An Ongoing Battle

For many, January 5 was just another Friday. For Tyler, though, it was the start of the latest chapter in an ongoing battle between her and Anime Matsuri Director John Leigh.

Tyler is a YouTuber, who hosts an irregular news program, titled Last Week Lolita News on her “ScarfingScarves” channel. The shows themselves see Tyler dressed to the nines in lolita dresses, as she delivers the news with a quick wit and a biting sense of snark. She takes no prisoners in her commentary, and is quick to swat down the most garish of fashions as “sentient wallpaper”, “Dickey-ass nightmares,” or similar.

Tyler’s rapid-fire, fiery style has garnered a following, which sees about 10,000 viewers tuning in for each episode.

“Last Week Lolita News” host Tyler

On December 10, 2017, Last Week Lolita News delved into the topic of YouTube personality Cathy Cat, who recently entered into a partnership with Houston’s Shop on Wonderland and Putumayo designer Shunsuke Hasegawa.

“What this Cathy Cat post is primarily promoting,” Tyler explains in the video (below), “is a collaboration between Houston, TX based Shop in Wonderland and a designer from the Japanese fashion brand Putumayo.” She notes that the news hit Lolita-centric chat room RuffleChat “with the rage of a thousand rustled petties,” due to Shop in Wonderland owners and Anime Matsuri founders John and Deneice Leigh. The remainder of the video dives into a ten-minute analysis of previous allegations of professional and sexual misconduct.

(Note: Due to strong language and subject matter, the above video, as well as the two linked are explicitly not safe for work.)

I should note that this isn’t the first time that Tyler has touched upon the issue. The YouTuber first talked in-depth about Leigh and Anime Matsuri in a pair of videos in 2016, which garnered a collective 13,004 views, as of the time of writing.

In both cases, Tyler cited reports that had previously been published across the web. Specifically, the video focused on a pair of stories from weekly paper The Houston Press, a Comics Beat article, and several Tumblr posts. Tyler’s commentary was supplemented with screenshots of social media conversations with Leigh, which had been posted to various social media platforms.

Not long after the video went live, Tyler received a copyright strike on it by YouTube channel Ask Japanese, who employs Cathy Cat, triggering an immediate takedown.

Copyright strikes are basically YouTube’s automated answer to retain “safe harbor” protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When a YouTuber receives three strikes, it is, in effect, a ban from the platform. The user’s account, along with associated channels, become subject to termination, all videos are removed from YouTube, and the user becomes unable to create new channels.

Though the strike was reversed, a copyright strike can be a harrowing experience for a YouTube personality.

On January 5, though, this ongoing dispute took a new turn. Tyler received a cease-and-desist notice from Houston-based law firm Vy-Vivian Nguyen, PLLC.

“I have been retained by my clients for behavior I believe is harassing, illegal and defaming, including posting slanderous videos to YouTube and other sites targeting my Clients,” the letter states, “[…] if this behavior does not cease, I will be bringing civil charges against you and seek criminal sanctions with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.”

The notice ends with a demand to remove all videos from YouTube regarding Anime Matsuri, Shop in Wonderland, and owners John and Deneice Leigh, in addition to issuing a public apology.

This battle continues to go on, even today. On January 21, Tyler received another takedown notice, this time from Anime Matsuri, itself.

“Regarding the use of their “trademarked logos,” Tyler noted in a comment, “everything I’ve said or used was covered under Fair Use.“

Allegations of Certain Nature

All three of Tyler’s videos reference a set of three articles as a baseline of information. Two from The Houston Press, and one from Comics Beat.

The first Houston Press article, published in September 2015, details several financial controversies surrounding John Leigh, his wife Deneice, and the Anime Matsuri convention.

The second Houston Press piece, as well as the Comics Beat article were more damning. Both outlets spoke with various women, who described numerous interactions with Anime Matsuri’s John Leigh. The people interviewed argue that Leigh used his position at the convention as leverage, as they recounted increasingly vulgar interactions with him.

In both write-ups, the interviewees offered accounts of their experiences of Leigh hurling crude jokes, asking for nude photos, and far more egregious acts.

One particular case saw Leigh asking a female convention volunteer known as “Samantha” when she had her last orgasm. Another, Leigh invited a Lolita model for a photoshoot. He would later inform the girl when she arrived that it was a video shoot, and request that she simulate oral sex.

Alongside the articles, The Houston Press published what it claimed were screenshots of the interactions.

Nina “Choklate” Rejinders, who runs German wig shop Lockshop, also shared her experiences with Leigh on her blog, Assorted Chokelates. In a post, titled “My Experience with Anime Matsuri and John Leigh,” Rejinders highlighted an evening in London, which started as a dinner with a friend that devolved into vulgarity.

