High Guardian Spice Backlash/Controversy Part I

As successful as anime streaming service Crunchyroll has been, it’s had a very vocal group of detractors since its inception. To the company’s credit, those detractors have usually been made pariahs by the mainstream anime fandom, but with the recent announcement of their forthcoming original series, High Guardian Spice, the tables seem to have turned completely. The western otaku scene has reached a new popular consensus: that this represents a betrayal from the platform.

Now, of course, there are many entirely fair reasons not to like a show or streaming service,—even if others may disagree—but disagreeing doesn’t make any and all criticism okay, as certain statements simply aren’t true. With that in mind, we believe the misconceptions behind the current antipathy the otaku community has against Crunchyroll are worth examining and hope that we can bring a more reasonable perspective to this debacle.

Good Streaming Services Have Bad Shows

It’s entirely possible that High Guardian Spice will be absolutely terrible. After all, Crunchyroll has had some awful shows before and yet, audiences haven’t been talking about canceling their subscriptions, until now anyway. What would motivate these people to suddenly want to cancel subscriptions over a new bad show? Well, the only difference between High Guardian Spice and most of the other shows on the site is that Crunchyroll produced the former and while we certainly don’t advocate for supporting bad productions, the fact of the matter is that High Guardian Spice hasn’t been released yet and even if it is absolutely dreadful, this doesn’t change anything about the core experience of Crunchyroll.

The fact that subscribers can simply not watch shows they don’t like is obvious, but just as clear is the fact that Crunchyroll adding one show to its catalog of over 1100 series doesn’t mean the things users liked about the platform before are going away.

Crunchyroll is Not Telling us Enough About the Actual Story of High Guardian Spice

It’s probably pretty clear by now that we aren’t interested in mincing words, so let’s all just come together and agree that High Guardian Spice has been marketed terribly. The focus of the only trailer so far has shown almost nothing of the actual show aside from some concept art and instead has focused on the crew behind it, Elevation Studio. There’s no defending the way the team seems to think their marketing budget is best used to toot their own horn rather than show the series they’re supposed to be selling, but the reaction to this has been incredibly disproportionate. Bad advertising does not make a bad product.

There are also many claims that High Guardian Spice is trying to push an agenda more than making a good show. This stems both from the fact that little of the show is shown aside from concept art and from a segment of the trailer where a staff member boasts of the studio’s even split between male and female talent and all of Crunchyroll has been labeled as a bastion for “SJWs” as a result. We’ll just ignore that having an unusually larger female team has been a big selling point for many massively successful anime and manga teams such as Kyoto Animation or CLAMP and point out that every piece of fiction pushes some sort of ideology or moral, that’s the entire point of a theme after all. Let’s also not forget how inherently paradoxical it is to both criticize Elevation and Crunchyroll for creating a show that’s nothing but an agenda while also complaining that they’re telling us nothing about the show itself.

And honestly, why do creators’ politics even matter? We all generally agree that anti-Semitism and pedophilia are bad, yet we also generally agree that Recovery of an MMO Junkie and Rurouni Kenshin are good stories in their own right despite the fact that the former’s anime director Kazuyoshi Yaginuma and the latter’s original author Nobuhiro Watsuki are an open Nazi sympathizer and a convicted child predator respectfully. Good art is good art, regardless of who it comes from.

Speaking of which, seeing little of the series so far is also a poor cause for alarm. Just think of the sheer amount of major Hollywood films that have teaser trailers, this style of advertising is so prominent it has its own name. All these “issues” may turn out to be symptoms of a legitimately bad production after all, but the fact is that countless great products have been made with these same approaches, so writing off the entire distribution platform before the show is released is not an informed decision.

High Guardian Spice is a Rip-off of Little Witch Academia/Steven Universe/Whatever Other Currently Popular Animated Property

What is perhaps just as baffling as this point itself is the fact that it appears just as pervasive across the fandom as the last one. To make a long story short, if the show’s trailer hasn’t told us anything about the actual show, then we don’t know enough about it to call it a rip-off of anything.

This sort of impulsive reaction happens with almost every new property made today but if we take a look at why this accusation is so prominent in online discussions of High Guardian Spice we will find the reasoning to be exceptionally thin. You’ve probably noticed by now that this show looks a lot less like anime and instead adopts a modern western animation style, leading it to be called a knockoff of cartoons that share its style. It's especially strange to hear this coming from our fellow otaku, given how many of us have grown frustrated with people outside the fandom dismissing the medium with demeaning (and untrue) assertions like that "all anime looks exactly the same".

A different excuse used to dismiss High Guardian Spice is that it rips off Little Witch Academia. Why? Well, because it appears to follow a cast of children who attend a magical school. Yes, that’s really the entire reason why. We’ll once again gloss over the fact that Harry Potter predates Little Witch by 16 years because it’s pretty obvious and instead look at what other anime we can accuse Little Witch Academia of ripping off using this exact same line of thinking. After all, manga, anime and light novels have been iterating on J.K. Rowling’s ideas for so long that magical academy stories are practically a genre unto themselves in otaku media.

Merely 1 year before Little Witch Academia’s first short film was released, the world was graced with Trinity Seven, a story that follows a group of students at an illustrious magic academy trying to save the world. Sound familiar? Yes, Trigger certainly was shameless in "ripping off" Trinity Seven, but the rabbit hole goes even deeper, as, before that show, there was The Irregular at Magic High School, which followed an outcast at a magic academy, just like Akko in Little Witch; and before that story, there was Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou and before that there was Toaru Majutsu no Index all of whom “ripped-off” Harry Potter if the popular reasoning among the alarmists is to be believed. In fact, there were anime about children going to magical schools even before Harry Potter was released, like Akazukin Chacha in 1995. It's entirely fair to be put off of High Guardian Spice because of its genre since the magical academy genre isn't going to appeal to everyone's individual tastes, but to claim it steals from other properties simply by existing in the same genre is unjustifiable.

Final Thoughts

For a show, we've seen so little of, High Guardian Spice has left a huge storm in the wake of its reveal. So, let us know what you think about the situation in the comments and look forward to the second

110 High Guardian Spice Backlash/Controversy Part I


Author: Will Bertazzo Lambert

I’m a 22 year old writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba who does fiction, media critique and everything in between, currently studying English and rhetoric. I have influences ranging all the way from Henry James, to Stephen Greenblatt to Nintendo Power and after years of fanatical devotion to the coverage of anime and video games, I've finally tossed my hat into the ring and decided to give writing a try for myself. Will this be the dawn of a lifelong career or a small footnote on an otherwise unrelated life? Only time will tell, but I would like nothing more than to have you join me on the journey to discovering the answer.

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High Guardian Spice Backlash/Controversy Part II