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“The library’s on fire!”: High Guardian Spice and the reality of library destruction

The protagonists, and audience, first see the library of High Guardian Academy on fire, in the show’s 12th episode, caused by the arrogant villain, Mandrake, and his reluctant fellow villain, Olive

Late last month, all 12 episodes of a queer magical girl series, High Guardian Spice, dropped on Crunchyroll and VRV. Over a couple days time, I watched all 12 episodes and wrote a review for The Geekiary, calling the show a “comedic and magical coming-of-age animated series.” But what I didn’t mention was the final episode where the show’s four protagonists, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, fight in the library of their school, which I listed in my listing of recently added titles with libraries and librarians for October, and also was able to get listed on Jennifer Snoek-Brown’s Reel Librarians. After re-watching the whole series from beginning to end, I gained a new appreciation for the series and decided that writing this post was necessary, based on what I have written about on this blog before. So, in this post, I’ll talk about that episode and connect it to library destruction, whether in fiction or real-life. As a warning, there will be spoilers for this episode, so if you don’t wish to see those, then please don’t read this post. With that, let’s dive in.

The episode begins with Mandrake (voiced by A.J. Beckles) tasked with killing the show’s four protagonists, and Olive (voiced by Stephanie Sheh), the catgirl, agrees to help him, reluctantly, even though she wants to capture these four girls without harming them. Long story short, Olive and Mandrake are successful in trapping the students and teachers in an underground room with only one exit, but the four girls aren’t there. So, Mandrake sets fire to the library to draw them out, with Parsley pointing out that the library is on fire, hence the title of this post. Mandrake uses his power to put a bubble around the school so no one can get in or out. His part of his plan is successful, as they come to the library and are shocked by the fires. So they come up with a plan: Sage and Parsley will put out the fires, while Thyme and Rose go to track down Mandrake and Olive. What follows is an awesome battle filled with tension. Olive continues to plead with Mandrake to put out the fires, so she can take them to Witch Country, but he refuses, stubbornly wanting to kill them. Following this, he attacks Rose and Thyme with a huge flame sword, destroying some of the library stacks. Both Rose and Thyme try to fight him, with varying levels of success.

When it seems that he has the upper hand at this point, as he has taken Thyme hostage, Olive says she will stab her instead. Tired of him, she stabs him in the abdomen, causing him to falter backwards. Meanwhile, Parsley breaks out the water extinguisher gloves, smashing the container with her hammer, while Sage uses her spells to put out the fires. This doesn’t last though as Mandrake uses his flame sword to cauterize the wound, and in his anger, and pain, he restarts the fires in the library. Even though he is injured, with Thyme hitting him the leg with an arrow, he escapes. Since they want to make sure he can’t get away, they follow him, leaving behind the library, which continues to burn. During their fight with Mandrake, his attacks cause fires to appear across the school grounds.

While he is later grievously injured and his spell around the school breaks as a result of a powerful attack from Sage, the fires continue. A fire brigade from the town of Lyngarth, the town in which the school is in the center of, even comes to try and put out the fires across the school’s buildings. But, they are not very effective and some firefighters are injured. I’m guessing this is because the fires are magical and these firefighters don’t have magical abilities, so they can’t put out the fires.

The fire brigade attempts to put out fires in the school

There is much more to talk about here than a simple plot summary. For one, High Guardian Spice is not unique in showing library destruction. Most recently, in an episode of Adventure Time: Distant Lands, “Together Again,” Turtle Princess pleads with Finn Mertens to save her library which is under attack from parasites. In an 2020 episode of DC Super Hero Girls, titled “#SoulSisters Part 2,” has Diana Prince and Katana cause the library’s stacks to collapse, resulting in their expulsion from the library. These are not the only examples. [1] For instance, in the final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, the library of Bow’s dads, George and Lance, is shown as trashed. Some examples are even worse. There’s the heartbreaking almost complete destruction of the hand-created and curated library, by a blue-skinned librarian, in an episode of Prisoner Zero. One anime, R.O.D. the TV, is even more prominent in showing this as one of the protagonists, Yomiko Readman, got out of control and caused a fire which destroyed an entire library, resulting in another character to be traumatized for years to come.

