My Hero Academia VAs Talk Heroes, Quirks And Staying Spoiler-Free

my hero academia all might crying
  • Anime

One of the most popular anime out today is My Hero Academia, the series about a world where 80 percent of the population has superpowers and the main protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is one of the unlucky few who doesn’t. Midoriya goes from zero to hero really fast after a fateful encounter with his hero, All Might, that changes both characters lives.

Currently in its second season, the story of All Might and Midoriya (hero name, Deku) is just getting started. Player.One had a chance to sit down with Chris Sabat and Justin Briner who play All Might and Midoriya, respectively. Sabat and Briner voiced some of the most cherished and recognizable characters in anime before bringing their talents to My Hero Academia. We talked to them about getting into character, their experience with western superheroes and their favorite quirks on the show.

NOTE: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Player.One: What was the process of getting into your characters?

Justin Briner: I sort of, when I found out I was playing Izuku, I just read the manga as much as I could get my hands on. I checked out what little animatics that were happening at the time. He’s a real kid. He’s fully realized and I feel the author really does a great job of making him have these traits that everyone can relate to. He struggles with his self-worth as a high schooler. He’s trying to find his place in this crazy, over-the-top superhero world, where he doesn’t quite fit in because he’s not on the same level as these other heroes who have been using these powers they’ve inherited forever. I just have to trust that he’s a fully fleshed-out character and that his motivations will make total sense as long as I commit to them.

Chris Sabat: We’re very lucky these days that we have so much material to prep ourselves with. I know in the morning before a session, I can watch the Japanese version that’s usually been posted on Funimation Now. If not, Coleen will send me the episode in advance, or what they have of it, so I can at least take a look. The manga was already there; I’ve actually got to the point where I don’t know what happens in the manga anymore. There’s other things that have been taking up a lot of my time, but at this point I’m not as worried about that, because Colleen is such a great director and these shows really do speak for themselves. I actually prefer to experience the show the same way the character does. Unless there’s important information on his backstory that we still don’t know, I find it really fun to take each episode at a time really, because it’s exciting for me to work on it.

my hero academia all might nomu
Nomu and All Might square off Photo: Funimation Entertainment

Did you read Western comic books growing up or still read comic books?

JB: I definitely had a phase when I was into it. I just fell off the wagon, I guess, but I did collect them as a kid. I was big into Batman, especially, I liked Teen Titans a lot. So getting a little bit of that basis and knowing where those stories generally lead helps a little bit to contextualize what we’re working with.

And you watch the TV shows and movies? Or do you guys have no time for that?

JB: It depends. You can get your hands on anything now, Netflix, for example. There’s a million things you can watch now.

CS: I didn’t really grow up on comic books. I was a weird kid, I was obsessed with sound and music, so that was really my passion. Plus, I was born in ‘73, but if you were growing up during that time comic books were something where someone had to introduce you to them in order for you to know what they were. I knew they existed, but my dad never read them, none of my neighbors, I actually didn’t know any kids that did in the area that I was growing up. But now the movies and shows are really palpable, I especially like Legion. That’s the coolest marriage between a comic book and a Stanley Kubrick film. I like Stanley Kubrick, I like arthouse cinema and it’s the most bizarre show to watch. I can watch that for days on end.

My Hero Academia does take a lot from Western superheroes, is there a superhero from Marvel or DC or wherever that is comparable to your characters?

JB: I can’t really think of a Western counterpart that is so fidgety and nervous all the time. And yet is able to switch into -- you know, maybe a Spider-Man or Peter Parker. Too smart for his own good, still a little bumbling but means really well.

CS: There’s definitely a comparison to, like, Captain America, where he’s all altruistic and pure. I still don’t know enough about [All-Might’s] backstory to know what’s really going on with him. We don’t know, at this point, how he was like before he became a hero or how young he was when he got his power. Those are questions I’m really excited to have answered eventually.

I definitely agree with Peter Parker but I also like the Captain America comparison. I like to call All-Might the “Reverse Hulk,” where he’s great when he’s All Might but when he’s No Might he’s… kind of a bummer [laughs].

CS: That’s great! I’m going to steal that.

There are so many quirks in My Hero. Besides your own characters, which character quirks do you like to see?

