All images courtesy of Funimation.

Before attending the “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” red carpet premiere, Clifford Chapin (Katsuki “Kacchan” Bakugo) and Justin Briner (Izuku “Deku” Midoriya) sat down with me along with Timothy Rosales of Anime Diet, Josh Jackson of Geekscape and Jose Balderas of The Rage Gamers for an interview.

I do apologize in advance to certain parts of the interview due to the poor audio quality of the room. For those that are not caught up in the manga or anime series, there are a few spoilers.

Josh Jackson: Heading into the movie, does it take your characters in many kinds of direction that you didn’t expect at all?

Justin Briner: Sort of. So the movie takes place just in a bit in the future of where we are currently adapting the anime. So it was kind of fascinating to see maybe in a year, year and a half has passed and how their relationships have strength in them, how they’ve changed. How they’ve grown a little more together. And of course I think the pivotal relationship in this movie is between Deku and Bakugo. And that is- blows my mind to this day.
Clifford Chapin: Mhm.
Briner: So that’s especially meaningful to me because they have history since when they were really small. You know, like really little tiny kids. And their whole world has been sort of formulated on their kind of weird power dynamic relationship and so now finally they are able to interact as equals, as peers after their big fight in the abandoned city. They are able to work together and I think this movie is the first time we really saw them work together, compliment each other’s strengths, cover each other’s weaknesses in a bit meaningful way. So I think it’s really cool to see that on the big screen.
Chapin: Yeah and and I’m more the same. This movie was sort of the first glimpse of what the relationship has become since their big fight at the end of Season Three. Bakugo has not been in Season Four too much up to the point that we are currently. So we haven’t gotten to really explore how that fight and those feelings that they sussed out in that battle have changed. So going into this movie and feeling that this is Bakugo after he has moved past these issues is he still wants to fight Deku and still wants to show that he is superior to Deku, but is not necessarily from a point of malice or not in a malicious way but just in way like, “I wanna prove to you that I am the best one That I am the best fan of All Might. I am the one who will succeed him, not you!” So that was an incredible thing for me to get to do and experience. And it was such a weird thing to navigate at first ‘cause I was like first. “Oh man, I’m so used to yelling all the time.” Somehow to just be able to speak with people is just, “Oh! This is what this is like?” It was really exploring a new facet of the character. That was so exciting for me as an actor and portraying this character that I have now lived with for four years. To get to experience that was very exciting, very fulfilling.

Jackson: And leading up to the movie, you guys have touched how it does take place after that event, did you guys get any synopsis or read ahead at all to see where the characters are at closer to the timeline of the movie compared to where the characters in the series are at?

Chapin: Justin reads the manga.
Briner: I read the manga. Yep.
Chapin: I have not. I kind of, I kind of live by this moment of “if I go ahead and read ahead, I worry that my perception will be affected by what I’m reading rather than what I’m being directed to do.” ‘Cause we all as actors and people will have opinions in going in to do our jobs and whatnots in way of the characters supposed to be portrayed and stuff. And I almost feel like if I’m too aware of what has happened or what is going to happen that it will make me difficult to work with and I don’t ever want to be that. There is definitely something that is to be said about research and reading ahead and it can be a very useful tool. And that’s not to say that I think it’s a bad thing to read ahead.
Briner: You can say it. You can say it.
Chapin: No, it’s fine. (Laughs) But like at least as far as my own method, I haven’t caught up on the manga or anything just yet because I want to go in as sort of a clean slate and portray the moment honestly. That’s at least my method.
Briner: No, you do have to be careful with that because sometimes there are, you know, translations that might not even [be] the same between the manga and what you end up saying. So you gotta be careful before getting attached to anything. I do read the manga though. I’m pretty caught up. I didn’t do it for the expressed purpose of seeing where they’re supposed to be during this movie, but it did give me a little insight. Ity helps understand some characters that may have developed a little more in the meantime. But otherwise, it really does seem just like it could fit in well where we are right now.

Jose Balderas: What is something positive you gained from the show?