What makes this episode of High Guardian Spice unique, apart from the others, is the possibility of damage to the library is acknowledged. Specifically, there is are gloves which work as a sort of fire extinguisher, allowing anyone who wears them to put out fires by literally wielding water. Basically, the library has fire prevention measures. However, that doesn’t save the library itself from any other sort of damage. And by the end of the episode, the fires continue to rage in the library and across the school, so the amount of damage to the library is not known. Considering that in the show’s fifth episode the library is shown as a  place of study and where some classes are held, with people reading and doing classwork there, it would make sense that one of the first orders of business would be to extinguish the fires and make sure the library can be in working order. Perhaps even some students could be asked to work at the library, maybe even Thyme, as she is shown reading more than any of the other characters, although each of the four protagonists could be, arguably, suited for a library setting, each in their own way.

In real life, there are many examples of libraries which have been accidentally or deliberately damaged or destroyed, whether by human action or by natural disasters. There are so many examples there is even a Wikipedia page on it, entitled “List of destroyed libraries.” [2] This page notes that technology advances have reduced possibility of fires, with freezers, fire doors, water sprinklers, and other systems. This page also says that if a book is burnt, there is no possibility for recovery, meaning that it is better to put out a fire, then dry out the books, as books can be frozen, then tried later, damaging a book but leaving the information intact. It is further said on the page to reduce damage from fire and decrease time for recovery, libraries need plans for recovery and disaster management. I would hope that the High Guardian Academy library has such plans in place, to tackle the so-called “enemies of books.” [3]

Although its sad that no characters who are librarians in the series, their absence allowed the series to avoid playing into library stereotypes which I’ve written about on this blog, time and again. However, if the show does get a second season, then hopefully there are librarians as characters. They could either be among the existing cast, either one of the four protagonists as noted earlier, or perhaps some of the professors, like Caraway, for instance, or someone new entirely. Due to the lack of librarians, I can’t even apply my Librarian Portrayal Test to this episode, but that’s ok. I don’t believe that High Guardian Spice is the type of show that would play into librarian stereotypes, but even shows like Steven Universe and Mysticons, both of which I like a great deal, play into such stereotypes, each in their own ways.

That’s all for this post. As always, comments are welcome.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Parsley and Sage work together to put out the fire in the library


[1] Other examples include books are burned by some of those who want to censor books, which injures some of the librarians, in the series Library War, a book fire in an episode of Kaeloo, partial library destruction in an episode of Uncle Grandpa, possible library damage in the final episode of Cleopatra in Space, “Pyramid Scheme,” as a result of the invasion by Octavian’s forces as well, and Amity and Luz fighting monsters inside the library in The Owl House first season episode “Lost in Language,” returning to the library in the show’s second season, The latter will likely be a later post on this blog.

[2] There is also a whole page about libraries destroyed during World War II entitled “List of libraries damaged during World War II” and another about damage from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, entitled “Library damage resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake,” along with a whole page on book burning.

[3] A 1888 book by English printer William Blades says that “fire, water, gas and heat, dust and neglect, ignorance and bigotry, the bookworm, bookbinders, book collectors, other vermin (such as rats or flies), servants, and children” are enemies for books. While most of these make sense, it seems pretty messed up to say that bookbinders, book collectors, servants, and children are enemies of books, clearly a form of class discrimination there.

By histhermann

Marylander with MLIS who loves archives, libraries, genealogy, reviewing pop culture, and writing fictional stories. UMD '19 & SMCM '16 grad. I've been running various WordPress blogs for a while now, about genealogy, libraries, archives, and more.

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