I woke up over the weekend to about a dozen emails from local pop culture people asking me if I’d heard the news. Some dude had apparently decided that Anime Matsuri would be the perfect place to dress in a historically accurate Nazi SS officer uniform and read fanfic involving an Anne Frank/Dragon Ball Z crossover. I wish I could say I was in the least bit surprised, but I’m not. Let’s discuss why.
First things first, here are the facts as I know them thus far. Despite Anime Matsuri’s continued success, including a proclamation from a cosplay-wearing Mayor Sylvester Turner at the event, the anime and Japanese pop culture convention does not have a very good reputation. In 2015 I spent three months untangling the affairs of the convention’s founders, John and Deneice Leigh. This revealed a long history of sexual harassment by John as well as a penchant for bad management, broken promises, dirty tricks against other conventions and unpaid invoices.
Things seem to have not improved since my reporting. Earlier this year, the Leighs threaten to sue Tyler M. Willis (aka Scarfing Scarves) over YouTube videos critical of the event. Despite John’s reputation as a lech, the 2018 Matsuri upped the ante on the 18+ content, inviting hentai voice actress Yua Mikami. Further harassment accusations were reported on by Cary Darling in the Houston Chronicle recently.
The latest round of scandals prompted some cancellations from various guests. One of those was a local pop culture group, Geeks 5 Ever. The group was supposed to present a bad fan fiction panel, but decided to suspend their appearance back in February. Nevertheless, the panel wasn’t cancelled in official Matsuri literature, and that’s where our Nazi comes in. He took control of the confusion to crash the non-panel and spin his tale of Goku in Hitler’s Germany. The fact this occurred over the Jewish holiday of Passover is really just the icing on the cake. Later, the Nazi happily posed for picture.
Geeks 5 Ever were understandably outraged since many of the initial rumors mistakenly accused them of the stunt. Matsuri did finally take action. In a statement on Twitter they said…
“We thank everyone for informing us on the absurd action of one of our attendees. We have contacted all departments needed to track down what happened. To shed light, the attendee had took over a panel without permission of the original panelist. The programming team has begun to track all panels remotely connected to find and discard that attendee for his actions.”
Some readers later emailed me to tell me the Nazi was spotted still on the convention floor, having discarded his uniform but now wearing a hat that said “Make Germany Great Again.”
Let’s be clear on something; all conventions get offensive jerkwards pulling stupid stunts. These dudes are as predictable as ants at a picnic, and only they’re slightly more worthy of mention in a general sense. Normally, one more white nerd-dude, who doesn’t realize all edge with no point only works for pizza cutters, mucking up an otherwise lovely event isn’t worth more than the price of a drink at the end of a long day working the door.
Matsuri isn’t that otherwise lovely event, though, and that’s why I’m not surprised that someone decided to goose-step his way into the event or that he wasn’t stopped. When I interviewed people who had worked with the Leighs for my reporting, it was clear then that they had little to no control over how their convention operated. Escorts were not properly paired with talent, schedules were not accurate or kept to, volunteers lacked adequate communication equipment and professionals couldn’t get paid. This is the twelfth year for the con, long after the growing pains phase, and yet it never gets any better.
More than that, though, Matsuri seems to have become a place where bad behavior is tolerated or punished in only the most cursory sense. John has achieved notoriety in the various geek circles I run in for his attempts to appear to have learned his lesson with women, taking online courses on harassment or trying to pair up with charities. If I may borrow a term, Matsuri does a lot of virtue signaling without ever really cleaning up its act.
That attitude is a growth medium for deplorables, edgelords, Nazis, and dudes who think lifting up cosplayers for panty shots is okay. When conventions and other venues choose to behave badly and fail to police the behavior of their problematic attendees it advertises to creeps and bastards that this is a safe space for actions any decent organization would not want associated with it. The way Anime Matsuri does business is an implied invitation that boundaries and decency need not be considered.
Nothing proves this more to me than the army of folks that came out of the woodwork in the wake of the Nazi’s appearance. It was like a mob of living sub-Reddits. It’s just freedom of expression, maybe he’s doing something from Hellsing, if you don’t like it, don’t go, etc. The importance is always placed on never holding Matsuri or any random asshole who wonders in accountable for being awful because otherwise the legion of enablers might find themselves supporting the bad guys.
Make no mistake, Anime Matsuri ARE the bad guys. That’s why some Nazi happily strode in to defecate in everyone’s soul and no one stopped him, whereas if he tried that at Comicpalooza or Delta H Con he’d have been rolled down the hall like he was a particularly awesome Sonic the Hedgehog cosplayer. He thought he could get away with it, and he was absolutely correct. It speaks badly of Houston for continuing to support the convention and its operators despite their activities and incompetence. This is not how I want people to think of H-town, but it’s going to be unless Matsuri comes correct or the city begins supporting a convention where Nazis fear to peddle their hateful nonsense.