With its mix of superhero action and wide diversity of relatable and / or quirky young characters (no pun intended), My Hero Academia is unquestionably one of the most high-profile anime series running today. This spring the show is back for a fifth season, one poised to profile the development of its young heroes against the backdrop of new adult “top heroes” working to protect society and fill the wide gap left empty by the retirement of paragon superhero All-Might. In advance of the season’s English dub premiere PopGeeks was privileged to interview the voice actors of the show’s leading young characters, Justin Briner (“Deku” / Izuku Midoriya) and Clifford Chapin (Bakugo), to discuss the upcoming season and the dubbing process in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fifth season of My Hero Academia began its simulcast with English subtitles on March 27, 2021 and the English “simuldub” premiered on Saturday, April 10 on the FunimationNow streaming service. New episodes of are scheduled to stream every Saturday morning at 5:30 AM. Starting on May 9th, 2021, the English dub of the season will also be broadcast Saturday evenings at 12:30 AM on Cartoon Network via Adult Swim‘s Toonami block.
PopGeeks:Leading off, I gather the dub for this season of My Hero Academia is starting on April 10th. Are you in the process of recording now?
Clifford Chapin: We have started recording. I assume that Justin, like me, has at least recorded the first episode of this season. But we’re not super far at the time of this interview.
PopGeeks:Typically with the simuldub schedule, how close to the wire do you guys get on doing these?
Clifford Chapin: That sort of varies from property to property. You know, in the past few years we were able to do the My Hero Academia episodes so they were coming out at the exact same time as the Japanese version. Unfortunately because of COVID and whatnot, we couldn’t pursue that schedule this year. But it kind of varies from show to show. Some are a little bit more ahead, some are closer to the wire.
Popgeeks: Going into this season, how do the two of you evaluate your characters compared to the beginning? Does that affect how you perform them now?
Justin Briner: Oh gosh yeah. Every season it seems like these characters are learning something about themselves, adding something to their tool belts. Especially off the heels of last season and the overhaul event with Deku, it feels like there’s a lot more at stake and more on the line. So I’m excited to see where it’s headed.
Clifford Chapin: Yeah and for me, Bakugo is sidelined through so much of season 4. It focused so much on the Overhaul arc, which Bakugo is not able to be a part of because of his [hero] licensing exam debacle back in season 3. So I’m just excited to see what he has developed in the time he’s been more outside of the spotlight. To see what he’s come up with and how he’s pushed himself further to become a better hero.
PopGeeks:So far do you two have a favorite moment or line that you’ve done in My Hero Academia?
Justin Briner: One I always go back to is in the sports festival, Deku vs. Todoroki. There’s a big line about how the Quirk that you have doesn’t define you. I think that’s a strong statement in a superhero society where you can be boiled down to what your power accomplishes. There’s been many great moments since, but that’s what I find myself revisiting.
Clifford Chapin: All of my favorite moments were recently superseded by the climax of the “Heroes Rising” film. I don’t want to go into too many spoilers on that because I know there’s still people getting to it, but the entire finale of that film is one of my favorite things that has ever happened in My Hero Academia. I had lines in that finale that I’ll probably never get to say again, because they were so situational to what happened in that scene.
PopGeeks:Do the two of you have a process where you get into character for Deku and Bakugo of My Hero Academia?
Clifford Chapin: *laughs* At this point for me personally, people always ask me “What do you do to get into character, what do you do to find Bakugo?” And it’s like, well this is year 5, so I go *clears throat* “all right, Bakugo” –
PopGeeks:“Rawr, I’m mad!”
Clifford Chapin: Yeah, it’s just – at this point, I’ve spent so much time with the character of Bakugo and interacting with fans and whatnot that I don’t really need to envelop myself in a process to find the character anymore. The character is just a part of me so I’m just like “all right, and here we go, we’re back into Bakugo now.”
Justin Briner: Pretty much that, yeah. Deku’s come such a long way but I’ve been there for each step, so I take that in stride. And sometimes Deku is just getting hyped about his friends, and I can tap into that pretty easily.
