What’s it about? Sage and Rosemary embark from their hometown of Pebble to Lyngarth to attend High Guardian Academy. Sage plans to be a healer while Rosemary wishes to follow her mother’s footsteps to become a guardian. They arrive at Sage’s cousin’s place to crash the first night in town and explore the city.
Despite all the grief this show has attracted over the years, mostly by people appalled a show could be marketed as explicitly queer and then the relative media silence that relegated it mostly forgotten since it was announced 2017, High Guardian Spice debuts as a comfy and, above all, enjoyable show.
As far as first episodes go, it’s not a riveting epic fantasy, but it does set the scene for Rosemary and Sage’s new life as students at High Guardian Academy. Rosemary has unresolved trauma having lost her mother, a guardian herself, and sets up the beats for what will likely be a coming-of-age story for young girls.
The story and setting is nice. The brief trouble Rosemary stirs up doesn’t get her in any real trouble, no one in the story is outright mean and the conflict (Rosemary losing a locket with a photo of cheesecake inside) isn’t anything life-threatening nor shocking. Everyone appears to be just earnestly good people so far.
The setting is typical high fantasy with a touch of industrialization. Nothing comes off as particularly unique, though the show does have its own cute magical animals known as tricksies. The instance I did have to pause was seeing depictions of orcs doing the bulk of the manual labor during Rosemary and Sage’s trip to Lyngarth. Orcs have long suffered racist undertones in their depictions in fantasy settings, and it appears HGS has, even if unintended, perpetuated them.
What stands out more in the series, however, is its explicit LGBTQ positivity, mainly in the form of Sage’s gay cousins who live the idyllic city life in a loft apartment in Lyngarth. Anise and Aloe appear inseparable as a couple and the show seems to want to leave nothing to chance by including an oversized wedding portrait hanging on their wall screaming “WE’RE ABSOLUTELY MARRIED IN CASE YOU MISSED IT” in their guest room.
While maintaining focus on Rosemary and Sage’s adventures of the day, the show does lay Anise and Aloe’s relationship thick to ensure there is no question they are not just mere gal pal roommates or something. It’s not exactly artful subtext, but sometimes it’s just nice to have something so blatant there is no room for people to hem and haw over it, nor for it to become a case of queer baiting. Even Garth Marenghi would be proud.
Overall, this is a good show I’d probably watch with adolescent kids, if I had any. It’s cute, it’s not too edgy, and it’s a good wholesome time-
Which is kind of why I’m curious as to the reason Crunchyroll has decided to put a disclaimer warning at the beginning of the show indicating High Guardian Spice contains “strong language, violence, and sexual content” that is “inappropriate for children.”
For all that is technically what I’d probably rate a TV-14 show, this sets a curious tone for a series, especially when almost no other Crunchyroll video (save for Onyx Equinox, which has the warning soft-subbed in) features such a warning. The show’s creator says there’s no grim dark twist or anything either, so I’m left wondering if this is some very weird FCC rule or if there’s some even bigger B.S. reason this needs to be here.
Additionally, regarding accessibility, I‘ll also have to point out that High Guardian Spice does have subtitles for Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Russian. While there is an option to select English subtitles, none appear on screen.
Understandably, for most non-Japanese-speaking fans of anime watching on Crunchyroll’s services, they need English subtitles to understand what people are saying in shows, but those subtitles appear to be missing from High Guardian Spice. By my guess, this is because the show was originally made for English speaking audiences. The lack of subtitles, however, does make it difficult for people who have impaired hearing to watch the show.
Those problems aside, High Guardian Spice looks like a chill time. And with all twelve episodes premiering at once, this will likely be a binge watch for me on my second monitor while I work later this week.