Boycott Anime Matsuri is a group that hopes to shed light on the sexual harassment allegations against the CEO and event manager of the Anime Matsuri convention, John Leigh.
From March 29-April 1, thousands of anime fans and cosplayers will flock to the George R. Brown Convention Center to attend the 12th annual Anime Matsuri, one of the largest anime conventions in North America.
Japanese adult video stars, including Yua Mikami and K-pop group Honey Popcorn are listed as guests.
But 2015 sexual harassment accusations against Leigh have resurfaced in the wake of the #MeToo movement and has overshadowed this year’s event.
Leigh has been accused of ongoing harassment of young women while the chairman of Anime Matsuri and his wife, Deneice Leigh, who is of Vietnamese descent, remains silent.
Boycott Anime Matsuri founder, who only goes by GG, says the group has posted over 15 accounts of sexual harassment committed by Leigh.
“We’ve spoken to several of the people who provided these accounts, but others were posted online anonymously, thus we had no way to contact the victim,” GG told NextShark via email. “The [rest] were messaged directly to us at some point in the last two months.”
In June 2015, German fashion model and wig maker for the Lolita community, Nina Reijnders, also known as Chokelate, spoke out against Leigh after he invited her to the convention and asked her for naked promotional photos via Facebook.
Leigh also seemed to get aggressive when he offered her a free trip to Japan. She rejected the invitation, according to That Cmonster blog
Lolita fashion is a popular subculture in Japan where participants dress in Victorian-inspired garments and not linked to the sexual themes of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name.
Reijnders further wrote about her experience with Anime Matsuri and its CEO, writing in a blog post that she was “concerned for the people in this community.”
Leigh defended himself, claiming that his behavior was only a joke. According to the Houston Press, Leigh wrote in a 2015 blog post:
“As a disclaimer I would like to point out that I joke a lot with my friends or people I consider close. If you are offended by sexual innuendos, dirty talks or comments about boobs and orgasms, you should not be my friend. Online or offline. This means no disrespect and I would suggest not engaging in conversation with me. I act this way with my friends regardless of gender, and as my friend, you should make it perfectly clear that you are uncomfortable with my conversation. I would respect you enough to stop joking.”
The accusations against Leigh resurfaced this year when Tyler Willis, a Lolita fashion vlogger of Last Week Lolita News, posted two separate videos on Facebook focusing on the accounts that Leigh acted inappropriately with women and girls under 18, and called him an “alleged pedophile.”
“This isn’t about me,” Willis says in the video, according to Anime Feminist. “It’s about the victims.”
Willis received a cease and desist letter in January from Leigh’s lawyers demanding that she “make a public apology on social media.”
Due to this controversy, J-pop duo FEMM and voice actors such as Johnny Yong Bosch and the cast of Overwatch have cancelled appearances. A full list of cancellations can be seen here.
As more accounts of sexual abuse related to John Leigh continued to be shared, the campaign has also gained a ton of support on social media:
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, GG said that people are no longer afraid to speak out about their experiences.
“The world is listening now, and we’re here to help the victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault at Anime Matsuri be heard.”
NextShark has also reached out to Anime Matsuri for additional comment.