One of Anime’s Biggest Voices Accused of Sexual Harassment

Stories about Mignogna have been circulating online for over a decade.
One of Anime’s Biggest Voices Accused of Sexual Harassment
Illustration: Jim Cooke, Photo: Getty Images
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Last summer, voice actor Vic Mignogna went into a booth with a few others to record audio for a video game. At one point, Mignogna asked the client, who was overseeing the session, if she was okay with his performance. When she didn’t answer right away, he followed up with: “You know the old Latin—or is it Greek? There’s an axiom that says: Silence gives consent.”

Stories about Mignogna have been circulating online for over a decade, including through the Tumblr blog Dear Vic Meggnogna, but the latest round of accusations started surfacing around mid-January of this year. io9 spoke with more than 25 voice actors, cosplayers, industry professionals, convention employees, and former fans about their experiences with Mignogna. Many of them asked not to be named in fear of retaliation from Mignogna or his fanbase. These, along with the testimonials circulating online, paint a picture of a 56-year-old man who aggressively hugs, grabs, touches, kisses, and propositions women—often without asking for their consent. It happens at panels, in autograph lines, at private events, and behind closed doors. His behavior has become so known in the anime and comic convention communities that it’s more than an open secret.

“Have you heard of the missing stair analogy?” voice actor Jamie McGonnigal said. “It’s basically what happens when many folks in an industry know about a certain person, and warn everyone about that person, kind of quietly… It’s related to a missing stair in that, yeah, the stair is missing, but you tell the people that you know to skip that stair because it’s broken. The problem is, people who don’t know about that stair are bound to trip [on it]. That’s what it’s been like for upwards of 15 years. People just know about Vic.”

An image from Funimation’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which featured Vic Mignogna as Broly.
An image from Funimation’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which featured Vic Mignogna as Broly.
Image: Sony

Vic Mignogna’s name might not ring a bell for most, but within the anime community, he’s a household name. He’s appeared in hundreds of anime shows, films, and video games since 1999, including playing the lead in 2004's Fullmetal Alchemist. Recently, he was heard as Broly in Funimation’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which made more than $30 million at the U.S. box office, an impressive feat for an anime film. It’s the latest movie in the Dragon Ball series, one of the biggest anime franchises in the world. The series even had a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last year.

Over the course of his career, Mignogna has amassed a strong, largely youthful fanbase—including within his official fan club, the Risembool Rangers. He’s also a regular on the anime and comic convention circuit, attending on average about 30 cons per year—though that doesn’t look to be happening this year. Accusations of improper conduct with his fans, first reported by Anime News Network, led many comic and anime conventions to rescind their invitations to Mignogna. Entertainment group Rooster Teeth shared that Mignogna will no longer voice a character on its American anime, RWBY. Funimation, a top media company for importing and dubbing Japanese anime, announced it’s “no longer engaging” with the voice actor, following an internal investigation. io9 has viewed three of the reports that were submitted to the company.

Voice actor Charlotte (not her real name) confirmed to io9 that she shared her story with Funimation for its investigation. She relayed to io9 her experience, one which Mignogna denied in emailed responses to io9’s questions. Charlotte said that at a con in the late 2000s, she was getting ready to go to dinner with Mignogna and some other con guests and employees. Mignogna asked if they could stop by his room first, because he wanted to show her a video, and she agreed. Because both were in relationships—Mignogna with his now ex-fiancée Michele Specht and Charlotte with her then-boyfriend—she believed the invitation was platonic.

As they watched the video, she says, Mignogna grabbed her by the arms and kissed her aggressively, including putting his tongue inside her mouth. She tried to pull away, only to have him pull her back in. She told io9 she felt scared and frozen, “like a board.” Then, things escalated. Charlotte said Mignogna backed her up to the bed and she fell down, then he got on top of her. Soon after, a friend came to check on them, and she immediately got off of the bed.

“I was saved by a door knock. I can’t say what would’ve happened [otherwise]. I don’t know if I would’ve kicked his ass, or he would’ve kept [going] and I stayed frozen,” she said. “I keep waking up in the middle of the night with that panic feeling. It’s that panic, it’s that feeling I have to do something to get him away from me.”

Since the recent allegations have surfaced, Mignogna has released two statements on Twitter. First on January 21, saying he regrets if he made his colleagues or fans feel uncomfortable. The second statement, released on February 13, added that he’s taking time to “recommit to God and [seek] the help of a counselor.” When reached by io9 for comment Mignogna said that he has never forced himself on anyone, claiming that “any and all encounters I’ve ever had have been 100-percent consensual.” He gave specific responses to the accusations present in this article—denying some and providing his own version of events on others.

