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Western Animation / High Guardian Spice

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(Front-Back) Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, and Thyme. Are they going to Scarborough Fair?

High Guardian Spice is a Crunchyroll original animated series by Raye Rodriguez. The series follows four teenage girls (Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, and Thyme) as they begin training to be Guardians at High Guardian Academy.

The series was teased in August 22, 2021, and premiered October 26, 2021 with all twelve episodes being released on the same day.

High Guardian Tropes:

  • 12-Episode Anime: Possibly in an attempt to emulate this anime-specific format, the entire first season also contains twelve episodes.
  • Alpha Bitch: Amaryllis is a complete prick to Rosemary and Sage, making fun of them any chance she can.
  • Aloof Ally: Thyme is stoic and aloof, and only tags along with Rosemary and Sage because Parsley is friends with them.
  • Animation Bump: The fight scenes, particularly Olive and Rosemary's fight in the Fall Festival and Mandrake's battle with the main four, are animated much more fluidly.
  • Animesque: Since the show was created for Crunchyroll, which mainly streams anime, the art style takes a lot of cues from anime despite being an American cartoon. The opening and ending are especially anime-like in execution and one of the studios involved is the Madhouse/TMS co-owned DR Movie.
  • Artistic License Physics: It's been shown twice that blunt and heavy weapons are able to cut things cleanly not unlike a sharp blade, such as Parsley's hammer amputating a demon's arm and Cal's mace slicing an octopus's tentacle.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: According to Word of God, the show was initially scripted as very family friendly, only for Crunchyroll to demand edits to make it for "mature" audiences, resulting in rather gratuitous violence, swearing, and inappropriate jokes.
  • Axe-Crazy: Mandrake's only interest is killing as many people as he possibly can - when tasked when killing the girls and only the girls, he drugged all the teachers and hunted the girls down, leaving the rest of the student body to burn to death in a locked room.
  • Big Eater: Rosemary has a big appetite and quickly finished eating a stack of waffles.
    Rosemary: "Chewing is for cowards!"
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Parsley has very thick eyebrows, made the more noticeable by them being much darker than her otherwise blonde hair.
  • Black Comedy: Students are often put in life-threatening situations just for kicks, mostly from Redbud, the magics professor. And let's not even start with the off-handed implications that students are often killed by their teachers, with one of the Triad even waxing nostalgic about throwing students into the lava.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In Episode 5, Sage accidentally figures out how to conjure a large floating bubble. A couple of episodes later, this lets her break everyone's fall as they're dropped down a pit.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Rosemary (pink), Sage (blue), Parsley (yellow), Amaryllis (purple), and Thyme (red), emphasized by their hair colors.
  • Content Warnings: Each episode starts with a warning for strong language and violence, while advising that the show is "for mature audiences only". Most notably and amusingly enough, the show shares this distinction with Sword Art Online: Alicization's 10th episode and Goblin Slayer, both shows being far more action oriented and consistently violent.
  • Custom Uniform: Parsley's the only female character to wear shorts instead of a skirt for her school uniform.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Rosemary's grace leaves something to be desired when one of the first scenes has her tripping on her own foot.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Professor Caraway is able to keep his male form by taking a magic potion once a month, a very obvious stand-in for hormonal injections real-life transgender people use.
  • Edible Theme Naming: The four main characters are named after herbs — Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Olive has no problem spying on people and reporting their actions to the triumvirate, she balks at killing. Even with her own life on the line, she still looks for ways to avoid killing.
  • Floral Theme Naming: Almost every character in the show is named after a plant of some kind, most often a spice or herb. The four main girls are specifically named for the ones mentioned in the song "Scarborough Fair".
  • Functional Magic: Magic in this series is divided into "old" and "new" magic. The former is more labor intensive and requires more complex rituals, while the latter relies on terraspheres which allow for faster and more versatile use. It's also heavily implied by the end that the latter is draining magic from the world since it doesn't have a "cost" to replenish it, and this is the cause of the Rot and similar issues.
  • Gender Bender: Justified with Professor Caraway, who is a Transgender man. He transitioned via magic, but has to take a sort of elixir every month to stay biologically male.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Rosemary has big, bushy ones.
  • GIS Syndrome: The series frequently uses stock images for assets, like a loaf of bread or a lamppost.
  • Good is Not Nice: Zigzagged. While many of the protagonists are... well, protagonists, they're not afraid to bloodily take down any wrong-doing monsters. Humans, on the other hand, are usually spared from death, with Rosemary even being shocked she ended up having to wound Olive in order to save the townsfolk from being petrified.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Zig-zagged. In a childhood flashback, Thyme switches from "damn" to "dang" when she complains to her father about wasting her time, most likely out of politeness. Yet just seconds later, her father scolds her impatience by saying she'll "fall on [her] ass with that attitude".
