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High Guardian Spice, Onyx Equinox Creators Discuss the Shows' Low Budgets

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Both Crunchyroll Original shows were significantly low budget by U.S. animation standards

In 2018, shortly after Crunchyroll announced High Guardian Spice as the first "Crunchyroll Originals" animated project, head of Crunchyroll Studios Margaret Dean told Digiday that the lineup was "entirely funded by Ellation with budgets in the same range as what anime shows typically cost."

Years later, High Guardian Spice creator Raye Rodriguez revealed on Twitter what this actually meant for the staff: It was significantly low budget by U.S. animation standards, created by a non-union studio. Rodriguez argued that many of the perceived problems of the end product can be attributed to this low budget.

"If you're mad at the animation quality, it was the budget," he tweeted. "BG art? Budget. Writing?? Budget. We literally started storyboarding the first episode before the first script was finished."

He also wrote that although the show was streamed on Crunchyroll, it is ultimately a cartoon that was created with the same production pipeline as other American cartoons. He said the budget was "comparable to a CN show, which are usually 11-minutes long, are comedy-centered and have much simpler BGs and characters." He explained that the show was artistically ambitious within the budget and schedule that was provided.

The thread also mentions Onyx Equinox, another "Crunchyroll Originals" project which was produced at the same studio as High Guardian Spice. Rodriguez claimed that Onyx Equinox "had the advantage of learning from mistakes made on HGS and being union, but it was a lot of the same team and same pipeline."

Onyx Equinox creator Sofia Alexander added some of her own insights to the production's situation on Twitter. Quoting Rodriguez's thread, she wrote that the budget "was near 1/3 of a lot of western shows." She also wrote that "a big push as to why we unionized was because I threatened to leave before production started."

Alexander added that a lot of good people did work at the studio, and that the situation "isn't as black and white as it sounds." She said that she was ultimately grateful to Crunchyroll: "I wouldn't have been able to represent LGBT+ characters or a story about trauma and grief anywhere else."

Rodriguez concluded his thread by imploring others to "think about what happened behind the scenes to make it that way, have empathy for the real human beings who did their best working on it & think critically about who started this hate campaign in the first place."

High Guardian Spice premiered on Crunchyroll on October 26, 2021. Crunchyroll had announced High Guardian Spice in 2018 as the first "Crunchyroll Originals" animated project, and the show was originally slated to premiere in 2019. Rodriguez announced in November 2019 that the show had finished production.

Onyx Equinox premiered on November 21, 2020. In the animated work, "a young Aztec boy is saved from death by the gods and chosen to act as 'humanity's champion,' forced to discard his apathy toward his fellow man and prove humanity's potential in a fight that spans across fantastical-yet-authentic Mesoamerican cultures."


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