Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia quickly took the world by storm following its 2016 release, and its 2018 English dub has since been praised for its strong cast and faithful translation. The hit anime series is set for its second big screen release later this month with My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, which places the students of Class 1-A on a small island to try their hand at being full-time heroes, unsupervised by pros, where they are met with a mysterious new villain known as Nine (portrayed by veteran dub voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch).
I recently sat down with the English cast of the film to chat about their characters, the film, and the My Hero Academia phenomenon.
Shifting the Spotlight
Sean Aitchison: To start with, Deku, Bakugo and Todoroki are usually at the center of the spotlight, does this film let other members of Class 1-A shine?
Luci Christian (Ochaco Uraraka): She [Ochaco] does. In fact, that was one of my biggest thrills about recording this particular movie, there were a couple of moments where I was like “[gasps] She can do that?! I didn’t know she could do that yet!” That to me is why I prefer this film over the first one, I feel like you get to see a lot more people shine like that. Everybody has a moment, and it’s really fun, it’s cool to see.
Kyle Phillips (Denki Kaminari): It’s pretty good, because when Kaminari shines, that usually means he overuses his quirk and goes into derp mode, as we call it, and derp mode is the best. So he does go derp a little bit here and it’s pretty great.
SA: Speaking of Kaminari, what’s the key to portraying the character when his brain is fried?
KP: Ooh, so when we first established that, me and Colleen [Clinkenbeard, ADR director of My Hero Academia and English voice of Momo Yaoyorozu] went back and forth just doing really dumb-sounding noises, it was a really great process and then basically I just do this [thumbs up, eyes droopy] “Uh-huuuuh,” and then you get the derp voice, it’s pretty great.
The Hero Trio
SA: What is the key to portraying Shoto’s denser, awkward moments?
David Matranda (Shoto Todoroki): The key is innocence. I think when someone suffers trauma like he did as a child, you go inside yourself and you don’t always fully grow at the same rate as maybe someone who didn’t suffer trauma. It’s innocence — I have to remember that he really is innocent inside.
He doesn’t have a tone of world experience, he was sheltered and trained in a certain way and doesn’t know how to do it. Somebody, I think Colleen compared him to Drax in the Marvel movies, because he takes everything very literally and it can be hilarious, he just misses the social cue. So yeah, the key, what I have to lock into that is remember there’s an innocence there, that’s where it comes from.
SA: Conversely, Clifford, what is the key to capturing Bakugo’s trash fire energy and personality?
Clifford Chapin (Katsuki Bakugo): Without getting into it too much, in the first few years, I actually had a lot of sad times and/or bad things happen — so I was dealing with a lot and Bakugo was actually very therapeutic in the first few seasons, because I just had a lot of emotions that I had to let out; so much so that when we got to season 3, it was the first season we were doing where nothing bad happened [to me] right before it, and I was like “Man, am I gonna be able to bring the rage?” I was finally in a good place and fortunately I manage to do it still — especially season 3.
But now I’ve lived with that character for so long that there are these moments where Colleen has even said, when we were recording this movie, “Man, I never have to tell you how to say a thing as Bakugo.” She’s like, “You’ve lived with Bakugo so much that you immediately know exactly the way that he’s gonna say something.” As long as I have the context of the scene and why I’m saying the thing, that might change the inflections, but really that’s always it, is that Bakugo is just such a part of me now, that I can always tap into him in that [recording] moment.
SA: And for you Justin, opposite question, what is the key to portraying a good Deku cry?
Justin Briner (Izuku “Deku” Midoriya): Ah, the Deku Cry [laughs]. So early on when I was first starting with voiceovers, a mentor of mine brought me in to do a big, kind of similar scream-cry thing. And he told me “Don’t think of this like screaming, think of it and support it the same way you would if you were singing.” So any time I’m crying as Deku, imagine me singing very badly and loudly and that’s where the magic happens.
Deku and Bakugo: the New Goku and Vegeta?
