I have the biggest love/hate relationship with shounen anime and manga. There is always a respect for what it does for getting a lot of people into the medium that might not have otherwise, but I can’t shake the anime hipster part of me that pouts over people (particularly Americans) flooding the likes of Fairy Tail and Naruto with all of the praise. It isn’t even like I outright hate the genre- I used to watch Naruto and moderated for a forum that discussed it back in junior high. Maybe if something that wasn’t a shounen
or Sword Art Online made it to the public’s eye every once in awhile (honestly, take your pick of all of the thought provoking series that have some action in there, there are plenty to choose from), shounen would feel a lot better being cherished like it is to me. I say this less as a rant and more as a matter of fact that deeper, emotional shows like Your Lie in April are actually considered shounen anime and don’t get anywhere close to the amount of love they deserve.
My rambling aside, if there is a show in the genre that I just fall in love with, I won’t try being a tsundere about it- I’ll openly support it. Naruto was great before the original wave of filler hit and Kuroko’s Basketball was a more recent series that really got me back into anime. Sure, even those two have some toxic fans, but you can’t hate entertainment because
some kids cosplaying at an anime meetup decided you didn’t look like the anime type and proceeded to ask you to leave some individuals are kind of rude about their fandom. Somewhat miraculously, My Hero Academia is a rare exception to all of the rules- it is a widely popular show that is actually good. It has a ton of fire relatively early in its life and has really managed to become one of the most supported series with fans online. Look no further than a “BNHA”or “MyHeroAcademia” tag on social media sites like Twitter and Tumblr for an endless flood of talented art and analysis over everything related to the franchise.
Donning the rally cry “You can’t call an underdog story cliché without it being an irony”, My Hero Academia finds a young man named Izuku Midoriya following his dream to become a hero in a society rich in individuals gifted with numerous powers. Unfortunately for Midoriya, he is an anomaly due to being born without a special ability (known as a Quirk). Despite the relentless pressures society puts on him for his shortcoming, he aims for the top and aspires to be the next All Might- the world’s greatest hero. In a chance encounter with the legend himself, Midoriya is secretly given some of All Might’s power and given a chance to attend UA (essentially the Harvard of superhero schools).
Voice directed by Colleen Clinkenbeard (Black Butler, Steins;Gate), this dub is ridiculously loaded with talent. Back when I started Dubs w/ Dil, I completely forgot to highlight direction but also spent a good amount of time praising the direction in Steins;Gate. As a quick mulligan, credit needs to be given for what Clinkenbeard helped make in that special dub. That aside, there are over sixty credits for the dub of My Hero Academia, meaning that there is a ton of recording going on here. Shounen anime dubbing always struck me as incredibly challenging to handle logistically just because there are so many people involved in the process. Obviously in a scene that has forty five people fighting over a burning city or something over-the-top like that there won’t be forty five voice actors in the booth at the same time, but even if it is just one on one at a time, there are a lot of issues that presents. Consider that a talent might not have anyone else’s dubbed clips to go off of in context of the scene and they just have to hammer out a line dozens of times in hope that it fits. One person might be fine, but once you start plugging in (for the sake of our previous hypothetical) the other forty four voice actors into the scene, more problems arise. Do the various lines mesh together? Is the timing right? How is the collective energy of your actors? Does the flow of the dubbing fit the scene’s mood correctly? All of these questions are such miniscule details that are easily overlooked while someone is watching a finished dub, but if so much as one of them is not covered correctly, the entire dub risks being a failure. To that much alone, the entire crew for this work needs recognition for the degree of difficulty involved.
As for the cast, I will do my best to cover as many people involved as I can and notes I took throughout my viewing of the first season’s dub and first twelve episodes of the second season that were available at the time of my writing. I won’t be able to cover sixty people in one article, but this dub really is something to marvel at, so do look into it if you get a chance- everyone involved did fantastic work.
Justin Briner (Mikaela Hyakuya in Seraph of the End) as Izuku “Deku” Midoriya
Briner is fairly new name in the industry, with the only big splash before this project being everyone’s favorite yaoi fuel character Mikaela in the vampire war series Seraph of the End. Like getting picked to be Romeo in the school play, being the protagonist of the most popular genre of anime on the globe is no small task. Those cast are in a high risk, high reward run with franchises, becoming a metaphoric heart for the success or failure of things. At best, you’re someone like Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach) and at worst, you end up on Twitter videos until the end of time. So the golden question, how does Briner do?