  • Hate Sink: Both Cal and Aster fit this bill. Cal is disgusted by Snapdragon's desire to crossdress and most of his appearances have him mocking Snapdragon until the latter reaches her breaking point. Aster, meanwhile, initially catches the eye of Rosemary due to his good looks, but she chills on him when he shows just how sexist he truly is, culminating in a final scene where Aster essentially tells Rosemary to Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Heal It with Water: The aptly described "healing waters" introduced in Episode 7 that can be found in the cave of Vinca. Not only was it used to heal a nasty cut on Rosemary's side, but it can also heal afflicted plants and trees.
  • Important Haircut: Sage cuts off her braided ponytail in the climax of Episode 12 to save Rosemary. Once Mandrake is defeated, Rosemary trims Sage's hair to give her a brand new style.
  • Hollywood Fire: In Episode 12, Mandrake sets the entire school on fire with all of the Teachers and Students locked in a room while it happened. Yet not a single one comes out with even an Ash Face once they are rescued. Moreover, the final battle happens inside the library as it is being burned down. Not only does smoke not fill the room, but once the action starts, none of them are affected by the fire or smoke.
  • Limited Animation: Some 2D elements that require straightforward movement use basic tweening in lieu of frame by frame animation. Background characters can especially be seen standing still, without blinking.
  • Magic Skirt: When Rosemary is dared to do a hand stand, her large poofy skirt changes slightly in shape but it stays down.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: The setting of the show; the architecture is very European-inspired, the technology is more or less at a medieval level, and medieval weapons like swords and maces are used.
  • Missing Mom: Rosemary's mom, Lavender, disappeared four years before the series began. She appears in person in Episode 12, working for the Triumverate.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Hybrids and regular animals coexist in this world, with grogs (a mixture of goat and frog) being the most ubiquitous to the point that terms have been derived from them. For example, Anise says to Slime Boy that she hasn't seen him in a "grog's age".
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Anytime an episode ends on a twist or cliffhanger (the rot giving a heartbeat, the festival-goers being turned to stone after a fight with Olive, Caraway mentioning the rot is affecting nature after the scypith had just been euthanized), followed by the cheery and optimistic "Friends for a Lifetime" Ending Theme.
    • Near the end of Episode 7, in order to escape a cave they've been trapped in, the girls submerge a dragon egg in magical healing water which causes the dragon to rapidly mature. They hitch a ride and after a brief flight over Lyngarth, the dragon begins to grow old then rapidly decompose, leaving nothing but its' skeleton as they land. The dragon then proceeds to get back up, say "I'm okay" in a rather derpy voice, fly off into the sky, then explodes into stars. The girl's reactions boils down to Rosemary asking Sage if that is how stars are made, with Sage giving a dismissive "Oh. Yeah, for sure".
  • Musical Theme Naming: The four main girls are named after the herbs mentioned in the beginning of Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair".
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • During their big fight, Rosemary ends up landing a nasty hit on Olive. This is the first time Rosemary ever hurt a person, and she is left stunned and even tries to help Olive. It's later shown Rosemary is still having trouble coming to grips with it.
    • In Episode 11, the girls end up fighting a rampaging sea dragon. Sage's magic goes out of control during the fight, and severely wounds the dragon, forcing it to have to be put out of its misery.
  • Never Trust a Title: The show is called "High Guardian Spice", and the title is referenced with Rosemary coming up with a cool name for their group when she takes notice of their Edible Theme Naming. However, rosemary, sage, parsley, and thyme are technically herbs, not spices.
  • Network Red-Headed Stepchild: At the time of the show's debut in October 2021, it and Onyx Equinox were the sole representatives for Western Animation on Crunchyroll.
  • Obligatory Swearing: A lot of random swearing, as a result of a last minute decision by executives to give the show a mature rating. "Shit", in particular, is uttered once by Thyme, Amaryllis, and Olive respectively, and Rosemary refers to Mandrake as an "asshole" in one scene during the girls' fight with him.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Slime Boy introduces himself by his nickname, and no one ever asks what his actual name is.
  • Pet the Dog: Olive shows a moment of kindness when she takes the time to place a soft bag of flour in front of a child who had been turned into stone as they were running.
    • Amaryllis treats Snapdragon far better than she treats the main cast, defending him from the likes of Cal and supporting his feminine interests like his mermaid costume and painting his nails.
    • Professor Redbud offers to put down the scypith for Sage and tells her it wasn't her fault, a far cry from playing deadly pranks on her students and joking about it.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Through the first seven episodes, Rosemary and Sage, while childhood friends, begin to mildly irritate one another through their differing philosophies put in the spotlight of their new environment. Eventually, this comes to a head during the Fall Festival, where the two have a big fight. After the school is attacked, however, they see how stupid the fight was and make up.
