Homestuck 1/2

Alright, look, I made the banner graphic let’s tear the bandaid off.

a banner in the Ranma 1/2 style that says 'Homestuck 1/2'

I make fun of Homestuck and have no intention to stop doing so, but I do so based on the series and interactions with its fans and the creator’s opinions and – look I’m not doing a good job of setting this up, this is a very meta and tortured introduction that doesn’t get to the point, and therefore, by Homestuck standards, it’s good. But what I am trying to get to is that Homestuck is a space that’s super important to people in a way that to me, an older internet denizen, rings true of the Ranma 1/2 fandom.

You know, it was a space full of romance roleplays and weird sexy exploration, and a bunch of queers used it to work themselves out and in the process learned from one another about what it meant to be queer.

I think the overlap between these spaces is a synthesis of three ideas: Isolation, Play, and Smoochiness.

There’s a reason why the Cops Reading Homestuck story was a desireable story to tell and also why it was obvious bullshit. Cops can’t read. But also because the nature of being a Homestuck was one of being isolated. Homestuck isn’t a media everyone at school reads and has as a shared experience, it’s not communal and it’s not actually shareable. Like, you and a friend can’t put the webcomic on at the same time as you, it’s not a thing you can watch together. You have to participate in the webcomic separately, and to share the fandom you have to spend time with people who are also doing so. That pushes you out of social spaces with people you hang around with personally and into spaces where you’re going to interact with them in online spaces, and almost any online space like that is going to inevitably give people a way to be creative.

Similarly, if five to ten years earlier, you were invested in Ranma 1/2, you weren’t going to be seeing that at your library. You might be lucky to be at an anime club or manga club at a university, but if you were an English language speaker, odds were good you were going to only be finding community around Ranma 1/2 was online, and at that time? Online was stuff like Geocities or Lycos or Angelfire. Online was AOL Instant Messenger roleplay rooms. Online was USENET. You weren’t logging onto those places for a bit of everything, you were going there for this fandom, for this thing that you were interested in.

This is a thing I think that induces these kinds of media into being play spaces. You wanted to immerse yourself in it, you wanted more of it, there was a limit for how much of it there was and the only real places you could find it were places that were, definitionally, only going to necessarily share this thing as a frame of reference. It’s a great set of pressures for making sure people completely pickle their brains about a subject material.

Another element that links these two is that it seems the fandoms latched pretty hard onto the importance of romance and relationships. I don’t know anyone who considers themselves Extremely About Homestuck who starts promoting it by saying that the story is really coherent and good and makes a good singular point. I don’t mean this in a way that’s disrespectful to you Homestuckies, aside from the general low-level disrespect that you all are comfortable with and know you deserve, but I don’t get the impression anyone who spent a long time in the Homestuck space, especially the roleplaying Homestuck space, then you were into the characters.

Similarly, nobody should turn to Ranma 1/2 for a great long form story full of character arc moments โ€” it’s a sex comedy martial arts manga with silly magical powers. The conclusion of it is a ‘wedding’ that gets interrupted and returns the story to a status quo (kinda). But along the way there was practically an OC Kit of narrative of hey, here’s a bunch of obvious hooks we reuse for characters to arrive in the story space and here’s how a Ranma 1/2 character gets created and you almost had an RPG sourcebook on that matter.

(Almost.)

No, the thing that drives both stories in their fan’s minds is the characters and the ability to play with them. Particularly, the ability to play with them as people with mouths that could be pushed up against one another and made to kissssss. Now, if you’ve read Ranma 1/2 you might want to go at this point ‘uh actually romance doesn’t come up that much’ because there mostly the romance is in reference to people trying to coerce a romantic situation onto someone and Ranma or Akane resisting it but c’mon.

It’s a 1980s sex comedy anime.

The story is building up to the kissssss.

Which means you have this media that focuses you on focusing on it more, a sort of hyperfocal brain pickler, sitting right next to a big pile of crayons and blank paper, and room to play. There’s non-judgmental approaches to trying things out, there’s a creative space where you aren’t necessarily going to encounter immediate resistance โ€” believe it or not, there was actually a default fandom position of ‘oh, you’re going to make something? cool!’ on the internet back in the day โ€” and in the process you wind up, without necessarily being told or induced to, play with romance in this media space with people who are definitionally not in a position to harm or judge you.

I want to make fun and I will and I like doing so, but to do so I must always do with open honesty that: there’s nothing wrong with this. The fact that Homestuck is very meaningful to people, so meaningful to people, makes complete sense.

I’m still not going to read it, don’t be silly.