Several people in the anime industry, speaking under the condition of anonymity, shared with io9 their experiences with the voice actor. Rachel (not her real name) recounted with io9 two experiences she says she had with Mignogna. She said the first one, which Mignogna has denied, happened at a convention in 2008. She said a relatively friendly weekend turned uncomfortable when, outside their adjacent hotel room doors, Mignogna grabbed her in a tight embrace and wouldn’t let go, even as she tried to pull away. Like Charlotte, she knew he was in a relationship. She then went into her room, which shared a door with his. That’s when the knocking started.

“I heard a slow knocking on the door that was between our two rooms. I knew it was him so I ignored it. And just after two minutes, the hotel room phone rings. And I answered it, and it was Vic. I remember he said, ‘Open the door, nobody has to know,’’” she said.

She said he continued to knock on the door, and the phone rang at least one more time, until she stepped into the bathroom and turned on the shower—sitting on the bathroom floor for up to an hour, shaking.

The second situation happened at a separate convention a couple of years later. Rachel said she had agreed to stop by his room briefly. She said he invited her to sit down on the couch in the front room of the suite, and after a brief conversation she claims he knelt in front of her and began rubbing the backs of her thighs, and said: “Let me be sweet to you.”

Rachel told io9 she then got up to leave—only for Mignogna to stand up, embrace her tightly, and press his face against hers. She tried to get out of his embrace but says he wouldn’t loosen his hold. She kept giving him reasons why he should stop, like reminding him he had a girlfriend, but he kept repeating the same line—“Let me be sweet to you”—over and over, at least five or six times, she said. Rachel says she eventually got out of his embrace and left the hotel room, and later told the con’s guest services manager about the incident (the manager confirmed to io9 that they had been told).

Mignogna acknowledged this event happened, including that he rubbed the backs of Rachel’s thighs, but said the encounter was consensual. He also said that, to his recollection, they had shared a bottle of wine, were “probably” in her room, and had kissed before she pulled away and asked that they stop, which he says he immediately agreed to and left her room. Rachel responded by denying they ever kissed and that she doesn’t recall drinking wine with him. Both she and the guest services manager separately stated she had been in Mignogna’s room.

Rachel says she did not report the incident to hotel management or to the police because she feared Mignogna would attempt to negatively impact her career. “He’s very well known in the industry—very, very powerful in our industry,” she said.

According to the guest services manager and Rachel, in apparent retaliation after his sexual advances were rebuffed, Mignogna requested that Rachel be moved to another room for their previously scheduled joint autograph signing session (Mignogna denied doing this). Rachel said she spent the two-hour session alone, as most fans were there to see him.

Vic Mignogna as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek fan series, Star Trek Continues.
Vic Mignogna as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek fan series, Star Trek Continues.
Image: Star Trek Continues (YouTube)

Voice actor Gretchen (not her real name) described to io9 how, before their first panel together at a con in the early 2010s, he grabbed her from behind and starting tickling her aggressively until she screamed at him to stop. Mignogna told io9 he did tickle her without her consent, calling it a “playful and friendly” attempt to lighten her mood.

There’s also a way Mignogna sometimes hugs women, as detailed by one voice actor and confirmed by several others who’ve experienced or witnessed it. According to the voice actor, who asked not to be named, when Mignogna greets women, sometimes he’ll grab a handful of hair so he can pull their heads back slightly, kissing their necks or whispering in their ears. She said it can sometimes happen in public, including in front of fans, and there’s pressure to go along with it so they don’t seem like they’re making a scene. Mignogna has denied this, telling io9, “I don’t greet people that way.”

In 2014 professional cosplayer Diana (not her real name) attended what she believed was a post-convention group dinner for con guests; however, when she arrived she found it was a private dinner with Mignogna. After dinner, Mignogna walked with her to a parking area. She claims he proceeded to grab and kiss her aggressively—without her consent—before inviting her to his hotel room. Diana said she refused, reminding him that she had a partner and knew he was engaged (at the time). She proceeded to walk away to meet with friends at a nearby hotel, one that Mignogna was also staying at. He followed.

“He’s sticking next to me the whole way there. He’s trying to convince me to come into his room and spend the night with him, saying ‘It’s so hard to find someone who understands the industry and lifestyle,’ saying he’d rock my world,” she told io9. “We ended up outside of his door, and I was continuing to walk not realizing it was his room, when he stopped and was like, ‘This is my room, let’s go.’”

