Crunchy Roll released High Guardian Spice & it’s very bad!
It’s pretty rare for a series to have so many people rooting for it to fail before it even comes out. Even if it’s more common more recently, it still seems to be an exceptional case with High Guardian Spice, the first intended Crunchyroll Original series. The show was announced as far back as 2018, with a now infamous trailer that showed interviews with the crew working on it in lieu of any completed footage. Said interviews focused on how the show was prioritizing diversity in the creative voices, which while being a good intention that should be welcomed, is probably not the best way to announce the show and get people excited for it. This sparked a lot of controversy, mostly from a lot of bad faith actors, but it set a tone for the proceeding years it was in development that I’m sure is far from what the creative team wanted. As such, now that the first season is finally out for the public, there are many loud voices eager to write it off entirely before even watching it. So, while I wasn’t exactly excited to see this myself, I’m going to do my best to judge High Guardian Spice on its own terms, see what it seems to set out to accomplish, and determine how well it did so.
The show follows four girls, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (based on the traditional English ballad made popular by Simon and Garfunkel), who begin magic school to become Guardians, which are essentially the wizards/huntsmen/what have you of this world. This is not the most original premise in the world, and it definitely dips into plenty of the expected tropes and cliches, but what matters is the execution, which is…mixed. A consistent theme throughout the season is finding new paths and choices that many of the characters had previously never considered, such as learning new forms of magic or even as simple as making new friends. This is a fluffy, sugary, magical girl kind of show, so love and friendship are going to be all over the place, so that alone understandably won’t be everyone’s bag. But in terms of that core theme, it does show several characters gaining significant development towards the kinds of people they want to be.
Just as that first trailer foretold, this series is most definitely one that aims for lots of diversity in many forms. Diversity in skin color, body type, gender, sexuality, and so on are all given a hefty amount of representation. Most notably is the inclusion of very casually written gay and transgender characters among the main cast. Now, obviously just including that alone is nothing new and is actually becoming much more common even in mainstream kids shows like She-Ra, Voltron, or The Owl House, but it’s still nice to see it now shied away from and even embraced. One character’s arc focuses on them learning more about their need to transition, aided by a mentor figure who is very open about their own journey to understanding that. Unsurprisingly, this mentor is voiced by creator Raye Rodriguez, who is a trans man himself. I don’t fall in any of those categories myself, but I imagine having another series that is willing to see this group is going to guarantee that there will be an audience for this show no matter what.