There’s a lot of talk about Anime Matsuri recently in light of the convention’s recent attempt to silence a blogger for speaking out against sexual harassment which has prompted calls to boycott the convention. Although my interaction with the organizers or Anime Matsuri has not been nearly as dreadful as those reported by others in he last few years, I haven’t previously shared the full story in one place. I’m doing that now.
On November 6, 2006, I was invited by John Leigh to host “Whose Line is it Anime” at Anime Matsuri. “Whose Line is it Anime” was an improv game obviously based on the Whose Line is it Anyway TV series. I had run the event 15 times at various conventions by the end of 2006. (I have since renamed it “Anime Unscripted” and run it more than 50 times at many conventions in five different time zones.)
I was living in Boston at the time. Anime Matsuri is in Houston, Texas and so I agreed to attend the convention to run the event (as well as other panels) if they covered my travel expenses. I didn’t hear back.
On December 13th, I looked at their web site and discovered that they had “Whose Line is it Anime” listed on their panel list. The description said that it was being run by “The Chibi Project” (one of my web sites), so it was obviously my event and not someone else’s event with the same name. (This is one of the reasons I renamed the event later.) I e-mailed John Leigh again asking if I was going to Anime Matsuri.
John replied to confirm I was indeed coming and asked if I had any questions. I asked if I would be a guest or just running some events, for confirmation that they would cover my airfare and hotel expenses, if he needed a description for my event, and if he would like me to run any other events.
After posting on their forums and e-mailing again on January 10th, I finally heard back on February 1st. They agreed to cover my airfare if I would cover my hotel. He said they had “so many Japanese guests that we are short of rooms on the company account.” He also asked me to send a description for “Whose Line is it Anime”.
I replied with the description for “Whose Line is it Anime” (which had been renamed to “Anime Unscripted” by this point) and asked if he would be booking the airline tickets or if I should and get reimbursed. I also asked again if he wanted me to run any other events.
On March 9th, I re-asked my questions and asked for the “Whose Line is it Anime” description to be updated. Around this time, I also realized that he never mentioned a badge for the convention. Rather than assume I’d be given one, I decided to play it safe and apply for a press pass for myself and for a friend who might join me there. I sent in this press pass request on March 9th as well.
John replied on March 12th saying I would be given 2 media passes, but still hadn’t replied to my e-mail with questions about travel, running other events, and my event description.
I e-mailed again on March 14th with the same questions and finally got a reply that same day saying, “I’ll get back to you with all the answers in a couple of days.” He did say they’d book the airline ticket for me for April 26th through 30th and asked which airport I’d be flying out of. He promised to update the site with the new panel information. I replied less than 20 minutes later with my closest airport. Things were looking up! With the dates of travel, I could now book my hotel room and request time off from work.
On March 21st, I booked my hotel for the necessary nights and the final hotel bill would come to $650.52 for the weekend. Ouch.
On April 5th, three weeks after I last heard from him and about 3 weeks before the convention, I e-mailed John to check on my flight information to see if it had been booked.
I e-mailed again a week later.
I e-mailed again on April 17th, less than two weeks from the con asking if there was a problem.
On Monday, April 22nd, after returning from Anime Boston, I let them know that if I didn’t hear back by noon Tuesday (two days before they said I would be flying out), I would have no choice but to cancel my hotel. I didn’t want to get charged for it if I’m not actually going.
At 5:30pm EDT on April 24th, I cancelled my hotel. (As a side note, I no longer pay for my own hotel if a convention wants me to come in and run events. I’ve learned my lesson.)
I was looking forward to visiting Texas for the first time and entertaining everyone. I found my experience in dealing with their staff to be quite frustrating. I posted on their forums and the AnimeCons.com Forums to let people know the event would not be happening and why. I still got nothing but silence from their end.
After learning about being stood up, I was invited to San Japan as a guest in 2008 and finally got to visit Texas for the first time. I enjoyed the convention very much, met some wonderful people, and had fun running some panels and events while I was there.
I didn’t hear from anyone from Anime Matsuri again until more than a year later. They finally apologized by way of a couple lines added to the bottom of a public forum post.
John and Deneice Leigh have invited me to their 2009 and 2012 conventions. Even if the dates hadn’t conflicted with prior commitments, I have had no interest in attending because of the way I was constantly ignored in 2007. I understand that first year conventions have issues, but they had been given ample opportunity to not only correct the issue after receiving one of my many e-mails, but they could have apologized soon after the event.
I might have gotten over it, but in the years that followed I heard some unfortunate stories from trustworthy friends who had been guests of the convention. Also, there were other friends were asked to cancel their confirmed guest appearances at a convention that I co-founded in favor of attending Anime Matsuri. With this behavior, the Leighs have guaranteed that Anime Matsuri is a convention that I will never attend. …and that was long before the convention started making headlines for other reasons!
I’m not posting this because I want an apology or any response from anyone associated with the convention. At this point, I’d prefer no response at all. I’m posting this because I wanted this to be presented in a complete and accurate article rather than scattered over various forum and LiveJournal posts as it had been previously.