FEATURE: PSYCHOLONIALS (2021-RIGHT NOW)
I was really, really, really into Homestuck during high school (say 2011—2014). I started reading when the trolls were introduced and Tumblr just got popular. Psycholonials, a serialized visual novel, is not a Homestuck story. This is a story about two cynical post-college unemployed women doing morally-ambiguous things because they can, without apologies. It’s rounding out to be a middle finger to unmitigated escapism.
Chapter 3 out 9 is (about) to come out today and I was so compelled by the first two chapters, I’m writing a review this morning. I don’t know what’s going on with Andrew Hussie as a person, so I won’t comment on him and instead will just discuss the story because I’m deeply out of touch with the kids. I find it ironic so many people started calling Homestuck the "First Great Work of Internet Fiction" because Psycholonials feels like a direct-address to that specific sentiment. In 2012, PBS Channel asked: Is Homestuck the Ulysses of the Internet. Now you can literally buy hardcover, full-color editions of the webcomic.
What does good fiction about the internet and influencer capitalism culture look like?
People like Logan Paul still have careers online, despite doing…that. I don't use Instagram, so I don't know what it’s like, but the protagonists (Zhen, 23, just lost her job as a waitress b/c of Covid and Abby, a wealthy influencer who lives in her parent’s summer home) seem to be broadly gesturing at all forms of social media rather than one group. However, Instagram is obviously the main offender (with some TikToK jokes). If you (Hussie) started posting art on Something Awful in the early 2000s and theoretically saw the internet nexus mutate into Livejournal, Tumblr, and now Twitter and Insta, I really can't see what an optimistic “Great Work of Internet Fiction” can become from that perspective. Psycholonials feels deeply intimate in that way…by attempting to tackle such an intangible narrative in a post-Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, post-2020 broke-ass pandemic world. It’s depressing. But it’s funny. A pandemic novel.
Addressing the title: There's potential wordplay. Psycholonials is set in a hyper-real version of Nantucket, MA, a water-flooded, tourist trap of colonialized territory once belonging to the indigenous Niantic and Narragansett people. There is a violent, colonial narrative implied here, but I don’t know where Hussie intends to take it (if anywhere). In North American fiction, Ishmael from Moby-Dick begins his whaling journey in Nantucket. Edgar Allen Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, also gets real fucked up on whales and racism. A lot of violent and traumatic things begin and start in Nantucket, in real life and in fiction. Maybe the “colonial” part of the title wants to suggest something about settling and who chooses to stay in a place (or in Zhen’s case, moving to Nantucket after being cancelled). Maybe “psycho” is the megalomania of branding yourself online and letting that persona paint you over. Or maybe Abby gets bitcoin-telekinesis and it’s just Akira. Considering Hussie’s capricious writing, this is probably either something, bullshit, or uh, nothing.
Maybe people called Homestuck an “internet novel” because it involved kids making their own virtual worlds ala Second Life/Minecraft and they sp0k3 l1k3 th1s in 2010. But in my opinion, it’s more sci-fi/fantasy, an escapist MCU-esque epic compared to this. Psycholonials might try critiquing an “escapism is limitless fun” angle, and see what happens when you realistically try migrating all that channeled ego and mania from virtual identity dissociation into real life. It could end really messy, fucked up, unexpectedly great, and/or all of the above. I'm playing close attention, either ways.
PRINCESS MAKER 2 REFINE (1993, 2016 for PC)
The fact GAINAX (the anime studio) had a wildly successful nineties side hustle making “raising simulators” for personal computers is incredibly funny to me. This series started on the PC-98 and MSX computer systems like so many other otaku favorites like Touhou Project and the Metal Gear franchise. In fact, GAINAX realized they were so good at this, they branched out via Neon Genesis Evangelion with Girlfriend of Steel and Ayanami Raising Project. There is also a Shinji Ikari Raising Project where you can be Very Homosexual and take a bath with Your Good Friend Kaworu Nagisa. Considering the re-dub of Eva on Netflix and the new rebuild movie that will realistically come out in 300 years, I want to believe these will be officially released…but that ship has sailed. But look at this magazine ad for Shinji Ikari Raising Project, thanks.
Play Princess Maker 2 Refine if you're new to the series, but please refer to a guide because the mechanics and individual stats aren't that intuitive. If you doing “the raising” correctly she can marry the devil and rightly tell you to piss off, creep.
There are 74 possible endings, by the way. Back in those days, you solemnly raised your ingénue anime princesses protagonist for endless hours on dial-up, I guess.
ŌKAMI HD (2006, 2017 for PC)
I played the original on the PS2 as a kid and loved the nonsense character voices, the mythology, everything. Ōkami is story-driven, but the combat gives you many opportunities to take your anger out with pee. I remember old reviews complaining about the word-count being excessive, but it's a game about folklore and world-building, so what did people…expect? The original PS2 game even came with a manual with detailed write-ups about the characters and their mythology. But it gets weird.
Princess Kaguya is from the moon. She’s an alien and her bamboo-kimono is designed to look like an astronaut uniform. She flies off in a rocket ship and her old man is very, very sad and confused about it. Waka, a flamboyant “Celestial” envoy based off the Kojiki creation myth, is also a cute alien. They have iPads and holograms and Wi-Fi.
P.S. The fishing RNG is annoying, but that is my only complaint since that’s what prevented my 100% achievement last playthrough. Why is it always fishing minigames?
Laila Carter wrote a wonderful article in 2017 about Ōkami in relation to Japanese mythology and the Kojiki connections, if you want to look into that.
That’s it! I need to sleep. Bye. <3 Blake