Concessions Confession: Listen, I am one of the rare anime fans that respects Western animation but I’m a critic who loves a good dumpster fire. In the case of High Guardian Spice, it never really recovers from it’s dreadful initial reception but honestly, it seems much ado about nothing.

Logline: Rosemary and Sage attend Not Hogwarts, learning if they really have what it takes to be a guardian. Watch that premise get sidelined for most of the series as we deal with a collection of petty and trivial slice of life matters of some people feeling kind of sad…and then back to that generic adventure stuff.

High Guardian Spice, more like hey that’s not very nice. Most people have an opinion on this show and regardless of which side you fall on, I’m not going to be extreme enough for you and sorry, I tried. I like that people are insulting this show by calling it mid, like you do realize that given what people thought this show would be that is kind of a compliment. I mean it’s true that they say the worst thing you could be is painfully dull and average but…. This is a lot of people’s first attempt at making a show like this. As an audience you hate mid, but as a creator that’s awesome that’s like hearing you almost hit the mark or that your stuff is at the very least watchable.

The outrage is…. interesting. I get it, Crunchyroll is an odd home for this show. This just straight up isn’t anime; it is most comparable to Little Witch Academia but more in line with She-Ra and Steven Universe from the West. I agree that the sentiment that Crunchyroll could be using their resources better. I can’t watch anything on their platform without a giant square in the middle being a frame or two behind on occasion. Apparently, there is some sense of a promise that Crunchyroll wants to fund Japanese animators and supply you with the anime content you love…. So here have this. I don’t know, some Crunchyroll subs are coming across a little entitled, this wasn’t a Kickstarter campaign to fund Crunchyroll originals with the promise of anime series and you get this…but you pay the subscription to watch their anime catalogue…this is just an unwelcomed bonus.

There’s a little bit of a SNAFU that writer Kate Leth is terrible person who has a history of uber feminist, transphobic, and racist remarks so you can’t like this show. Yeah I hope she never works in the industry if she is truly that awful of a person but that’s not an excuse to not like it. Unless you want to throw away the following films:

Pulp fiction, Scream, Good Will Hunting, Air Bud, Ella Enchanted, The adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, The King’s Speech, Paddington. There’s kind of a bad hombre on all of those, with a name that rhymes with Marvy Limestein. Okay so yeah, actual show time.

Mature Audiences Only

So there’s this warning for this show claiming it to be for mature audiences only…. So there was some concerns about this, maybe this is a new Madoka that would be cool, is this a more mature show than we expected?

I tweeted this out, and you might think that it is an exaggeration, but this show is kind of as mature as Arthur… with a couple exceptions so let’s go over that. In terms of violence, the show is not very violent, there’s not a lot of action in this outside the final couple of episodes. Most of the episodes are slice of life and going to class stuff, but when it does have an action scene, I would put it on par with Samurai Jack, especially the last season that it flirts with blood but doesn’t want to seem detached from its kid/tween show history. I feel like the disclaimer warning is…. that this show didn’t want to compromise and censor themselves. PBS could tell them, you can’t say shit and just don’t make an explicit wound and this show is for middle schoolers, maybe even younger. The sexual content…is I guess they say dong. A character reads another character’s diary that drew swords in her diary, and she wonders why they draw so many dongs. That jokes gives you a good sense of the humor, when you realize that joke was so good it was used twice. Or of course being explicitly, unapologetically LGBT+ is too sexual and you must think of the children.

Cancel the Critic

Criticism of Crunchyroll's Original Series High Guardian Spice Continues -  Your Alternative Anime Store

I didn’t like the characters, oh no cancel me, write me mean comments. This section might get walk on eggshells and I don’t mean to offend so I hope we can all be civil. The representation in this show is…fine but does sort of hurt that it comes across more importance than plot and progression. I think this show is hurt in that literally every character is “representation” of some sort. Now K, how come it’s a problem now when every show has 99% characters that are cishet and you don’t complain. I don’t think LGBT representation has to always be sidelined, they can be your main characters and that is a cool and interesting thing, however here it’s over-saturating your show with similar character types that begins to feel a little much. I don’t care about what labels each character abides by, but I think it’s a little fair that the show feels redundant.