PopGeeks: Obviously we’ve all been living with this pandemic situation for the last year. How do you think that’s affected how you do this thing?
Justin Briner: It’s been a dramatic change for pretty much everyone. First of all, [there’s] figuring out what the duct tape solution was, and then figuring out the elegant solution throughout the year. Mostly I’m grateful that it’s even possible, that we live in a time where we have the technology and have a community to band together and make it happen. For me I don’t think it’ll ever be ideal, but nothing about this is. I’m just thankful the work has continued and that my friends continue to work, I think that’s the most I can ask for right now.
Clifford Chapin: It’s really made me appreciate the process a lot more. I was always someone who tried to be very appreciative and friendly to the engineers and everyone in the process. But to have to then go to home, there’s been so many different innovations in trying to get recording rolling from home. It made me really appreciate even more every little step and everything that everybody does in the process. It’s presented a lot of new opportunities and it’s lost some opportunities too, just because that’s the nature of it as we’re all learning and expanding. But if nothing else, it’s been an oddly exciting time to be on the cusp of what is essentially an industrial revolution for this career path. To see it headlined and to be a part of it is – it’s been exhausting, but it’s also been very exciting. One day Justin and I and all the of us will be the people telling the new actors “ah, but you weren’t there in the global pandemic of 2020!”
PopGeeks:Do you think this will herald lasting changes in the long term?
Clifford Chapin: I think there’s going to be a hybrid. I think we’ll see some innovation and some changes brought about because of it, because this has really expanded the market. You know in the old days it had to be that you had to be where the work was. And to some degree you still do, but nowadays it’s less important for you to be exactly where the gig is taking place. We’ve had a lot more people from Los Angeles get to do work for us here in Texas, and we in Texas have managed to do some work in other places as well a little bit. So it seems to have opened up this doorway, and hopefully that doorway stays unlocked. You know, hopefully we see that sort of opportunity expand and grow. But I do think that once we’re able to go back into the studio, the local people will go back to the studio. I don’t see any reason for “well, I can record it from home.” Yeah, but you could also just come to the studio, it’s only a short drive.
Justin Briner: Yeah. I think the solutions we’ve found over the past year will affect many industries. I think a lot of people who were forced to work from home will see that maybe they don’t have to be so constrained to a physical location like an office, that there’s more flexibility possible than we had realized before. I think it heralds good things, and once we get back to some essence of normal we’ll always have the lessons we learned during all this to further improve our techniques.
PopGeeks:Do either of you have a question you wish were asked more often, or perhaps some aspect of your work you’d like folks to understand in particular?
Clifford Chapin: I think for me, there’s so much focus on the voice actors and the performances that we get to give, and that is very exciting and awesome. But I also do a lot of voice direction, and so I know at least on the products that I direct the amount of care and attention and detail that has to be put into it. I feel like sometimes that gets so overshadowed by the acting, and the acting is sort of the end all and be all point of it. But I guess for me, being involved in other parts of the collaboration, sometimes I wish the voice direction or the voice engineering got a little bit more love – or even the writers, you know, the writers put a lot of time and love into the scripts and everything. There’s a lot of pieces to the industry that get overlooked, and there’s a lot information out there that I think people would find fascinating if it was embraced a little bit more.
Justin Briner: I of course have huge respect to the adaptive writers, the directors, the engineers. I just get to act, which I’m grateful for. I’ve had the benefit of doing a lot of different shows over the last few years. Maybe there’s not a question I wish I were asked, but something I identify with is that all these characters in all these shows – someone out there really appreciates and loves that character with all their heart. Just know that I see you, and we all appreciate the attention that you give to the work that we do.
New episodes of My Hero Academia are scheduled to stream every Saturday morning at 5:30 AM on FunimationNow. Starting on May 9th, 2021, the English dub of the season will also be broadcast Saturday evenings at 12:30 AM on Cartoon Network via Adult Swim’s Toonami block. For more information on My Hero Academia, visit Funimation.com.