“In the beginning he seemed nice and relatively professional,” she began, “after not too long the inappropriate “jokes” started.” Reijinders admitted that she didn’t think too much about things in the beginning, “[…] I thought it was maybe me who was being weird about things.”

On their first in-person meeting, Reijinders noted, “…he visited Europe and invited me to travel with him and his family to London and have a trip to Disneyland Paris (all expenses paid).” She stated that she declined the Disneyland trip, and paid her way for the London trip.

She added that during dinner with Leigh and a friend of his, “the sexual jokes and comments started to increase.” Her blog post notes that Leigh told stories of “someone from [company and name removed] sucking his dick for favors and to get models in the AM show to wear their wigs and disgusting stories like that.“

Moreover, not all of the people that spoke out against Leigh were women. Some were teen girls.

In an anonymous Tumblr post, one self-described “sophomore in high school” shared a text to John’s wife, Deneice. In it, the girl explained that she was a former patron of Planet Zero, and a former volunteer at Anime Matsuri.

In the exchange, the student explained that Leigh began to flirt and touch her inappropriately. She alleged that this escalated to explicit late-night texts, which got to the point that she was uncomfortable attending the convention any longer.

Through the entire period, Leigh did not deny these allegations. Instead, he leaned in as he made attempts to justify and excuse his behavior on numerous forums. In a blog post (now deleted) titled “A man in a woman’s world. Pt1”, Leigh tried to justify his behavior, arguing 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.”

In the piece, Leigh argued that the previously-detailed conversation with “Stephanie” (pictured below), in which he asked the girl when she last had an orgasm, was “taken out of context,” as was a conversation with Rejinders, in which he stated he was thinking of her “not in a good way” while at Victoria’s Secret.

Image Credit: Blog Today, Blog Tomorrow

A day later, Leigh took to Facebook, stating that he had deleted the post. In his announcement, Leigh noted that “I also understand an apology means little without positive action, so I have decided to take a course on Sexual Harassment to be more aware of this serious problem and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

A boycott movement that had been active at the time slowly died down, and the issue was thought to have faded into the ether of collective unconsciousness.

The Ghosts of the Past

As an old friend used to say, “nothing brings light to the truth like someone trying to bury it.” And, to be honest, these allegations, these experiences, were thought to be dead and buried by many.

By filing a Cease and Desist in an attempt to hide the truth, Leigh has only shone a brighter light upon these issues that had basically faded into obscurity.

In a post #MeToo world, dredging up ghosts of this nature from the past is simply baffling. People are placing a justified emphasis on sexual misconduct, as women finally come forward, eschewing their silence in an attempt to bring about significant changes.

Moreover, while discussing this specific incident in her video, Tyler labels Leigh an “alleged pedophile” as she highlights the allegations from the anonymous schoolgirl’s Tumblr post. “Pedophile” has always been a powerful term, conjuring a specific, often horrific image in the minds of many. And, in this day and age, when a senatorial candidate faced allegations from numerous former teen victims, it’s one that has become particularly relevant in our society at large.

Had this letter not gone out, this story would have remained firmly in the back of the minds of many. ScarfingScarves’ video would hit its 10,000 viewers, and, while there would be anger from Tyler’s followers, business likely would have continued as uninterrupted… especially when one considers that Tyler previously covered this topic twice beforehand.

By punching down and making attempts to silence a critic, though, Leigh has brought the spotlight upon himself once again.

We’ve reached out to Leigh regarding the cease-and desist, who framed the takedown as an issue of Anime Matsuri guest safety.

“Three years ago I made some insensitive jokes that were taken out of context,” he explained in a statement, “I had no ill intentions but I hurt some ladies and we ended up in a Houston Press article. I sincerely apologized and took steps to prevent any future recurrences and since the incidents, three years ago, it never happened again. I want to re-emphasize that I am genuinely sorry for the comments I have said in the past to those whom have been affected.”

“Since the incidents,” he continued, “we have been attacked through slander videos by a Youtuber called Tyler. Until now, we did not comment or engage. Recently, she decided to also attack, and do a call-to-action for others to attack as well, our Guests.”

We were able to identify a call-to-action in video “Ask Japanese Can Kiss My Ask LWLN 12 17 2017,” in which Tyler published the public business email for “Ask Japanese,” and stated “You can express your seasonal spirit at this email address to your heart’s content. Flood their inbox with a Ho-Ho-Hellstorm of cold, hard truth.”

