Anime stars like Sean Schemmel are now caught up up in a new scandal. Leaked audio recordings of the popular Funimation anime series Dragon Ball, show the stars making lewd and offensive jokes.
The entertainment world has gone through an upheaval (or cleanse) during the last 2 years with the #MeToo movement and awareness about historically oppressed demographics. The ideals of that movement continue into the Anime industry. And it seems like voice actors must answer for their inappropriate actions.
This new scandal from Funimation highlights the growing problems that aren’t limited to the entertainment industry. The problematic issues cross over into the voice acting community and convention etiquette as well. And an overall discussion on where the line is when it comes to fan culture and holding people accountable.
The Latest Scandal From Funimation and Dragon Ball
What initiates this new debate is the scandal that Funimation is currently facing. Funimation is an anime studio, behind many popular Anime such as Dragon Ball and My Hero Academia. Owned by Sony Pictures, they have made a huge mark on the current anime entertainment landscape.
The newest scandals involve one such show, Dragon Ball. We previously highlighted the show in our Anime guide as one of the best, and most widely recognized Anime in the world.
The scandal consists of leaked audio during the English dubbing of the anime. The leak contains audio of various Dragon Ball’s English voice actors making homophobic, perverted and other rude comments, in character. This all happens, reportedly, as outtakes where the actors are goofing around. The lines of dialogue are Not Safe For Work (NSFW) and are highly inappropriate and vulgar. However, it seems like Funimation held on to the recorded audio for some unknown use in the future.
The voice actors involved are Sean Schemmel, famous for the voice of Goku in the English dubs. But many others also include the voice actors for the characters of Chi-Chi, Krillin, Yamcha and more.
The Leaked Audio Is Years Old And The Stars Might Have Already Addressed And Apologized
There is a lot to unpack from these Funimation leaks. While on the surface, it looks like a clear cut case of inappropriate behavior that warrants immediate action. However, there is a lot more to it.
Reports by many on social media put these recordings anywhere between 2002 to 2009. Which was during original run of Dragon Ball Z. These recordings seem to be from that run of the show. That’s at least 10 years ago.
Many con-goers also attest that the actors have previously addressed their actions, and apologized for their behavior.
I've been informed that:
-The leaked Funimation outtakes are from 2002
-This is far from the first time they've leaked
-The actors have already apologised numerous times for the stuff said in the audio whenever the audio has been brought up in the past at cons.
— Rob M. | Tokkan (@tokkanram) August 31, 2019
So why are these recordings, and this issue so much more prevalent this time around? Well, it seems to be the same thing that initially got James Gunn fired by Disney, and what caused Kevin Hart to refuse an opportunity to host the Oscars; offensive behavior from years ago resurfaced by others with ulterior motives.
But before we get into the inciting incident and background of these leaks, let me clarify: The why or how of these audio recordings leaking does not in any way excuse, condone or justify the actual behavior by these voice actors on tape. The jokes were lewd, inappropriate and most definitely offensive. It’s still uknown exactly what action Funimation studios or their partner, Toei Animation, creator of Dragon Ball take against these actors, if any.
However, context demands the full details of the scandal be reported to contribute to this discussion.
The Funimation Audio Leaked As Part Of An Ongoing Case Against The Studio
Nick Rekieta, a lawyer and popular Youtuber, revealed the leaked audio in question. Rekeita is famous for breaking down many legal disputes in the public eye on his YouTube channel and various other platforms. Most recently, the lawyer has been in the limelight for his exploits in the Anime industry. Most notably, over a case between Funimation studios and former voice actor Vic Mignogna. Mignogna was the voice actor for Broly, one of the more popular Dragon Ball characters.
And this is where we get context.
The Firing Of Vic Mignogna From Funimation
Funimation fired Vic Mignogna earlier this year based on reports of various forms of misconduct with other voice actors, as well as fans at conventions. The nuances of the incidents vary, but the accusations against Mignogna include inappropriate touching, hugging and kissing of underage and adult fans that he met at conventions. As well as direct sexual harassment of his co-actors. The incidents have been well documented, while Mignogna maintains the innocence behind his actions, and himself.
Currently, there is a legal back and forth happening between Funimation and Mignogna over these many nuances. Rekeita has been an ardent supporter of Mignogna, arguing that his actions, while possibly misconstrued, are not fireable offenses.
In an attempt to prove his case, during a YouTube live stream Rekeita released the leaked audio of the Dragon Ball recording sessions. Rekeita argued that, while Mignogna’s actions may have stepped over the line, they never violated his employment agreement and were not inherently wrong. Whereas, Funimation completedly ignored all the inappropriate behavior by multiple voice actors during an official recording session, on company time, caught on tape.
Rekeita released the recordings to point out this double standard and hypocrisy. He also maintains that he obtained the audio legally, and has only distributed them in a journalistic capacity to report on the news.
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
The Actual Debate May Not See Any Impact
The scandal with the leaked audio has happened as retaliation to the current dispute with Mignogna. However, it opens the door for a conversation about the state of the anime industry. These incidents of inappropriate humor, jokes between takes of recording sessions, and even toxic behavior by voice actors are nothing new. Many reactions to these recordings are indifference or shoulder shrugging, due to knowledge of this beforehand. This is very much like the #MeToo movement where outrage by some about the ‘news’ of someone accused of predatory behavior seemed like an open secret.
Vic Mignogna’s behavior, intense physical contact in public with con-goers and giving out his cell phone number may all seem creepy and inappropriate. However, the actor maintains his innocence, despite his career being negatively affected due to it. And, while these audio leaks are only a few days old as of this writing, the full impact is yet unknown.
IGN reached out to Funimation, who has declined to comment. Popular voice actors like Sean Schemmel and Chris Sabat have been silent on their social media thus far. This is on the eve of the release of a major Dragon Ball game, Kakarot. Despite repercussions, it might be too late to redo the voices by these actors in time for release.
Social media reactions already vary from finding the offensive audio as hilarous, to others calling for the same treatment of Schemmel and others, as Mignogna.
#MeToo In The Anime Industry
Any fandom has toxicity. Hollywood is a prime example of that. Fan and industry conventions already have had issues of harassment and horror stories, that eventually launched the ‘Cosplay Is Not Consent’ movement. In Hollywood, the #MeToo movement saw deliberate and swift condemnations of the accused, which promoted many other victims to come forward.
Image via IMDb
And now, many are proclaiming this as possible being the spark that could see #MeToo in the voice acting community as well. But with voice actors in the anime industry, this might be difficult to accomplish. The direct interaction that voice actors engage in with fans gives studios a quantifiable measure of their audience. Mignogna himself has a fan club operated entirely by volunteers, most of whom are underage. Volunteers who put in many hours on top of a full-time job and school to support him and sell his products. This makes it that much more difficult to ‘cancel’ him, without losing the fanbase that comes with him to any show or movie he’s hired for. This is even more the case for the higher profile lead actors of franchises like Schemmel.
It’s still unclear if the case with Mignogna and Funimation will have any impact on this movement. As of this writing, there has been no news either yet on any repercussions of the leaked audio to the actors involved. Toei Animation has also not yet commented on this scandal or their future involvement with Funimation.
What did you think about the leak from Funimation? Let us know in the comments below.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.