The tropes of shounen protagonist writing aside, I really enjoyed Deku’s character. One of the things that really wins me over for him is how emotionally invested his English VA sounds. This, of course, is Justin Briner. One of the things any work can fall victim to is when it pushes the point that the audience is supposed to feel bad for the protagonist without a whole lot of reasoning behind it besides hammering two clips over and over again. Almost the entire first act of season one gives plenty of heart wrenching moments that somehow manage to feel relatable, even if they are caused due to...super-power bullying? Yeah, it works somehow. Briner hits all of the feeling without making it melodramatic and amplifies the effectiveness of scenes. The audience is invested in the character, therefore the ups and downs of an underdog’s journey feel so much better...without nitpicking the lead.
Chris Sabat (Vegeta in Dragonball Z, Alex Louis Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) as All Might
Holy crap. You want to talk about a way to bring out the most in a character, look no further than here. Typecast for all of the tough guys in Funimation dubs, Sabat takes on the cape and spandex and is modern society’s favorite super hero, All Might. The world’s greatest force for justice has seen better days, however, and is forced to only be a gigantic crime fighter for a very limited amount of time in the day. As circumstances would allow it, he finds his successor in the raw prospect Midoriya in the middle of a transition in a teaching career at UA. While adjusting to a new life of mentoring, All Might secretly grooms his pupil to withstand all of changes not only does the body undergo taking on his great power, but also the social responsibility any young adult needs to be taught.
First impressions seeing this guy makes you think he just always sounds boisterous- like he is a shotgun in a knife fight. Compared to a lot of the other dubs I watch, I don’t really have the subs to go off of for MHA since I went straight into the dub while I did my research for this one. With that in mind, I’m assuming the actor for All Might in Japanese probably has the same attention to detail that Sabat does, but I was absolutely amazed with how he performed the deceptively deep character of All Might. When he is powered down, there is a distinguishable voice that doesn’t sound ridiculously different, however there is a ton of fatigue in his tone. Compared to going from a “OH HO HO” straight into a “wimpy wimpy wimpy” voice (unfortunately seen a lot), a naturally exhausted voice makes so much sense for an equally big change in appearances. What’s more is despite being his usual bass filled reading, you can really hear the extra effort put into sounding so “winded” in the later parts of his line delivery. Even without the dramatic change from a buff tank to a scrawny dude in over-sized clothing, the accompanying voice adjustment after transformation leaves enough that the imagination would probably make the same imagery. I love how easy it is to feel All Might slowly warm up to Midoriya and value his bond with him by the subtle changes in their interactions. At first he is incredibly dismissive of the young man, and eventually he sounds less gloomy and more constructive in his criticisms. Knowing when to put finesse in art is a must, and to do it with such a deep, bass filled voice range is impressive.
Maybe most importantly, Sabat really makes powered up All Might sound fun and...well...heroic. In smaller fights or conversations, it really doesn’t knock your socks off with anything, but when the fights get dire and All Might has to dig deep, they ascend to goose-bump inducing levels of excitement. Massive spoilers ahead for this example, but this clip at the end of the first season is the textbook example of how he can get. In the climax, the line delivery just gets on those awesome levels that you’d expect from a guy who got his first big praise in the industry screaming at the top of his lungs as a Dragon Ball Z fighter. This guy is a no-brainer for the role of All Might, and I really hope to see more amazingly dubbed scenes by him in this role soon.
Clifford Chapin (Conny Springer in Attack on Titan, Kaito Yashio in Robotics;Notes) as Katsuki Bakugo
I’ll be the first to admit- I had no idea who Clifford Chapin was before this role. With that being said, my sides hurt every time I hear him read Bakugo lines. Kind of how Sabat utilized his range for the character of All Might, Chapin’s jump from edgy to outright enraged deliveries is too perfect for the kind of character he is portraying. At first I only expected the character to be around temporarily, so I didn’t think much of the voice just as a passing by look, but the more missions and bickering UA’s most explosive student goes through, the more endearing he becomes- with no small credit to just how much fun Chapin is to listen to.
Be it restrained, flailing at enemies with frightening speed, or just talking crap out the side of his mouth to everyone who isn’t him, Bakugo never feels reached for in line delivery. This is impressive given the energy shifts in the voice and overall speed of his lines (pay attention to a scene that doesn’t have him just normally talking, his hot temper has him going faster than everyone else). I’m enthralled with the prospect of his character developing and there being more dimensions to the character shown in later episodes/seasons. Here’s hoping they all are as entertaining as the last.
Luci Christian (Nagisa Furukawa in Clannad: After Story, Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka in Ouran High School Host Club) as Ochaco Uraraka
It is wild to think that after almost a full year of writing pieces about dubs, I have yet to cover a Luci Christian role. A couple of dubs I was circling for a while (such as Clannad, Angel Beats!, and ef) all have her in them. What seems to be Twitter’s favorite character in Ochaco Uraraka is pretty well represented here. For a good chunk of the dub so far, most of Uraraka’s moments were comic relief or motivation for Deku. I really like how loose the character sounds and the lighter hearted nature really carries well throughout Christian’s acting. There are a ton of little mannerisms that you hear through the lines that help build upon that reputation the character has, no doubt.