Briner: I feel like the cast has grown closer.
Chapin: For sure.
Briner: We’ve been able to work together and travel to conventions or events like this. So that’s super cool since they’re all really great people. Otherwise, I think it’s really special that I hear a lot that this is kind of people’s first exposure to anime. Maybe or like families get together to watch this show. And it just- it was not like that for me growing up. Anime wasn’t cool like it is now. It’s really incredible to see. To see this show kind of touch people’s hearts and get invested in a world that I’m really passionate about. That I know my friends worked really hard to deliver a really great product is awesome and I’m really glad to see that people love the show. They love the dub. They love just any part of this series and it speaks so much to them. So I think that’s really awesome.
Chapin: For me, I feel like there’s just been this massive explosion of the fan base and the relationship I have gotten to have with them as a group. You know, there’s so many people who are so passionate about this series and all of our work on it, and everybody’s work on it. From any country or language, everybody pours their hearts to it. And it really shows in that the fans respond to it so avidly. There’s so many people who when they come up and meet me, they cry over the moments of the show, the things that happened to the characters and whatnot. You know they (the moments)just touched them and it is such a gratifying moment. It’s inspiring. It makes me want to go back in and work even harder every single time that I get to go into the booth and voice this character. It’s just a phenomenal experience and sort of what you (Briner) were saying. People are exposed to anime through this. Recently I found out that a woman that is a friend of mine when I was a teenager, who she was a teenager at that time too. We studied martial arts together and she watches “My Hero Academia”.
Briner: Oh my God!
Chapin: And I saw that just randomly on social media the other day and she didn’t even know that I voiced Bakugo. I was like, “You watch that?” She was like, “Yeah! Oh my God! My kids and I watch that!”
Briner: See! I love that! Oh my God!
Chapin: So it’s just incredible. Just a crazy, crazy ride that we’re on.
Balderas: So you can say your life got involved with “My Hero Academia”?
Chapin: Yeah! It’s just phenomenal.

Jackson: Speaking of Bakugo, what was more challenging ‘cause I believe you’re Cabba on “Dragon Ball [Super]”. So what was more challenging? The screaming during the Tournament of Power or the constant growling and angry talk of Bakugo?

Chapin: Well, you know, it’s funny ‘cause I get asked questions about Cabba and Bakugo semi-regularly, but I grew up as a fan of “Dragon Ball Z”. And so like my friends and I used to go outside and used to do like the kamehameha in the backyard, that sort of thing. Just kind of joked that playing “Dragon Ball Z ” as a kid prepared me for Bakugo and then the amount of yelling has kind of helped me condition me for Cabba. So they kinda have been this weird symbiotic thing of all that. When we recorded the end of “Dragon Ball Super”, the Tournament of Power, Rawly who is the director, he kind of was like, “Sorry you have to do all these big yells.” I was like, “HA! Please, this- this is nothing. I got this in the spades.” So by that point, I was so conditioned from screaming as Bakugo that it was just kind of easy.
Balderas: I’d imagine it takes a toll on your throat.
Chapin: Oh yes, very much so. I pretty much lose my voice after every big episode that Bakugo is in. Maybe that’s changing now because Bakugo actually speaks more rather than out right screaming, which those sessions are not hard on me at all where he’s just talking. If he’s yelling, if he’s fighting, chances are I lost my voice doing it.

Faith Orcino: So the students in the movie are given a big responsibility on the island. Looking back at your childhood, did you guys ever have been given a big responsibility or task that has a lot of obligations?

Chapin: Childhood?
Briner: Interesting.
Chapin: I can’t think of anything offhand just in the moment. I can’t think of anything crazy. There’s a lot, like I had a job growing up and I did like an internship for a television station when I was like 14 and whatnot. So I had responsibilities in those ways which would be sort of the equivalent of what it is in “Heroes Rising”, right?
Briner: Yeah.
Chapin: ‘Cause it’s sort of a work study. It’s not a work study but it’s going in and gaining experience as a hero. But that same sort of thing of like going and doing the job- and yeah still someone who is in training. That would be the closest I could just offhand can imagine. Maybe something when I was in Theater?
Briner: Yeah, that was what all I could think of either. Like I had a job. I went to a performing arts high school where we took it way too seriously and we had a lot of responsibilities in that way. Kind of mount our own production in that sort of thing. But no, nothing that comes close to the level of responsibility these poor kids have on this island all alone.
Chapin: Right. It’s pretty rough.
Briner: Mhm, these poor kids.
Chapin: They’re just kids.

Jackson: Specifically like Deku, I think one of my favorite parts of the show is that it just feels very rewarding to watch him slowly build himself up piece by piece. Do you get that same feeling while recording where you get that same feeling of accomplishment?