It is only Season 1 and we’ve already tackled 5-character plots of dealing with your parents. Does ever LGBT+ person have a bumpy relationship with their parents…. all the time. I mean maybe, I’m sorry if that’s the case, just personally “You don’t understand me MOM or DAD” is kind of boring the 5th time it is a plot point within the span of 12 episodes. The world is kind of generic and bland, but it is setting up some interesting things that could happen in the future, could we maybe deal more with that instead of doing this again.

Another point is that, the aformention sidelining of LGBT+ depictions of media, this show brings it to the forefront and honestly good for it. I understand that with major studios pussyfooting about wanting to be inclusive but also not too prominent with it, it is refreshing that this show doesn’t beat around the bush. That said, it is to the show’s detriment sometimes.

I know people have been enjoying Professor Caraway’s big scene, but I thought contextually, I thought it was one of the worst scenes in the entire show. NOT BECAUSE IT IS INHERIENTLY BAD OR TERRIBLE IN THEORY, in isolation it’s fine. It’s kind of contradictory to have a scene that explains the concept of being Transgender to a “mature” audience that already should be aware of that like they are children. But it’s okay because Rose is….12, 16, 20 HOW OLD ARE THESE CHARACTERS? I don’t really no.

The reason I don’t like the scene is that it kind of jumps the gun from a narrative perspective because the show is over-eager to deliver. Instead of being a character introduction it would have been cool to use the photos of the pre-transition Carraway to foreshadow the reveal at the end of the season not, in the next 2 minutes. It would have been cool to let Carraway be the wise and caring teacher and then re-contextualize him to be trans. It would have helped with the Snapdragon arc that feels painfully telegraphed. Snapdragon is the Draco Malfoy of the school, but he wants to be trans and you know this about him from the moment you meet him and he honestly becomes the main character of the show…. spending about a scene per episode just to remind you that Snap is feeling a little Trans today. I just wish narratively it was a more thoughtful executed story, or it was a little more nuanced than “being trans means you want to be the opposite gender” and nothing more to it than that.

Character Rundown

High Guardian Spice – Episode 1 - Anime Feminist

Rosemary: Annoying

Sage: Witch who is obsessed with doing things old school. Old magic is doing things traditionally, but the school emphasizes learning New Magic which is more innovative practices. Actually, one of the more softer characters that has some nice moments and has maybe the best season 1 arc, but is painfully over-emotional that is kind of insufferable half the time. The plot of a whole episode is that she needed to go cry in a room because one of her friends agreed with someone she didn’t like.

Parsley: She’s the blacksmith, honestly just kind of chipper and hardworking. I respect the grind and one that gets away with being a flat, one-dimensional character.

Thyme: Lesbian but with attitude. Thyme is not only a stereotype, but boring. Thyme spends most of the time almost like a pull-string doll only built with like 4 phrases. I got the save the forest, I don’t like you mom, I just got to visit my father and protect the forest, I can’t go home until I save the forest. I’m making it seem like she just won’t shut up about the forest but most of the time she is alone or just with her mother so they dedicate scenes just to remind you that the elf archer…. likes the environment…and mermaid girls.

Amaryllis in pirate captain costume

Amaryllis: This is just kind of Peridot from Steven Universe. Maybe I just like mean characters, but she’s one of the two characters I like. Honestly, maybe could have been funnier but I like that she’s rude and full of attitude. There’s better “strict upbringing” edgy character that actually ain’t have bad….I just had a break through. She’s Chazz Princeton, just like him they really need to Chazz it up embrace it further and they might have one good character in this show.

Snapdragon: I already talked about him, refreshing character arc but it’s odd that the Trans man show creator couldn’t tackle the issue of wanting to transition with more to say about it.