She didn’t go.

Mignogna acknowledged this event happened but said he remembered it “very differently.” He said the two of them went out to a private dinner, after which they “mutually and consensually” kissed, and he invited her to his room. According to Mignogna, Diana responded that she wanted to, but “shouldn’t since we were both involved with someone else at the time,” after which they parted ways. Diana denied Mignogna’s version of events, saying “it wasn’t nearly as simple as he makes it seem—telling him we were both taken was not the end of it.”

Most of Mignogna’s responses to these women’s stories included some mention of how, from his viewpoint, the women seemed fine with their interactions—and even acted friendly toward him later. He mentioned that he and Diana “flirted quite a bit both times” they saw each other and noted how both Gretchen and Rachel were cordial or friendly with him during their interactions after the events took place. All three of them rejected this notion as being proof that they weren’t upset with Mignogna for his behavior.

“I have seen him a handful of times since, always in public or work settings. He is mistaking my ‘friendliness’ for professionalism,” Gretchen said. “Vic can try to justify his actions any way he likes, but it still doesn’t make them any less inappropriate or invasive. The man has no boundaries.”

It’s easy to find proof of Mignogna’s physical closeness with fans, especially female fans. There are countless photos available online—including through the hashtags #KickVic, which has shared accusations against the voice actor, and #IStandWithVic, which later emerged as a show of support. The photos show him hugging people, holding them in his arms, pressing his face against theirs, kissing them on the cheek. Some fans remark on their experiences with Mignogna positively and have been sharing their photos and stories in support of him. Others call their encounters with him uncomfortable and nonconsensual.

Former fan Viola Hewak told io9 that at a con in 2011, when she was 16 years old, she went to get an autograph from Mignogna—a common convention activity that fans sometimes pay for—when he unexpectedly got up and said, “I’m going to hug you!” Hewak told io9 he pulled her into an embrace, his hands sliding up and down her back and sides, and wouldn’t let go when she tried to pull away. At a 2013 con autograph signing, another former fan named Michelle Light said he kissed her intensely on the cheek right as their photo was being taken, without asking for permission first, and added that if she hadn’t moved her head she thinks he would’ve reached her mouth.

Con-goer Kelly, who asked her last name be withheld, described to io9 what happened at an anime con in 2014 when she went to get Mignogna’s autograph for a friend of hers. She wasn’t a fan, though she was familiar with his work.

“I regrettably asked for a pic with him as a way to show my friend, ‘Hey, guess who I’m with.’ After the pic, I joked, ‘Well my friend’s gonna be angry’ and then he said, ‘Oh, let’s make her really angry,’” Kelly said. “He grabbed me into a tight embrace against his body, both arms. And it wasn’t just a light peck on cheek, it was a big kiss. I remember when he did it, I felt frozen for a second, and then felt my face turning really red in embarrassment.”

Convention staffers also discussed their own Mignogna interactions with io9. Two people who’ve worked at Phoenix Comicon (now Phoenix FanFusion) shared how staffers would sometimes alert coworkers over the radio when a certain person was entering an area. One of them described it being used for Mignogna, to make sure a particular 19-year-old female staffer wasn’t in the area. She called it “Code Vic.”

Vic Mignogna at the 2016 Webby Awards.
Vic Mignogna at the 2016 Webby Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Mignogna’s contact with fans isn’t limited to autograph lines and panels. Over the past several years, especially following the success of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2004, Mignogna has cultivated a devoted fanbase online. Most notably, it’s been through the Risembool Rangers, an official Vic Mignogna fan group that was started in 2005 and is currently managed by Mignogna’s mother, Barb Myers, who goes by the name “Matriarch” when she addresses the group. Most of the group’s activity is on a Discord chat, which is a private text and voice chat primarily for gamers, so io9 can’t independently confirm the current membership numbers. But there is an official Facebook page with about 5,500 subscribers, as well as a closed Facebook group for the Risembool Rangers with nearly 1,600 members.

One former Risembool Rangers member, Dave (not his real name), joined the group back in 2009 when he was around 11 years old. Dave described the group as “absolutely rabid,” ready to defend the voice actor against any criticism. Still, he stayed because he was a big fan of Mignogna and an aspiring voice actor. He left the group shortly after meeting Mignogna, saying he no longer considered himself a fan after their encounter. While taking a photo together at a convention in 2012, Dave said Mignogna unexpectedly grabbed him around the waist, pulled him close, and asked if he had a boyfriend. At the time, Dave was 14 years old and presented as a young woman.

