High Guardian Spice was mysteriously absent at Anime NYC. Why?

A cast pic for High Guardian Spice
Image via Crunchyroll

High Guardian Spice is a name familiar to most anime fans, and not for a good reason.

First revealed in 2018, the series was set to be Crunchyroll’s first in-house anime series as part of the Crunchyroll Originals line. The show follows four young girls who vow to become guardians at the High Guardian Academy, and the challenges they face as they uncover a deeper plot that threatens their world.

High Guardian Spice was originally delayed from its expected 2019 launch, and then finally out of the ether, the show launched on Crunchyroll in late October 2021. Anime fans seemed to hate it, and for the past month, the show became the punchline of every other Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube anime critic. But now, it seems like Crunchyroll is ready to cut its losses on promoting the series altogether, if Anime NYC is any sign.

During Anime NYC, High Guardian Spice was neither shown nor mentioned at Saturday afternoon’s Crunchyroll Industry Panel event, where Crunchyroll promoted some of its biggest present and future anime series. Instead, the company offered a sneak peek trailer for Crunchyroll Original show Blade Runner: Black Lotus, along with a surprise interview with series co-director Shinji Aramaki. The anime distributor also teased promos for upcoming Crunchyroll Originals FreakAngels and Shenmue: the Animation, but without so much as a discussion on the in-house lineup’s original anime. For astute anime fans, the snub was obvious; the event went on without so much as a passing nod to the series’ release, which happened just a few weeks prior.

High Guardian Spice was notably absent from Crunchyroll’s promotional footage shown across the convention as well, with the company electing instead to promote anime series such as Demon Slayer, as well as streams for Crunchyroll’s official vtuber, Hime.

High Guardian Spice’s absence may feel strange, especially given the show has a cult following among queer fans who enjoy its sizable LGBTQ+ representation. However, the series was infamously derided during its initial reveal and review bombed upon its release. This was largely due to bad faith backlash over the show’s progressive politics and upfront queer representation, hence the show’s 1.3 rating on IMDb.

Granted, not every anime critic is thrashing the series in bad faith. Reviews for High Guardian Spice have largely pointed out that the series is enjoyable enough, but relatively run-of-the-mill in terms of plot and design. The show was also criticized for problems with its production quality and writing, including voice acting woes, thematic discrepancies between High Guardian Spice’s all-ages tone and occasional violent content, and its generally flat character design.

Others who initially panned the show have come to similar conclusions. After strongly criticizing the show’s start, anime YouTuber KorewaEden watched the series in full and changed his mind, concluding that the overall quality for the series increased toward the end of the first season. Nonetheless, KorewaEden stressed that High Guardian Spice wasn’t necessarily a good anime, just a mediocre one that didn’t warrant the intense hate.

So while the backlash may have contributed to High Guardian Spice’s eerie disappearance from Anime NYC, it’s just as likely that Crunchyroll wants to cut its losses on a show that isn’t necessarily receiving glowing reviews.

As for whether Crunchyroll will return to produce more High Guardian Spice in the future, it remains unclear. But given the anime is buried on the Crunchyroll Originals homepage, and promotional material for the show remains suspiciously missing from Crunchyroll’s front page as well, it seems like Anime NYC is a bad omen for the in-house production’s second season.