Parnelle: Maybe the 2nd best character, I like Parnelle just there to be cool and be excellent. Stan Parnelle and Amaryllis.

Slime Boy: Terrible voice acting, very soft and nonchalant voice that it offers texture but it’s one of those where I barely know what they’re saying. The vocal performance almost makes me want to lean in to listen to him better, just kind of their.

Is It Worth It?

High Guardian Spice (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb

As someone who finished it, let me give you a fair warning. The first episode is the worst episode of the entire show. Episode 1 is honestly really awful. The blocking is terrible they really introduce the family members in the beginning like they’re Pokémon NPC’s just waiting for you in the middle of nowhere to walk up to them. Throughout the first couple episodes the shot composition was really leaving a lot to be desired, that I almost wondered if the even storyboarded this show at all. There’s a blatant continuity error in which Rose’s mom gives her a sword and then Rose runs up to her and she vanishes and drops the same sword in the place she disappeared. The entire first episode is spent introducing this lesbian couple that is not really important and just wondering around town until the episode runtime runs out.

Not to say the show has more stuffed plots but, yeah it left me thinking that if the show is truly as awful as this episode than maybe the complainers are right. However, as I continued the show never really grew on me and all I can say is that the show will reinforce however you feel about it is going in. You think it’s woke garbage; this Tumblr wet dream is not going to dissuade you. You think this show looks like the kind of stuff you like, and you enjoy cute LGBT+ stories this is certainly that, that lets your ships sail but maybe could be a little bit more captivating.

I don’t know I would place this at a 3/10, from a technical aspect it leaves a lot to be desired, but it does have sort of a nice cartoony RPG game aesthetic similar to the French anime Wakfu. Sadly, the best thing it probably did was present a decent enough hook for the “yeah, like that will ever happen” season 2. It’s cheapened because I’ll vaguely say one of the scenes in one of the final few episodes plants the idea of this being a possibility in your head, again show isn’t the best at playing it’s cards. It feels like an inclusive game of DnD, some of the performers are rough and the plot is more of just a structure to guide half-baked characters you came up with on the spot…but I totally see how for some that’s a fun enough entertainment for the evening.

9 thoughts on “High Guardian Spice: Mature Babies Only

  1. I’d long been wondering about this one: being easily forgotten isn’t the worst thing in the world, and with the current reception out there, one would think that the show would club viewers over the head with overt political messages about how anyone disagreeing with one side were foes. Instead, it looks like an ordinary show that wouldn’t be out of place on something Cartoon Network. I probably won’t watch it unless a given season was absolutely devoid of stuff, but I won’t lambast it, either. At least here, the creators put together and delivered a final product, which is more can be said for folks whose “game developer” experience is limited to Twine.

    Like

    1. It is a little below CN standard in my evaluation, the animation and scripting are rough, that is true I am giving it credit that it is a think that actually got made and has decent art and ideas and give in that I think it does have an audience out there I just can’t recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Have it a chance as you know, big no Thema from me. There are a few glimmers of something decent rarely not it’s largely insufferable with some weird problems that seemingly contradict the series’ biggest ideas.

    Like

  3. “As an audience you hate mid, but as a creator that’s awesome that’s like hearing you almost hit the mark or that your stuff is at the very least watchable.”

    You put it really well here. This is a show that’s sloppily executed enough to leave general audiences confused and bored. As someone who has their toe in creative writing, I inexplicably find “mid” works interesting in how they don’t exactly hit the mark.

    I’m still working through my thoughts on the show. While I disagree with a lot of what you said, you’re at least coming from a place of genuine engagement with the show. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, yeah “mid” is almost like the good stuff to look about because all the masterpieces you’ll impostor syndrome yourself to death and not even the greats are rarely remembered for their first go or two.