“I felt violated and invalidated by my idol,” he said. “I wish that I could take it away from my memory because I can’t hear that guy’s voice without thinking about how I was a grossed-out 14-year-old kid...I love anime, and I legitimately cannot watch dubs with his voice in them.”

According to former members io9 talked to, the Risembool Rangers lean toward the younger side and are sometimes underage. Mignogna communicates with his fans through email and has given out his phone number for fans to get in touch with him. He’s held Q&A sessions with members through the private Discord chat, and attends con parties hosted by the fan club—which have included events like a 2007 Twister competition, judged by Mignogna himself, where he (dressed in a Star Wars uniform) can be seen “signing” his name on a few young women’s lower backs as they’re playing.

A January 2019 chat, shared on the group’s Facebook page, showed Mignogna denying the allegations against him, suggesting it could be connected to the recent Dragon Ball Super: Broly release, and requesting members share positive stories about him online. Since then, at least eight people io9 talked to said they’ve faced online harassment for either sharing their stories or for stating online that they support the victims.

The harassment has included pizzas being sent to a former workplace, the receiving of death threats, and a fake Twitter account being created in the name of one individual. Mignogna initially spoke out on Twitter on February 8 to condemn harassment of people criticizing him. But an email shared with io9 also showed Mignogna, three days later, privately telling a fan how a certain voice actor had “turned to [be] hateful toward me.” Mignogna mentioned that person by name.

In summer 2018, as preparations were being made to record the dubbed vocals for Dragon Ball Super: Broly, two people connected to the project met with Funimation executives to suggest Mignogna be recast due to some improper conduct allegations making the rounds in the voice acting community, according to someone present at the meeting. This person, who asked not to be named, said that Funimation later told them the company was conducting an investigation into Mignogna’s conduct—but it was inconclusive, so Mignogna was kept on the project. io9 reached out to Funimation for comment on this report, and the company referred us back to its original statement:

Following an investigation, Funimation recast Vic Mignogna in Morose Mononokean Season 2. Funimation will not be engaging Mignogna in future productions.

Mignogna told io9 that, until recently, he’s “hugged everyone who comes to my autograph sessions,” saying it’s a common activity for voice actors. But he said that he’s learned he has to change this. And over the past few weeks, Mignogna has seemingly adjusted his public behavior—at least at conventions. He appeared at Bak-Anime 2019 in early February, one of the only conventions he’s scheduled to attend this year after a majority rescinded their invitations. Voice actor Neil Kaplan, who was also a guest at the show, said he didn’t see Mignogna touching any guests during his autograph signing. He mostly stayed behind his table. There are also videos of Mignogna from his panels at that con, showing him tearfully apologizing for recent events, saying he got “lazy” about interpreting whether fans wanted him to hug them. But several of the people io9 talked to said it’s time for him to be out of the voice acting industry.

Voice actors and other professionals have been speaking up online, including McGonnigal, Dragon Ball co-star Monica Rial, and voice actor Neil Kaplan—all of whom confirmed to io9 that Mignogna’s behavior is a problem. Specht, Mignogna’s ex-fiancée, also released a statement to io9. In her statement, she said she was not aware that he was pursuing other women during their relationship, and that she supports the people coming forward with their stories about Mignogna’s behavior:

My 12-year relationship [and] engagement to Vic Mignogna ended in May 2018. Very soon after, information about Vic’s previously unknown behavior began to surface, and has continued to do so over the last several months—each revelation more shocking and painful than the previous, spanning the entirety of our time together. I have had to face the reality that the loving, monogamous relationship I believed in and was devoted to never existed.

This pattern of egregious behavior is so linked to his position of power that the voices of those stepping forward with allegations need to be heard clearly, and their claims taken with the utmost seriousness. And I extend whatever remains of my broken heart to every one of them.

Last summer, Mignogna went into a studio and told a small group of people that silence gives consent. It may have been in response to a query about his performance, but voice director Donald Shults told io9 that it eventually became something else. When others in the room tried to push back, including Shults saying that the phrase doesn’t reflect today’s values, Mignogna didn’t drop the subject. He clarified.

“If I’m a jerk and you don’t tell me so, then you’re consenting to me being a jerk. See how that works?” he said. “If somebody is doing something you don’t approve of and you don’t say anything...the implication is that you must be okay with it.”

They’re not silent anymore.