That said, we were unable to find anything resembling call-to-action to contact Cathy Cat in any of Tyler’s videos. Many of the public comments we were able to identify explicitly condemned attacks on the personality.

“In most cases the Guests would forward the cyber-bullying messages and emails to us,” Leigh noted, ”[H]owever in the case of one particular Guest, Cathy Cat, a Youtuber who resides in Japan, the attacks had a profound effect on her.” He continued, stating that “Tyler’s video caused people to contact Cathy Cat’s employer with similar defamation messages, among other malicious acts, and Cathy Cat became physically ill as a result. This is unacceptable and tantamount to cyber-bullying.”

Tyler responded to Leigh’s comments, stating “I have roughly [7,000] subscribers. Cathy Cat has [45,000], Ask Japanese has [160,000], and John Leigh of Anime Matsuri is behind one of the top ten anime conventions in the entire country. He claims I am a bully. They’ve issued three false DMCA Takedowns, nearly shut down my Youtube channel, and threatened me with a lawsuit. They’ve tried to censor me, strong-arm me into silence, and demand a public apology. Those are bullying tactics.”

Leigh brought up a recent business meeting with Cathy Cat, adding “I met with [Cathy Cat] to discuss future engagements at Anime Matsuri and to make sure she was ok. When I met her, she was pale. She told me she had not eaten for [three] days and hardly slept. Cathy’s employer, a company called Ask Japanese, attempted to take down the videos in a way to protect her but that worked only temporarily.”

“After consulting with legal, our attorney sent out a Cease-and-Desist letter to Tyler and reported one of the videos, which Youtube has since taken down.” He added that “[w]e want a peaceful resolution; however we will do everything in our power to protect our Guests from these kinds of attacks.”

Tyler, meanwhile, remains confident in light of the order. “My videos pertaining to this situation are meant to protect this community from the types of people who think they can trample all over us,” she commented, “The cease and desist is an effort to tape our mouths shut, and this type of bullying tactic is not the type of behavior that should be acceptable for someone who thinks to be an active representative of this fashion.”

Sources:

In the interest of fairness to both parties, we have reproduced both of their statements in full below.

Tyler

Received 1/9/2018:

My videos pertaining to this situation are meant to protect this community from the types of people who think they can trample all over us. The cease and desist is an effort to tape our mouths shut, and this type of bullying tactic is not the type of behavior that should be acceptable for someone who thinks to be an active representative of this fashion.”

Received: 1/24/2018:

Regarding the use of their “trademarked logos”: Everything I’ve said or used was covered under Fair Use.

I have roughly 7k subscribers. Cathy Cat has 45k, Ask Japanese has 160k, and John Leigh of Anime Matsuri is behind one of the top ten anime conventions in the entire country. He claims I am a bully. They’ve issued three false DMCA Takedowns, nearly shut down my Youtube channel, and threatened me with a lawsuit. They’ve tried to censor me, strong-arm me into silence, and demand a public apology. Those are bullying tactics.

John Leigh

Received: 1/22/2018:

Three years ago I made some insensitive jokes that were taken out of context.

I had no ill intentions but I hurt some ladies and we ended up in a Houston Press article. I sincerely apologized and took steps to prevent any future recurrences and since the incidents, three years ago, it never happened again.

I want to re-emphasize that I am genuinely sorry for the comments I have said in the past to those whom have been affected.

Since the incidents, we have been attacked through slander videos by a Youtuber called Tyler . Until now, we did not comment or engage.

Recently, she decided to also attack, and do a call-to-action for others to attack as well, our Guests. In most cases the Guests would forward the cyber-bullying messages and emails to us; however in the case of one particular Guest, Cathy Cat, a Youtuber who resides in Japan, the attacks had a profound effect on her. Tyler’s video caused people to contact Cathy Cat’s employer with similar defamation messages, among other malicious acts, and Cathy Cat became physically ill as a result. This is unacceptable and tantamount to cyber-bullying.

During my last business trip to Tokyo, I met with her to discuss future engagements at Anime Matsuri and to make sure she was ok. When I met her, she was pale. She told me she had not eaten for 3 days and hardly slept.

Cathy’s employer, a company called Ask Japanese, attempted to take down the videos in a way to protect her but that worked only temporarily.

After consulting with legal, our attorney sent out a Cease-and-Desist letter to Tyler and reported one of the videos, which Youtube has since taken down. We want a peaceful resolution; however we will do everything in our power to protect our Guests from these kinds of attacks. You can watch Cathy Cat discussing what she went through and how she copped with the cyber-bullying here: https://youtu.be/n3_v3d1wUw8


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