Briner: Oh same. He’s come such a long way since Episode One, you know. I think, a lot of the audience feels the same way, is having these characters to root for that feels very real to you that you can relate heavily to. It feels really good. You know Deku started with nothing and was bullied pretty heavily, for this kinda how he was made.
Chapin: What? By who?
Briner: Oh I sorta blacked it out.
Chapin: (Laughs)
Briner: So to see him follow his dreams and achieve this incredible success that only he believes is only capable of, only he and his hero, is really special. So now that he is very strong, I think we all feel a sense of collective improvement. And you know, I also hear a lot of [things] like this show helps drag people out of pretty dark places. If Deku means that to some people and helps them in a positive way, I think that is the most incredible thing.
Tim Rosales: I think that’s why a big reason why they chose that so much. It’s a common anime trope where a lot of times a character does get out and power up and show great progress.
Briner: Right.
Rosales: For the most of this show, not just Deku, but everyone in Class 1-A slowly kind of are working and you see where they get that from. You can watch that struggle.
Briner: That’s true. They make a pretty good point to see everyone training and improving.
Chapin: Yeah.
Briner: And when they all come together again, they have these cool powers and like, “Oh my gosh! How did you learn that?! That’s so cool!”
Chapin: One of my favorite things is that everybody’s power seems to have a recoil, like a subset to it that hinders them. That is something that I love about it. It’s actually a thing that really sets it apart from a lot of other shows, superhero stories is that a lot of times, like you (Rosales), the character just gets this power-up like which is what happens to Deku.
Briner: Sure.
Chapin: He eats the hair and then he has the power of All Might, except that his body isn’t used to it and it shatters. That’s such a fascinating thing that they put into the series and I just think it’s brilliant.

Rosales: Two questions that are different. For starters, I’m a big fan of rivals teaming up together and using their powers to form like a Naruto and Sasuke. I was hoping that, maybe no spoilers but will there be some sort of hint of that in the movie as well? Maybe like an ultimate move that you guys do together?

Briner: There’s definitely a battle where you see kinda Deku and Bakugo work together meaningfully for the first time. They are covering each other’s weaknesses. They’re complimenting each other in battle. So I think a lot of the fans of the series have wanted something like that for a long time to see these two very contentious characters work together and do amazing things.
Chapin: Yeah. If you have wanted to see Deku and Bakugo team up and wreck house, this is the movie for you. We’re not yet at a point where I feel like we’re gonna get a fusion, like we’re not.
Briner: Maybe next time.
Chapin: We don’t have Dekugo yet.
Briner: Not yet.
Chapin: But I think it’s coming. But it’s- this movie is so incredibly satisfying to see these two characters grow and fight together and cover each other and pick each other back up. When one gets knocked down, the other one picks him back up and throws him hack into the fight. Like they’re just so many cool moments that when I first saw the movie, I was just freaking out. I was like, “This is the best thing ever! This is what I’ve been waiting for! For four years!” So it’s incredible and if that’s what you’re looking for, you are going to be immensely satisfied with this movie.

Rosales: And in my Part Two, it’s more about the villain. Johnny Yong Bosch plays Nine and he’s absolutely frightening. I want to hear more about it from personal perspective to know more about the character. Like you guys are just stunned that this is like another All For One, right? I just wanna hear more about it personally between you and your characters.

Chapin: Nine is such a powerhouse that the first little bit of it, Bakugo tries to go in on it on his own and Deku ends up joining in on the fight. For Nine to just trash both of them throughout this fight, it really  lets you know how strong he is. He immediately commands the scene. You know, “I am here and this is my power and this is what I’m doing.” He got so much power. He could do some many different things that like every time he whips something out at them, it’s kinda that moment where, “You can do that too?!” It’s a really exciting moment when Nine first steps on the scene and is fighting against them because you want that moment. “Yeah, let’s see Bakugo and Deku take this guy!” But he immediately raises the bar and then it becomes exciting to see them surpass it.
Briner: Yeah, I agree. It’s really exciting. A big point that a lot of people love about this show are the villains and their abilities. So I think every time a new one comes on the scene, everyone’s very curious like, “Alright, what’s this villain about? What is their strength? How do you overcome that?” And Nine of course has a lot of strength. So every time you think you’ve overcome one obstacle, he’s able to say, “Yeah, actually, you’ve played into my hand again.” So to see these characters who have worked so hard to hone these powers, and we’ve been through so much watching them, you have to root for them even though you don’t know exactly what this guy’s about or what he is capable of truly. To see them overcome each of these hurdles is really quite a spectacle.
Chapin: Yeah, it’s great.


We thank Justin Briner and Clifford Chapin for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk with us.

For more information on “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising”, head to Funimation Films and find the nearest theater showing.