The Real Reason People Are Mad About Crunchyroll Originals and “High Guardian Spice”

There has been a lot of recent discussion centered on a new original project announced by Crunchyroll last week. And by “discussion” I mostly mean angry, whiny videos that have whipped up the reactionary YouTube crowd. I’m not going to name names if only because I don’t want to be directly responsible for giving them attention. They are all bigger than us and easy to find if you really want to, so Google if you must.

To start from the beginning, Crunchyroll put out an announcement that they were opening a new studio for the purpose of creating original, hand drawn animation and that their first project would be called High Guardian Spice. A behind the scenes video accompanied the news in which they proudly talk about the series being primarily created by women and how they hope that will bring a fresh perspective to the project.

Naturally, this fired up the “SJW’s are ruining everything!!!” crowd but that kind of open hate is easy to spot and deal with however you choose to deal with it. It makes me angry and I don’t want to downplay it, I just want to highlight something that I think is more dangerous. What has really bothered me are some other bad arguments that seemed to stick with a lot of other people: the implication that working on this initiative will somehow take resources away from Crunchyroll’s other projects, and the question of whether they should be making “Western” animation in the first place.

At face value, those complaints are easily debunked. Do you know what happens when a large, successful company makes a lot of money and decides to invest in a new project? They hire more people and buy more equipment so they can do two things at once. Maybe even three! The idea that this has any impact on getting new features like an HTML5 player is such a laughably stupid argument that I think it’s safe to just move on.

A more vague complaint is the fact that the new project looks to be catering to “Western” tastes, an argument rooted in this idea that anime is magically more special if it’s created by people with Japanese DNA. Hey folks, you know what Japanese people call Western cartoons? Anime. It’s all just animation. Sure there are some common visual style differences, but those are ultimately subjective and I don’t think are the real issue. If that were the case, we’d probably see a lot more people complaining about Panty & Stocking being on Crunchyroll despite looking like R-rated Powerpuff Girls and arguably more “Western” than this new project.

Anime is not in a bubble – East can influence West and vice versa

Given how obvious that all should be, it seems like there are bigger issues at hand. In the past, Crunchyroll has funded and produced dozens of other series without much complaint, including the series Urahara which they also hyped up for having all women as key creative staff. What is the difference in this case? I think it’s because they put out the video.

I can almost picture these angry men watching that video. They see women who they think fit their mental caricatures of a feminist. They see the key art with characters that don’t fit the usual anime girl mold. They start thinking, “this isn’t anime, this doesn’t belong, and I hate it.” The anti-“SJW” crowd are more open to admit this, but the majority seem to move on to the rationalization process. They’re thinking, perhaps subconsciously, “I can’t possibly be the problem, it must be something else”. And so they look for more logical, acceptable excuses for their anger. Eventually we arrive on really dumb complaints like the ones above.

If there’s any doubt about what’s really going on, I find it noteworthy that the most high profile complaint video says something to the effect of “Crunchyroll is wasting their money on making Tumblr: The Anime” and that probably tells you all you need to know. Playing along with that reductive statement for a moment, it hasn’t occurred to them that some people might actually WANT Tumblr: The Anime, or anything else that isn’t designed to appeal to them. The true heart of their complaints is gatekeeping the anime boys’ club, plain and simple. Someone is daring to make something that doesn’t fit their idea of what anime should be and now they will throw their toys around in the crib until someone comforts them.

I want improved features too but that has nothing to do with this

Unfortunately that seems to be what Crunchyroll attempted to do with a follow up news post. They assured fans they are listening to feedback and that new features like the HTML5 player are on the way soon. Personally, I think this was a mistake. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions to the effect of “Crunchyroll needs to do a better job explaining how the business works so this doesn’t happen” and no, they don’t. The crowd that hates this project will just find other excuses to mask their sexism and a response just lends legitimacy to their complaints.

I’d love to conclude with some magical solutions for all this, but unfortunately it’s just another example of the overall reactionary nerd culture writhing around in its death throes as the world slowly changes around them. All we can do is continue to draw attention to the issues when these things come up and hopefully over time, as people grow up and mature, maybe some of them will change. That’s about as optimistic as I can possibly be.

18 thoughts on “The Real Reason People Are Mad About Crunchyroll Originals and “High Guardian Spice”

  1. I’d be lying to say I’m surprised about how some of the same people who whine about this previously praised projects that were specifically made for the Western market, for example B: The Beginning – a show that I remember mostly because watching it was kind of like checking off items on a list titled “Anime Tropes That Were Popular In The ’90s and ’00s In Shows That Fans In The US Liked” and being almost offensively terrible about it. (Unlike, say, Sirius the Jaeger which is similar but at least not borderline offensive. So far, anyway.) Of course those tropes involved “strong” female characters who do nothing of importance, exist to provide motivation for the male heroes, and end up as damsels in distress abused by the evil villains, optionally naked. So yeah.