SA: Have you two formed something of a rivalry due to the rivalry of your characters?
JB: I think it’s brought us closer!
CC: I think it has, to be honest. Justin and I have been friends for a long time — we’ve worked together professionally, I’ve directed him on numerous things now, we’ve always gotten along and if anything, if there’s anything even close to it [a rivalry], it’s that I know if I’m in a scene with Justin, I wanna really go at my absolute best all the time, because I know Justin is gonna come in and do his absolute best. And so, if anything I feel like maybe, [To Justin] and stop me if I’m speaking for you, but I feel like that’s where we push each other; Justin inspires me to perform stronger and better, and I would hope that I do the same for him.
JB: Precisely the same!
SA: So still kind of like an anime rivalry.
JB: Yeah, yeah kinda!
CC: Except we’ll go and get dinner [laughs].
JB: Right, right [laughs]!
SA: If you could switch places with any other VA and play their character, but just for this movie, who would it be and why?
CC: Nine. I think I’d switch with Johnny [Yong Bosch], cause Nine has some big yelling, but a lot of his stuff is very calm, he’s very controlled in his scenes, and I think it would be cool to just step in and be the villain.
JB: Probably Bakugo — you know, cut loose for once!
SA: Without spoiling too much, what are some big Deku and Bakugo character moments to look forward to in this movie?
JB: Ooh, you get to see Deku and Ka-Chan work together in a meaningful way for the first time. They’re not butting heads, they’re working together and pushing each other and covering each other, so I think that’s great. To see all that history that they’ve had building up is amazing, and it turns out they are pretty good together.
SA: As two people who grew up being Dragon Ball Z fans, how does it feel to be what is basically the new Goku and Vegeta of this generation?
CC: It’s mind blowing.
CC: It’s just incredible. It’s one of those things, there are those [anime] rivalries that stand out, right? It’s Goku and Vegeta, it’s Naruto and Sasuke, and now it’s Deku and Bakugo — it’s kind of like the next one. And it’s insane to have just been a normal kid — I went to a normal high school, had a normal public school upbringing and whatever — to getting to be this thing that’s a symbol. It’s so funny that this show has this thing about “The Symbol of Peace” and what these characters mean in the world that they inhabit. But what it means to us in our world is very similar, they represent so much to the audience and whatnot. It’s great, it’s mind-bending.
SA: The premise of this film is that Class 1-A is left on a small island to be unsupervised heroes. What’s the most interesting part of your character’s place in this setup?
JB: I think what is really interesting about this movie and the characters that get introduced is that the children that you meet, the brother and sister [Mahoro and Katsuma] are a very close analog to the sort of relationship that Deku and Bakugo had once. And it even sort of shows in how they think about heroes and defeating villains — so I like that this new new generation gets to see the fruits of our [Class 1-A] labor and be inspired and say, “Well, there isn’t exactly one way to go about this. There are many different motivations that can lead you to that same place of heroism.”
CC: On my end of stuff, for what they [Class 1-A] are at Nabu island for, what’s really funny about it to me, or entertaining to me, is that Bakugo doesn’t wanna do any of the mundane stuff. Like, they’re all going out and patrolling, helping people get cats out of trees, starting up tractors and stuff like that and Bakugo is just like “Nope, I’m staying here, I’m reading this book,” and “I’ll answer the phone,” like he doesn’t want to deal with it, because he doesn’t want to handle that.
And it [mundane heroics], admittedly, is probably not what he’d be good at. He’s good at combat, so when the villains really show up and the fights are going down, the first few people get defeated, there’s talk of “We need to detain this guy,” or “We need to get this guy over here, or help the people,” and Bakugo leaves and everybody goes, “Where are you going?” and he goes, “I’m gonna go fight the big guy, you guys handle that!” because that’s what Bakugo’s good at! So that’s what’s so entertaining about it to me, that even in this new setting where they’re doing these new things, the characters are still so themselves.