On February 11, 2019, Funimation Entertainment announced it had ended its relationship with one of its most prolific voice actors, Vic Mignogna, because of sexual misconduct accusations. The month that led up to their decision and the month that followed can only be described as a shitstorm; fans lashed out, other voice actors took sides, and industry professionals came out of the woodwork. The seas have somewhat calmed since then, but I’ve been left wondering: what now?
For context, in January, just after the Dragon Ball Super movie debuted in theaters, some discussion on Twitter surrounding Mignogna’s behavior at conventions began to swirl. The first tweet I saw described accusations going back a decade without any repercussions for the alleged conduct. If I’m honest, that first accusation was easy for me to dismiss—people are always making weird claims online, right? I’d never met Mignogna myself, but I’d seen plenty of interviews. He was soft-spoken, charming, and had a lovely smile. I was a huge fan of his work, and his acting always made me happy. From Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist) and Tamaki Suou (Ouran Host Club) to Broly (Dragon Ball Z), he was one of those rare breeds with an equal knack for heroes and villains. It was naïve on my part to think this meant anything with respect to the accusations, because niceness doesn’t equate to innocence.
After about two weeks of this, the discussion surrounding Mignogna’s behavior reached a place I didn’t think possible. Zach Logan, founder of The One Piece Podcast and a Manhattan attorney, tweeted about his own encounter. More people who had met Mignogna and worked with him at cons corroborated the same sorts of stories as hushed whispers about his behavior over the past decades came to light. After understanding the conversation was a lot bigger than I’d first believed, it was time for a painful reckoning: there was obviously something here.
As a fan of anime and of this specific voice actor, how was I supposed to feel? Could I still love the characters Mignogna had voiced? Was it okay to feel let down, disappointed? Was I allowed to have a period of “mourning” as I came to terms with a new reality? Navigating answers is hard, but I think it’s understandable to feel saddened when you discover someone you admired has let the community down. I think you can decide for yourself whether their work is something you can still enjoy or whether you should keep your signed Funko Pop.
One of the worst parts of this whole debacle was the sheer number of fans who attacked others for sharing their stories about Mignogna. When Funimation voice actor Monica Rial shared her story, people came out in droves to call her a liar and say she was part of some grand conspiracy to get Mignogna fired for her own personal gain. It’s natural for people to be skeptical of any accusation, but it was shocking to see the lengths some fans went to. My sadness and disappointment, it seemed, wouldn’t be caused exclusively by Mignogna’s actions but also by those of some of the fandom, too.
On March 22, the second annual Dragon Ball convention, Kameha Con, reinvited Vic Mignogna to be a guest after having initially banned him in light of the allegations. Predictably, some fans were excited, and some were furious. Some said making the announcement only three weeks before the convention was shady and scummy because would-be attendees had already purchased plane tickets and made other commitments; it would be difficult or impossible to back out of attending for many eventgoers. Many Funimation voice actors also cancelled their appearances as a result of the announcement, including Monica Rial (Bulma), Jason Douglas (Beerus) and Josh Grelle (Grand Priest). Other panelists from the fandom side of the community pulled out as well, including Dragon Ball subreddit moderator Terez and YouTuber MistareFusion, noting their distaste for Kameha Con’s decision.
The debate brings forth an interesting question about the nature of conventions. What measures can be taken so a situation like Mignogna’s doesn’t happen again?
Most conventions have policies in place to try to protect guests and the public from sexual harassment. After the backlash of reinviting Mignogna, Kameha Con released a statement reaffirming its no-tolerance policy for harassment, tweeting, “Anyone who seeks to violate these rules will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” But as Terez pointed out, “Having a known con creep on your guest list just shows everyone that your policy is toothless and that reports will only be taken seriously if it is convenient for the convention.” In other words, talk is cheap, and cons have to do more than write nice-sounding policies for their websites—they have to make sure their actions back up the spirit of those policies.
After an incident involving a 33-year-old man coercing an underage girl at the Katsucon anime convention in Maryland, the con released a statement saying it would begin checking preregistered attendees against local and federal sex offender lists in order to reduce the chances of something similar happening in the future. Although the convention already had policies that aimed to protect its attendees, including specific procedures relating to underage attendees, the fact the organizers changed their policy in response to the event shows they are serious in their commitment.
It’s absurd that Vic’s behavior was seemingly a known problem for years and nothing was done. Few anime voice actors are more popular than he is (or was), and it seems because of that, everyone put up with him. If we’re going to make our local events safe, organizers need to be brave enough to not invite certain guests. If eventgoers feel unsafe, if the whisper network cautions people to stay away from certain guests, the con’s success is mitigated. The division Kameha Con caused serves as an important example.
Although it does not have written policies on its website, the Midwest Comic Book Association displays a large, prominent “Cosplay is not consent” banner at the entrance to its Minnesota conventions. This type of signage is important and helps set the tone for the convention. It reinforces what is unacceptable behavior and also sets up expectations that behavior won’t be tolerated. Another local con, CONvergence, posts similar signs at its convention in addition to its written policies. It shows both conventions are serious about the type of culture they want to create in their spaces because the signs are in places everyone will see them. Language helps creates culture and healthy culture develops when expectations are clear and violators are reprimanded. I think our local cons are making important strides so everyone is able to have fun.
It’s also important for the community to listen. When someone says they’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s our duty to listen and to investigate. We shouldn’t dismiss accusations because of an actor’s skills or how much we love them. We need to learn that just because someone appears to be charming in the receiving line for signatures or in an interview, that doesn’t mean that’s who they actually are.
A lot of anime lovers have difficulty finding others who share their passion, and conventions are a way for fans to meet like-minded people. We should do our best to protect those spaces, because there’s nothing better than spending time with other people who love what you love.