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.
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