audience (I’m a college student).

    As for the shipping, whether or not it gets ‘bad’ in Act 6 kind of depends on how you look at it. I’ve always felt that the relationships in Homestuck, both romantic and platonic, were enjoyable parts of the various characters’ arcs, and so I didn’t feel like the relationships in Act 6 were ‘too much’. But I know not everyone felt the same way. If you’ve finished Act 5 Act 1, you’ve already seen a few pairings receive relationship development (I won’t name names in order to avoid spoilers). What did you think of those moments?

    • Lori Henderson Lori Henderson says:

      Thanks for the suggestions on the break up of Act 5 Act 2. I’ll keep them in mind as I read.

      Well, really, what’s NOT to like about John and Karkat? Two sides of the same coin. :)

      I don’t mind relationships as much as “shipping.” I just could never get my head around someone wanting to force two characters in a story together, story and writer be damned. I had no problem with the relationships seen so far in Act 5, (except for Vriska’s) but those are canon relationships Hussie came up with, aren’t they? It’s in Act 6 that the fan shipping has more of an influence (at least according to my kids), and that’s what I’m wary about. I tend to go with the flow that the author is setting up rather than trying to tell him what to do. But, since fan feedback is a part of Homestuck, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. I’ve seen enough to trust Hussie when dealing with the fans.

      I think that needs to be a shirt: “In Hussie We Trust.” :)

  8. silound says:

    Oh, Act 5 Act 2 is really the meat of the comic, I think. It has rapid story growth, character development, and actual answers which makes you realize up till now you’ve only been reading simple /set up./

    And yes, it is pretty mind-blowing :)

  9. Anna says:

    Have you cried while reading Homestuck yet? (It happens to all of us)

    • ClashingWinds says:

      i know i did recently… but she is only on act 5 act 1. nothing cry worthy… yet.

      • I don’t know, I found the fate of the Lusi to be rather heart-breaking. The scene with Gamzee and his hit a heart string.

        And I have been recently warned that a scene I am coming up to with Jack and Bro will not be something I like. :(

  10. Xalex says:

    God, I honestly cannot wait for you to get to the cascade flash.

    • Lori Henderson Lori Henderson says:

      I just watched the Jade: Enter flash. I still hate Vriska! It’s not Jade’s fault!!

      • sean williams says:

        The thing about Variska is she was deliberately written to divide the fan base, with her actions being irredeemable in human eyes but just really kinda mean in trolls eyes (at least at first glance)
        Personally i think im kinda in the hate camp a little, especially how she Broke Kanaya’s heart (quadrant) in order to, now that i think about it, come really close to basically date raping tavros…

        I take it back, Variska deserves everything that happens..

  11. 8r8k Spider says:

    I think it’s great that you’re making this blog :)
    I just wanted to comment on Vriska. As you can probably tell by the name I chose, Vriska is my favourite character in Homestuck and it’s because of how deep her characterisation goes. I can’t forgive her for what she did to Tavros because there is no denying that he is the sweetest character by far, but if you think about Troll society and what she had to do for her Lusus, it wasn’t so horrendous. The fact that Tavros didn’t suffer the same fate as others Vriska bested while LARPing speaks volumes about how she feels. There are definite ups and downs with her character as Sterling says, but if you really think about her from a troll point of view and not a human point of view then you see that she generally has reasons for what she does – messed up reasons of course, sometimes even messed up by troll standards – but I think you get to know Vriska a lot better the more she talks to John. I’ll try not to spoil anything but just before the end of Act 6 Vriska made my friend, who has always hated her, gain a grudging respect.

    Also, on the subject of shipping I’m not entirely sure what your daughters mean when they talk about Act 6. I have an idea about what they might be referencing but… maybe I just didn’t see it. I myself ship characters but generally they are ships that have been canon at least at one point in the comic. I don’t understand why people ship characters who have never actually met canonically which I have seen before. Eridan and John’s Dad being one of them… I really have nothing to say to that.
    But yes, Hussie does like to pull on his fan’s heartstrings as Anna said :’(

  12. ReesieKitty says:

    Wow- thanks for this Homestuck rundown! My 13 year old son is crazy about Homestuck and I have been doing some research to help him with a cosplay costume and to find out what it was about. I quickly realized that there is no easy way to catch up on it- even the actual wiki is pretty complex- and your breakdown was the best I found. Now I am going to jump right in and start reading :)

  13. Wolfenpilot687 says:

    Oh, boy! I’ve read all your journey through Homestuck, and I’m so glad that you’ve enjoyed the story as much as I did! I wish my mom was more like you. :D
    I can’t wait to see the next part on this series!

  14. sean williams says:

    Homestuck has been called the Internet’s Ulysess, a title i think it richly deserves.

    Oh and sort of/kinda/mild spoiler, when you reach Jade : Wake up, turn the volume down a tad.

  15. ReesieKitty says:

    Hi- my 13 year old son is really into Homestuck and kept urging me to check it out. Starting out it was pretty tough going, lol, Although I admire the crowdsourcing aspect of it at first, it doesn’t always make for very cohesive reading. But then I found your reviews and they encouraged me (along with my son telling me it would ‘get much much better soon, I swear!) to keep it up. I am in the middle of Act 5 and I have to say that not only am I finding it fascinating, but it’s also such an interesting parallel to me about how teenagers structure their online relationships. But best of all, my son and I are discussing the various plotlines, characters and artwork, which has been great. We are also fabricating a pretty kick-ass Dave Stryder costume for my son to wear to a con next year. So, Homestuck has been good for this family. Thanks for the reviews!!

    • Lori Henderson Lori Henderson says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews! It is fun to have something you can share with your kids. It really can get them to open up more. That’s awesome about making the costume. We had fun putting together the Jade Harley costume for my daughter. She wore it for Halloween and even had some people recognize her! She also wore it to Wondercon, and got some positive feedback from other cosplayers. If you can, go to a Homestuck meetup at a con. It’s a lot of fun and there are a lot of great and creative costumes.

  16. Brady Thompson says:

    Hey, is the next part coming anytime soon?

  17. the only normal homestuck here says:

    you spelt nepeta and equius wrong, and also vriska is trying to take it back on this act

    also just so you know cosplayers irritate me

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