  2. Personally, High Guardian Spice just looks bad imo. I don’t have a problem with Western anime — love RWBY and a lot of Netflix’s originals, and would consider cartoons like Avatar to be anime as well. I’ll just have to see how it works out though, but I think my biggest gripe with it would have to be the animation style.

    • Sure, that’s a reasonable response. I think there’s a big difference between thinking it looks bad versus getting angry that it exists.

  3. “A more vague complaint is the fact that the new project looks to be catering to “Western” tastes, an argument rooted in this idea that anime is magically more special if it’s created by people with Japanese DNA.”

    No, it’s rooted in the fact that a specifically diverse cast is practically a defining feature of modern Western cartoons. It’s also rooted in the fact that the art style seems to owe more to Western trends than to anime styling. It’s also rooted in the fact that the plotline is one found much more frequently in Western cartoons than in anime. (Though it’s depressingly common in anime.)

    As Crunchyroll’s primary audience is anime fans… this seems like an odd choice.

    A lot of folks watch anime because it doesn’t come from the Western mold. It’s not magically different because of Japanese DNA, but it IS inherently different because it springs from a different culture and is aimed at a different audience. For that reason, Crunchyroll’s participation on production committees is largely an irrelevancy. There they were once voice among many and largely working on existing, Japanese, material.

    And that worries me for the future… When Western companies are producing things that are almost-but-not-quite anime, they heavily affect how the public views the genre. Hewing to the Western practice of limiting animation largely to children’s shows and fart jokes isn’t opening new horizons for the medium nor bringing it into the mainstream. It creates something new(ish) and pushes the real thing back into it’s ghetto. (Kind of like how fast food and corporate food pushes the real deal aside.)

    Can a Western company produce something “anime like”? Certainly. There are already productions trying, and TV animation is (slowly and painfully) breaking out of ghetto it’s been trapped in for nearly half a century. But HGS, with what little we know so far, seems to be a huge step backwards – to the bland corporate products that have dominated the airwaves since the 80’s.

    • There’s a couple things I disagree with, but the main one is the idea that this or any other anime-inspired western shows have any impact on the anime we watch, be that public perception or any other way. I don’t even think public perception matters, but if we’re going to go there I’d say a little sister porn show or practically any light novel series from the past 5 years do more harm to anime’s reputation than someone outside of Japan trying to emulate it.

      Bottom line is if anyone doesn’t like this series, they can safely ignore it and business will carry on as usual. I don’t think there’s anything worth getting worked up about here.

  4. A pretty dishonest post if I may say. I will write “dishonest” a lot here about your article by the way, because it really deserves it. And oooooh boy is this post long…

    The fact is you conveniently forget that a ton of people are also mad because the staff of the show is terribly arrogant about their studio and their product. Indeed, they are pompous enough to say that they will give a good lesson to other studios (way to shit on them, Western and Eastern studios alike) and that their story will be revolutionary. The problem people have with this promo is that it puts the cart before the horses in the most distasteful way, but I suppose you’ve only taken the criticism which is convenient for you, or maybe you have not even watched the video. Either way, your take on the controversy is severely lacking.

    And about women and feminism, most of people don’t give a fuck if lots of women work on this show or not. Some of them even support this kind of staff, but they are not blind (unlike you) to the other problems. There are misogynists jerks among the detractors of course, but you are extremely dishonest to say the least when you put everyone in the same bag because it is more convenient for you, your personal intellectual comfort and your ideology. The problem the detractors touch upon is that having a 100% female/diverse-cast doesn’t mean anything in itself about the quality of the show. It is just self-congratulation about societal matters, and self-congratulation in itself is arrogant. The japanese studios may produce lots of mediocre, conservative and downright bad shows, but they are much more humble with their communication than this boastful self-fellating studio conveniently called “ellation”.

    The lack of information about the show in itself (except from vague, empty and trite things which were not said with much conviction, maybe because the show doesn’t have anything interesting to tell) contrasted a lot and didn’t help with the matter. Indeed, it made the staff look more arrogant, insincere and unlikable in front of the public. As I can read it on your post, you didn’t even care to think about that in your post because it wasn’t relevant for your narrative.

    You say the detractors of HGS don’t know anything about CR finances, but I think you don’t have more knowledge than those idiots in the matter, because of the general way you handwave the criticisms which are not about “feminism” with the poor and lazy “it’s-not-the-same-thing™” argument. I also see that you like handwaving what is not convenient for them, and saying without any solid arguments that the funding of the improvements and the funding of the show are not the same thing. So sorry, but the promo of HGS is a good way to tick CR’s customers off, because it is not what they ask for (in majority).