  • Precision F-Strike: Due to swear words being used sparingly, any character that does decide to swear can come off as this, like when Thyme says "I don't mess with that shit" when referring to new magic in Episode 5, which was also the first episode to use colorful language at all.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Rosemary and Sage are quite touchy-feely with each other. They hold hands, press foreheads, and prefer to share a single bed despite having one bed for each of them. The fight they had during the Fall Festival is even somewhat framed like a lovers' quarrel, and the two are pretty broken up about it afterwards.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Rosemary and Sage, an impulsive, excitable, and energetic pink-colored knight and a shy, levelheaded, and reasonable blue-colored witch respectively.
  • Rose-Haired Sweetie: Rosemary is cheerful and has pink hair.
  • Schizo Tech: Despite its medieval-inspired setting, the students are shown to be fighting a mechanical octopus monster for training and Snapdragon and Amaryllis play a game at the Fall Festival which highly resembles VR goggles.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In "The Cave of Vinca", Zinnia (the girl with the long blonde ponytail) decides to call it quits after the teachers emphasize the danger of going into the titular cave. Considering she's the same girl who gets her face nearly devoured by a carnivorous plant in Episode 5, this is hardly surprising.
  • Sequel Hook: Episode 12 has a post-credit scene, which shows Rosemary's mother is alive and is working with the series' Big Bad.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Over the course of the series, Rosemary and Sage frequently hug, hold hands, and lean on the other's shoulders. In the first episode, they also sleep together in the same bed.
    • When Rosemary gets a crush on Aster, Sage immediately gets protective of her relationship with Rosemary and complains to Snapdragon about it, who eventually just straight up asks if Sage has a crush on her. Sage blushes fiercely and stutters out that they are just friends, before staring off and blushing again.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The names of the four main characters all come from "Scarborough Fair", an English ballad popularized by Simon & Garfunkel.
    • One character has dark skin, glasses, and short purple hair, resembling Anthy.
    • The ending animation shot of the characters jumping in the air is heavily inspired by Azumanga Daioh's opening.
  • Spot the Impostor: When Caraway is impersonated and attacked by Mandrake, a shapeshifter, Rosemary figures out who the real one is by asking them which monster he and her mother were fighting in the story Caraway told her in Episode 3.
  • Straw Misogynist: Aster in his debut episode. Downplayed in not that he hates girls, just that he has a rather low opinion of them, which is not helped that he undermines Rosemary's efforts at the obstacle course while he himself keeps failing at every turn. And he refuses to learn Rosemary's actual name.
  • Subtitles Are Superfluous: While the show does contain subtitles for various other languages, it does not have English closed captions despite the option for them being there and a promotional clip of the show posted on Crunchyroll's YouTube channel having English hardsubs.
  • Title Drop: After spending so long trying to come up with a name for the group, Rosemary decides on one everyone agrees on in the finale: High Guardian Spice.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Rosemary is an impulsive, mischievous and rough-and-tumble tomboy who enjoys fighting, adventures and weapons; her pink hair is styled into Girlish Pigtails and she usually wears pink outfits, with a frilly dress being her default look.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Rosemary's sword belonged to her missing mother; she carries it around everywhere she goes and freaks out when the jeweled end breaks.
  • Trans Tribulations: A sideplot in "The Scypith" has Snapdragon being taken aside by Caraway where the former reveals how they want to be beautiful and strong like a mermaid and how they consistently struggle with masculinity. Caraway then mentions "transition magic" which makes Snapdragon think if it would solve their problem, but Caraway makes a point that Snapdragon has a lot of time to think about it because they may go down a different path compared to his.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Most of the episodes have different subplots in them, with the episode cutting between them as they progress. How much each subplot has to do with the other tends to vary from episode to episode.
  • Two-Teacher School: Despite being a big school, High Guardian Academy has only a handful of teachers: the Triad (headmistresses), Professor Caraway (languages), Professor Redbud (potions), Hakone Civet (fighting), Moss Phlox (blacksmithing), Wyverna Dretch (ethics, though she says she's also the guidance counselor) and an unnamed centaur teacher.
  • The Unfair Sex: When Snapdragon tries to confide with Sage about her friendship with Rosemary, Sage bluntly tells Snap she would never understand because girls have a deeper connection with each other than boys do. Snapdragon calls her out on this later in the episode, and Sage apologizes. This ends up being doubly unfair as Snap admits she's not even sure she thinks of herself as a boy. (And, per the series creator, is in fact a trans girl).
  • Wizarding School: The High Guardian Academy teaches students to be guardians, with classes offering blacksmith work, tea spells, and ethics.
  • World of Technicolor Hair: A lot of characters have brightly colored hair, and no one seems to consider this unusual. Sage has blue, Rosemary has pink, Amaryllis has purple and the list goes on with various unnamed students.