Otaku Corner: Cosplay is not Consent Vol 2

Con fool­ish­ness: Full metal wildin’ out at anime panels

Trig­ger warn­ing: This arti­cle con­tains descrip­tions of stalk­ing, intim­i­da­tion and sex­ual assault. Unless oth­er­wise stated, the indi­vid­u­als men­tioned are to be pre­sumed inno­cent until proven guilty in courts of law.

In 2017, the #metoo move­ment made major impacts in var­i­ous areas of soci­ety from pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor occu­pa­tions to var­i­ous forms of enter­tain­ment to empower women. Our geek cul­ture has felt these rever­ber­a­tions in comics, movies and video games. The anime indus­try has also felt this impact recently, but not in a good way. As an anime fan and convention-goer, I have heard sto­ries of non-consensual acts toward women at var­i­ous cons with­out faces of accused indi­vid­u­als being pre­sented. As of 2019, I have found four indi­vid­u­als pub­licly accused of these acts, rang­ing from reg­u­lar con attendee to voice actor. I do not take any plea­sure in pre­sent­ing these indi­vid­u­als, but their actions have placed the anime indus­try in Amer­ica in dire straits.

Matthew Masumi Toy­otome: Accord­ing to Anime News Net­work and Shasta County News Source, the 27-year-old River­side, Calif., cos­player was caught on secu­rity video pour­ing gaso­line on fel­low cos­player Julia Mon­ero Jenk­ins’ car. The result­ing fire engulfed not only her car, but also sev­eral other cars belong­ing to atten­dees attend­ing Anime LA in Jan­u­ary 2019. Upon fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion by police, it was dis­cov­ered that Toy­otome began stalk­ing Jenk­ins after they stopped doing a YouTube series together and she left a Power Rangers cos­play group that they par­tic­i­pated in. Toy­otome was arrested with­out inci­dent at his home and was held on bail rang­ing from $250,000 to $1 million.

Eric Torg­ersen: ANN’s Lynzee Loveridge reported that the for­mer chair­man of the Atlantic City, N.J., Ani­meNext con­ven­tion was being inves­ti­gated by its board of direc­tors after mul­ti­ple alle­ga­tions of sex­ual harass­ment by female staffers. The alle­ga­tions ranged from inap­pro­pri­ate com­ments and touch­ing, offer­ing alco­holic drinks to under­age staffers, to inci­dents that left irrepara­ble rela­tion­ships with musi­cal guests, which caused neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity for the con­ven­tion. Loveridge’s arti­cle men­tioned that when con­cerns were made, the board of direc­tors gave Torg­ersen a warn­ing to watch his con­duct. Despite the warn­ing, staffers who were inter­viewed stated that Torgersen’s behav­ior con­tin­ued. A staffer known as “A” alleged that they were threat­ened by Torg­ersen to “mind my own busi­ness or I would be sorry.” ANN attempted to con­tact Torg­ersen via Face­book for com­ment but was unable to do so. ANN was able to reach AnimeNext’s cur­rent chair­man of the board of direc­tors Keenan Slo­bodz­ian, who stated that the inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion was still ongo­ing. Slo­bodz­ian also con­firmed that Torg­ersen was no longer on the board of direc­tors but declined to state if he was still part of Ani­meNext staff.

Ryan Kopf: Known as “the pres­i­dent of anime,” Kopf is the founder/CEO of Animecon.org, an orga­ni­za­tion that runs con­ven­tions in Min­neapo­lis, Chicago and in other Mid­west towns. Recently, staff from Anime Mil­wau­kee banned Kopf from future events after an alleged sex­ual assault that took place at its con in Feb­ru­ary 2018. AMKE staff made a state­ment to ANN that Mil­wau­kee police were called by Hyatt Regency hotel staff per their pro­to­col, which resulted in Kopf and all animecon.org pro­mo­tional mate­r­ial removed from con space and hotel prop­erty. In a state­ment to ANN, Kopf denied the inci­dent stat­ing, “When attend­ing Anime Mil­wau­kee in 2018, I was always in the com­pany of at least one of my staff mem­bers. We were not approached by any­one and we were not asked to leave. The pre­cise nature of these alle­ga­tions remains [sic] unclear to me. I have not done any­thing improper at either of these events, and I fully intend to pur­sue hold­ing account­able those who have con­tin­ued to repeat defam­a­tory state­ments about me.” As of GI press time, Kopf and his orga­ni­za­tion remains, despite calls for his removal from animecon.org and poten­tial guests’ boycotts.

Mignogna

Rial

Vic Mignogna: The 56-year-old voice actor, best known for his roles in the Full­metal Alchemist series, Bleach, Dragon Ball Z movie series and RWBY, was accused in Feb­ru­ary 2019 soon after the release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly of inap­pro­pri­ate con­duct toward anime fans in addi­tion to homo­pho­bic behav­ior. Mignogna was also accused by fel­low voice actors Mon­ica Rial and Jamie Marchi of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior, which led to many major con­ven­tions can­cel­ing his appear­ances and licens­ing com­pa­nies Funi­ma­tion Enter­tain­ment and Rooster Teeth remov­ing Mignogna from future projects. Accord­ing to Gizmodo’s Beth Elderkin, Mignogna made numer­ous apolo­gies in pub­lic and pri­vate but decided to take legal action against Rial, Marchi and Funi­ma­tion in April 2019. Dur­ing the trial, anime fans drew bat­tle lines for and against Mignogna using hash­tags #Kick­Vic and #Istand­with­Vic. On Sept. 6, 2019, 12 of the charges against Rial, Marchi and Funi­ma­tion were dropped, which lead to Judge John Chupp to order medi­a­tion because of ongo­ing threats made to him and involved par­ties. On Sept. 17, 2019, Chupp dis­missed all remain­ing charges against Rial, Marchi and Funi­ma­tion. On Oct. 24, 2019, Mignogna filed an appeal against dis­missal of his law­suit, which was approved on Decem­ber 11. At GI press time, no fur­ther court date was available.

I have gripes with all four of these indi­vid­u­als, which requires going in order. First, Mr. Toy­otome. What the hell, sir? Your fool­ish­ness not only endan­gered lives, but also damn near destroyed a con­ven­tion that infuses a local econ­omy. You owe those con-goers, orga­niz­ers of said con and your ex-friend numer­ous apolo­gies and resti­tu­tion.
Next, Mr. Torg­ersen and Kopf. You used your posi­tions as con orga­niz­ers to com­mit behav­ior not even the most heinous of geek vil­lains would approve of. Apol­o­gize and leave the con scene, imme­di­ately. Finally, Mr. Mignogna. I can’t find words to say that you fracked up ROYALLY. I fol­lowed your story as it devel­oped to pos­si­bly give the ben­e­fit of doubt, but the calls for you to resign and the court rul­ing sealed it for me. As much as it is painful, I believe that you are blessed enough not to be behind bars. You need to leave the voice artist business.

I apol­o­gize for this long piece but as a fan of all things geek and just, I could not give these indi­vid­u­als quar­ter for their actions. If our fan­dom has toxic behav­ior toward women, WE ALL LOSE. This is why the #metoo and cos­play is not con­sent move­ments still exist as well activists like Sean McGuin­ness, who do excel­lent lec­tures on the con cir­cuit to inform fans. I hope not to make this a reg­u­lar theme for GI, but if need be, so be it. GI folks, now that you know bet­ter, do better.

Bran­don Beatty is edi­tor at large of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. He can be reached by email at bran­donb [at] gaminginsurrection.com

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