      Interesting, I do think it gets better as you progress but still has those sloppy missteps throughout. And honestly that is fair, I think there is a lot to disagree about here and this show is close to a litmus test to see how much you can stomach different short comings of the show. Again that you for such a nice comment despite such disagreement on the discourse. I hope you enjoy the rest of it or at least get something out of it. I got to put Angelica Pickles reference in the thumbnail so I’m content.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hey thanks! I did enjoy the rest of HGS, but I think in finding its footing, it also became more normal. I really enjoyed the dialogue in this show, which I know repels lots of viewers. I like the specificity and the mode of expressiveness it has, and it’s something new for me to experience, at least. Too bad all the slice of life moments don’t amount to much plotwise.

        As you allude to in your review, HGS does not know how to play their cards. I do disagree about your idea for reworking Prof Carraway’s story, since I think having his identity reveal be more immediate is better for viewers who are struggling with their identity and need to be seen (I do think the show is still aimed at the youth). And to have one’s identity be treated like a twist could be considered dehumanizing. (Maybe in the far future when everything’s a gender and sexuality utopia, we can go wild with mystery plots.) I am of the belief that representation is good for its own sake, especially when it’s portrayed so rawly and clearly based on personal experience. A show like Steven Universe sacrificed its finale just so it could have a lesbian wedding and make progress for the community. I think it’s all good so long as all the other storytelling is solid.

        And that’s the problem. There’s no sense of dramatic precision or control in this show. The absurd lack of setup and payoff, the wasted potential on interesting dynamics, and, when you realize the novel dialogue is just filler, just episodes of miniscule consequence or progression. I think one reason you didn’t like the characters is because dramatic function was nonexistent. I enjoyed all the characters, but I also didn’t like any of them enough to have a favorite. I think i got a sense to just hang out with them and not have high expectations for any fantastic arcs or whatever. And while I do tentatively expect season 2 (if it happens) will carry on the momentum of the final episodes of season 1, I’m also worried it will lose its unique aspects as a result. May as well watch Rwby at that point.

        I gave it a 7/10 on my blog. I was surprised to see 3/10 on your post since you were fairly evenhanded throughout, I thought. Different grading scales, I guess. HGS is the kind of mid I’ll keep up with, since the surface aspects entertained me quite a bit, even being very aware of the lacking dramatic craft. Not a hidden masterpiece, I don’t think!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Interesting, yeah the dialogue is certainly a different flavor, and I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect certainly more than I did. I mean I made it evident that I found it kind of annoying, but some of it is with intention and I don’t think it’s fully a wrong of the show. Cartoon characters are often annoying but I’ve heard before that if you go execute annoying in a story, the irritation has to come from the characters and not your audience. It feels like Spongebob without a Squidward, you almost get close with Thyme but she’s just to apathetic to really present a comedic counter weight, at least to me so people like the group dynamic were I found everything too disjointed and non-sequitur to really get a rhythm to any banter.

        Prof Carraway, my suggestion is more to just emphasize how elements of foreshadowing, and dramatic reveal and Chekov’s gun can be a more enriching experience. I didn’t think of doing it as a grand mystery just, hint at it, clue your audience in and allow them to be hype when you confirm their suspicions in a sense. I didn’t have Carraway on my character section but, a complicated 3rd best character. The most well rounded character, one that actually feels like a good teacher and that kind of goes beyond just compared to the ones in this show. They come across as very articulate and wise, seems very capable with their magic and teaching ability. I liked this character throughout, and in their first scene putting the introduction of transgender magic as their 2nd introduction scene almost makes it come across as this is why you should like the character and not the aformentioned qualities that make them a good person and character. I like Carraway but the fact that they are voiced by the show’s creator, it almost again detracts from any character traits and somethings just feels like this character is here so I can directly speak to my audience through a mouthpiece. Regardless it is still a fine character and I’m glad people are getting something out of it.