My favorite parts of this role had to be had in the second season. A spoiler free explanation of this can be boiled down simply: a big fight means the world to Uraraka and she gets intense. There is such a range of emotions the audience goes through, right from the beginning with her nerves leading up to the fight. As the fight goes on, things take several turns, and with them Christian pumps it up a notch. I wish I could really say more, but it is worth enduring a slower start to the second season just to see.
Another fun fact: Christian voices Recovery Girl in the second season!
J Michael Tatum (Rintaro Okabe in Steins;Gate, Sebastian Michaelis in Black Butler) as Tenya Iida
I’m bullish on Tatum- his acting has a way of feeding off of the scenes and, moreover, the projects of all of his roles. Sure, it can be chalked up as a “good actor doing actor things”, however I think there is always more to it than that. Someone doesn’t just pick up on the right things to say and do in a scene so easily without having experience. Whenever I’m looking through a credit list, I’m usually shocked to find out that Tatum was a role just because his voice isn’t so easy to pick up on right away. That’s not a bad thing at all, if anything it is terrific because it lets his respective roles represent themselves independently from the rest of his work.
Somehow, I think there is a match made in heaven for Tatum to voice the dedicated (albeit a little dense) class president Tenya Iida. He’s so proper and shouting across classrooms to get people to sit down and shuffling around everywhere. While he hasn’t really had a big moment in the show yet, it is really fun to hear the young prodigy care for his friends and classmates. I know there isn’t much to say about this one for now, but I’ll just admit that I find both Iida’s powers and hero costume to be my absolute favorites.
Don’t @ me.
David Matranga (Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad, Hideki Hinata in Angel Beats! ) as Shoto Todoroki
Finishing off the cast that has had their respective character have a couple episodes of a spotlight is the fire and ice hero Todoroki played by the one guy you probably have heard if you’ve ever seen any dub of an anime that is adapted from a Key visual novel, David Matranga. In the first season, it is sort of nothing more than a back burner “Oh crap, they have David Matranga on board for this project?!” sort of novelty. Super late into the Spring cour of season two of the series, however, there is quite a bit of character development and suddenly we’re hearing a lot of that unique smoothness you come to expect from Matranga.
I’m always impressed with how easily his voice fits into any genre he’s dubbing, really. This is a higher tempo action series with lots of animation effects and music pumping and he doesn’t feel dull like you might expect from a voice perfect for slower, more thought provoking dramas. The backstory bits for the character are there and he just runs away with it, slamming home the drama and making the audience immediately feel endearment for the character, yet in the heat of battle his lines aren’t lost on all of the noise. “Shounen” might not be what comes to mind when I think David Matranga, but I’m all for more of it at this rate.
So one of the more difficult parts of evaluating this dub is just how high volume of voice talent there is in it. The characters I listed above all have the spotlight more than a lot of the cast, so it is a little bit easier to write about them, but with a show so deep in casting, it is only a matter of time before everyone has their moment. I could easily end up doing another article a year from now and have twice as much to say about everyone involved. Take a look at this cast and take your pick, it is loaded with great voice actors ranging from veterans like Monica Rial (whose credit as a frog girl seems only fitting to add on a list that includes the like of “bible thumper” and “sadist war-general child”) all the way to a new wave of talent in names like Morgan Berry.
Everything flows so well in this dub- lots of careful dubbing pays off well in chaotic shows like this one. I use “chaotic” in the sense that there are just so many individuals voicing characters at once that it is amazing the chemistry of it all is so good. My favorite part of this dub is just how high of upside there still is for the dub as a prospect. Right now it is already one of the best seasonal dubs I’ve heard all year, but it has the staying power to keep building upon itself and ultimately be in the discussion for a long time. Most of the longer dubs I’ve heard felt mailed in or uninspired, but there is a fresh vibe from everything with this series that makes me hopeful for continued results. Funimation really has been on top of things with rolling out top tier talent, both new and familiar, to match the hype of flagship series. The underdog’s tale is one that merits a first season viewing even for those who are bearish on shounen series just to test the waters.
What anime stick out to you for being loaded with voice talent?
As always, thanks for reading Dubs w/ Dil. I’m incredibly proud to be able to write something like this. I hope you enjoyed it! For updates on my writing, anime impressions, and guest appearances on podcasts, be sure to follow my Twitter @DilKokoro.