Trolls Want #AnimeGate to Be a Thing; It Won't Be

Look in the comments section on any article about recently disgraced voice actor Vic Mignogna and you'll see some people go to absurd lengths to defend a man who's the subject of enough harassment accusations that Rooster Teeth, FUNimation, and many conventions will no longer work with him. A few are obsessive fans still in disbelief the he could be a harasser. Others, however, don't really care about Mignogna or even anime so much as they see this issue as another cultural wedge, akin to #Gamergate or #Comicsgate.

Before the Mignogna scandal, there were other issues trolls have tried to use to provoke an #AnimeGate. There's been rage about critics giving negative reviews to "un-PC" shows like Goblin Slayer and The Rising of a Shield Hero. There was a fracas over High Guardian Spice, Crunchyroll's first original series, which is far from release but has nevertheless sparked controversy with a teaser highlighting the show's mostly female creative staff. There were claims that the English subtitles on Zombie Land Saga "changed" Lily Hoshikawa into a trans girl when the literal Japanese translation is actually more explicit that she's trans. And that's all just in the past year. The reality is, the alt-right troll segment of anime fandom has been stirring trouble for much longer.

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Such trolls are absolutely a problem in anime fandom. The harassment many voice actors, critics and fans have faced is inexcusable. Without minimizing the damage they've caused, and will continue to cause, there's reason to be optimistic about the anime community's ability to stand up to that sort of behavior. Whereas #Gamergate and #Comicsgate, unfortunately, became sustained movements, attempts to launch a similar #AnimeGate have so far failed.

That might come as a surprise to some people outside anime circles. After all, 4Chan's roots as an anime forum has meant there's long been a connection between alt-right internet trolls and Japanese animation. Commentators have noted how prevalent anime avatars were among Gamergaters, while members of both GG and CG often express skewed Orientalist beliefs about Japanese pop culture being free from the "SJW scourge" of the West. Despite that unfortunate subsection of anime fandom being so vocal, the industry is better prepared to deal with the trolls than comics and gaming were.


Sailor Moon

GG and CG are, in large part, a response to increased diversity in spaces that previously catered predominantly to straight white men. Anime fandom in the United States, by contrast, has been incredibly diverse for a long time. Maybe in the era of VHS fansubs you could stereotype American otaku as guys watching Urutsukidoji in their basement, but most of North American anime fandom as we know it today can be traced to the Toonami boom.

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The classic Toonami lineup featured Sailor Moon, a proudly feminine series that attracted many girls to anime, and Dragon Ball Z, which developed a large following among people of color. In terms of gender, there long has been more anime and manga aimed at women than Western cartoons and comics, with some surveys showing anime/manga fandom leaning female as a whole. LGBTQ representation in anime can often be problematic, but that so much of it exists at all has long attracted LGBTQ devotees. Those who would want anime fandom to be the domain of only straight white men simply have no ground to stand on.


NEXT PAGE: The Anime Industry Doesn't Really Care About American Trolls


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