        That suggestion was more to fix, the scene of Carraway with Snapdragon. There’s that joke of irony that Snapdragon doesn’t know what we know, they don’t believe Carraway knows what it like to have their masculinity challenged. I felt like that maybe should be your big scene, let Snap be your focal point and then give them the positive role model. As it is, ever since you get the gist of both characters it is not difficult to connect the dots, and it almost feels like we are finally getting that scene out of the way which shouldn’t be how that moment goes down probably. Again, my suggestion is more of food for thought and not a dead set this is how I would of done it, but I mean it is all about framing in execution, I think some people could be traumatized by the bullying scenes of Snapdragon and that’s to close to their own experiences, does that mean we can’t do that’s dehumanizing the experience into a fictional for profit narrative. IDK

        Yeah a lot of what you’re saying is, I couldn’t say it better myself. Yeah, I mean you never know, the fact that this show is even on Crunchyroll feels absurd enough I wouldn’t be surprised if they double down and let it play out a second season. Yeah, I get that it maybe should have just been a slice of life comedy, honestly some of the fantasy stereotypes and almost stock world makes sense for comedy purpose to be a simple backdrop and going on the adventure might lose a bit of what it did this season.

        On your blog, I’m exciting to check that out, you come across as very articulate and thoughtful so I’m excited to see what your blog ends up producing. Ratings are so superficial and to be honest, I wrote most of this and was debating between 5 (roughly competent, but nothing special) or a 4 (Flaws and problems are evident but it doesn’t reach levels of garbage or doesn’t make me frustrated or insulted by the quality). Then thought about, ended up watching a couple episodes with people who really brought up some more ideas and issues and by the end I’ve scene worst but poor fundamentals of storytelling, at the end of the day I think it’s apathetic and forgettable. Yeah, my initial thoughts were its fine, not for me, and then I keep learning about more bad things and I’m like yeah maybe drop that a little bit. Glad you picked up on that, I usually don’t even put scores and let the reader weigh the positive and the negative and get their own gist.

        Thanks for checking it out, and engaging this has been a nice discussion and again I look forward to whatever you end up writing about Scaps.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thank *you* for engaging too! Sorry to reply again, but some things I need to respond to.

        Re: Disjointed and non-sequitur banter, I totally agree there.

        Re: Carraway, Ok that makes a lot of sense. We already have Snapdragon as a prominent trans character, so letting Carraway’s identity be a reveal is not really insensitive. That scene was also confusing, like “Does Snapdragon know Carraway’s trans?” The more I think about it, the more I like your restructuring. (But maybe they do the ep2 reveal to get people who also don’t know about trans people on the same page before Snapdragon’s arc?) But to me Carraway wasn’t a super well defined character, so I took the educational scene in stride, like “whatever.”

        Re: bullying, I was not a fan of bullying scenes either. There was this manga I read (Our Dreams at Dusk) about a gay high school student dealing with the closet and homophobia, and I found those moments to be very uncomfortable. But I hear queer readers appreciate that stuff, since it is true to their experience, and I suspect sometimes you do want to read through personally difficult stuff for catharsis. Of course some people would be triggered instead, but yeah everyone’s different. Some media want to create a bigotry-free utopia, while others media mirrors real life (there’s a great twitter thread on this here: https://twitter.com/ElSandifer/status/1382401846002728968)

        Re: Crunchyroll, my pet theory (without evidence) is that Crunchyroll is facile and naive. They initially advertised HGS for its diversity with that video, which, do they know anime fans?! And then they held on to the show even after it was finished out of deference to the mob, before quietly releasing it just now. Apparently they are deleting hateful comments, but the common narrative is that Crunchyroll screwed the creatives over by not giving them enough support. I do not believe Crunchyroll will fund a season 2. As for why the creatives chose Crunchyroll for distribution, I’m not sure (assuming they had better options). The fact they can get away with blood in a kids cartoon is a bonus, though.

        Re: slice-of-life, Ideally it should be a mix of both, but I don’t think the writers have proven themselves enough to do that well.

        Re: my blog, Don’t expect much. I only have two posts on there, and it’s not intended to be my main site for content (if I go that direction at all… my life is kind of a mess).

        Don’t feel obligated to respond!

        Liked by 2 people

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