    You must be realistic for a moment, because the people you mention, those who want a “Tumblr the animation” anime seem to be kind of a minority compared to the detractors (especially when you remember we talk about the anime consuming community) when you see the massive outrage, and that CR should act like an industry should : give people what they want. It may be better to give people what they need, but only living in a world of ideals like you do is not healthy, it only makes you delusional, like when you are when you hope that a lot of people want furiously “Tumblr the anime”, even if it means giving the middle finger to the anime-consumers who came to CR to consume what they pay CR for : anime and the support of JAPANESE studios. Oh, it makes me remember the staff who pretends that everybody is excited about the show in the promo, which is very boastful and which is not the case in reality.

    And when I see that CR is censoring the detractors of the HGS and CR’s policy, I can only see that people like you just don’t want to read the true arguments, want to silence them and spread poorly-documented, full-of-lies-by-omission posts so that they can assert their version as the only truth acceptable. Face it : CR doesn’t want to acknowledge the reality of the situation and prefer, much like you, to blame with intellectual dishonesty everything on the alt-right.

    By the way, I don’t give much shit about this show and I don’t think it will be shit or that it will be genius, even if as I said it before the staff is awfully self-satisfied and But the truth is I was interested in the controversy and in how much it would lead to people demonizing each other and being intellectually dishonest, and you’re no exception sadly. And I was right in thinking people would be total hypocrites and manipulative jerks, even the anti-detractors of HGS like you, because I read so much stupid things on both sides of the controversy that I don’t think the left has any right to stand high and mighty in contrast to the “alt-right” (which is the word you use to demonize and put everyone who doesn’t agree with you or CR’s stupid promo because it is more convenient).

    And if CR and Ellation wanted to tick people off with their promo, especially anti-SJW obsessed jerks, shame on them. Why you ask ? Because fighting poison with poison is a frigging stupid idea. The people who use provocation are not any better than the idiots who reply to it. They are guilty of the same heinous mindset as their enemies.

    I don’t salute you, because you didn’t help anyone to understand anything with your intellectual dishonesty, especially feminism.

    • Oh, and by the way, there also WOMEN who dislike the promo and find insufferable, for the various issues about self-congratulation and arrogance that I have mentioned.

      Just saying you are oversimplifying a complex topic which revolves around several issues because you are dishonest, lazy and love to polarize/caricature disputes. Like a sheep, you just wanted to show how “progressive” and considerate of women you are, against people who you think are only women-haters, but no. People like you tend to show their “virtue” by demonizing those who don’t agree with you and by omitting lots of problems so that you can give a very partial and incomplete version of the whole controversy. The way you depict this affair as “poor progressive CR and women vs whiny men” is just utterly pitiful, just as much as the anti-SJW who scream “get out feminism out of muh anime”.

    • “CR should act like an industry should : give people what they want.”

      Because if there’s anything that guarantees progress and interesting new developments it’s endless fanservice catering to people who think they’re the majority. Gotcha. Also, that massive outrage you mention – it’s so overwhelmingly massive I hadn’t even heard about it were it not for a friend talking to me about it, along the lines of “lol, look at people getting bent out of shape over something like this.”

      • And do you think I am pleased about that ? Nope, I am being cynical here, but you should not be naive on your side. If something new and challenging succeeds against the odds, then good for them and everyone. I will welcome that, but if they fail badly they can’t say they didn’t see it coming and that it is unfair. But the fact is, this thing is not challenging at all, and a good part of the outrage doesn’t come from the “misogynists”, but from people who despise the arrogance of the self-satisfied staff while this show doesn’t seem worth anything. God, even Trigger was less pretentious with Darling in the Franxx, and it was extremely pompous.

    • Felt like I needed to add, that this show writing team isn’t even diverse. It’s all white women. Why are there no black, asian, hispanic, middle eastern women?

      • I feel like replying to this is a waste of time but I can’t help myself… first up, the only claim the video makes about diversity is for the cast of characters in the show, which is accurate. Also I would not describe everyone in the video as white. But that’s not the point here, is it?

        Having primarily female staff in the context of a historically male dominated industry is diversity. Bad faith arguments questioning why there isn’t MORE diversity are just trying to discount that fact.

  5. I honestly can’t see a problem with an anime made by women for women when there already exists a vast wealth of anime made by men for men. What’s wrong with being more inclusive of both sexes? Just my two cents…

    Kudos for writing a great post! I can see that you’ve got some negative feedback, but I thought that you articulated your points very well!

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