JB: I love Tsuyu. I think her frog power is awesome. I just love how she embraces that entire theme and she makes it her own. If you tell anyone that “yea, I’m the frog superhero. I can stick my tongue out very far.” Ok, but it’s awesome when you see it in action! The same with Mineta, he’s got “well, I can throw balls that are really sticky,” but there’s a scene where he makes it work entirely and he sort of saves the day through that. There’s a lot of cool powers that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. But they have been fully, and honestly realized that you’re like “yea, I love the frog.” [Laughs]

tsuyu mineta deku my hero academia
Tsuyu, Mineta and Deku team-up in My Hero Academia. Photo: Funimation Entertainment

[Laughs] Is there any character that we haven’t seen a lot of that you want to see more of?

JB: I’m definitely interested in Yaoyorozu, because she has one of the most powerful quirks shown off so far. She can make anything she wants... as long as she knows the molecular structure of it, I think is the specific drawback for it. But she struggles with confidence issues, she’s got the most powerful power you can get but she still feels half-hearted about being able to use it. So i think that would be a very cool journey to explore.

CS: I think it’s partially because I’ve come from playing Vegeta, but there’s something about Bakugo’s character, being that angry underdog, that I actually love. I love Clifford Chapin, the guy who plays Bakugo. It’s the perfect role for him. I love his character design, like the friggin grenades on his arms. I always like to see the angry underdog character, the guy who is just so angry that it messes with his focus.

Is there any character you want to see more of?

CS: Right now, I just want to see more All Might. The first half of the season has been a lot of him on the sidelines and he hasn’t had to worry about stuff and he hasn’t done anything totally interesting yet in this season. This happens to me a lot on different things. It happened with Alex Louis Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist and it happens with Zolo a lot in One Piece. All Might and Deku, their stories are intertwined. I only know and am familiar with his character in this series. I don’t get to interact with a lot of other characters. So I don't know them as well and I read the manga, it just doesn’t feel the same. When you don’t act through those scenes you don’t get to really know them. For me, right now, my whole experience is just All Might and Deku.

A character that is a total mystery to me is the principal...

JB: Oh yea! [laughs]

What’s his deal, is he a dog that turned into a human or a human that turned into a dog creature? What do you feel about him?

JB: I don’t even think he knows exactly [laughs]. I think the best part about him is that he introduces himself as “hey I’m kind of a dog, kind of a hamster... kind of a bunch of things, but I’m also the principal of the school so, deal with it.” And I’m like “yea ok, you’re pretty cool.”

And he has that cool scar. Where did he get that?

JB: What’s going on? “Oh don’t worry about it.” I would love to see more of him, I think he’s interesting.

CS: That’s funny. He reminds me the random dogs they would have in the Dragon Ball series. The dog is the mayor of the town and it’s never explained why. It’s just one of those funky, bizarre things about the show.

Ok, two-part question. What quirk would you want and what quirk do you think you’d be born with?

CS: Hmmmm. I always think of interesting ways to answer this question, because I get it a lot but I still think…This has always been a childhood dream of mine; but I’ve always wanted to be able to stop time. I’m fascinated by any movie that deals with time travel. Groundhog Day pretty much epitomizes the power I would want. I want to be able to stop time for awhile, do all the things I want to do because I feel like I get so busy, especially now that I have kids everything is focused on them, I wish I could just stop everything for a little while. Spending a year learning another language, taking a nap, making music or anything I never have time to do. That’s a quirk I would want to use for personal gain.

So like a mini hyperbolic time chamber.

CS: Exactly. I like it! I can create a time portal where I step through and everything stops for awhile. The quirk that I would be born with…I’d probably be born with the quirk to be able to forget everything. I have such a bad memory.

JB: If I had my ideal quirk it’ll be something like teleportation. I’m really hungry and I want my favorite meal, but I don’t want to drive all that way! Get stuck in traffic when I just want to go home. As for my real life quirk, it’s probably something sad like when I get electronics they short out right away. “Oh, well, it was nice while it lasted. Time to replace this.” [laughs]

CS: I get excited when my phone breaks because then I get to get a new one.

JB: Yea an upgrade! “Well, what am I supposed to do.”

CS: Darn, my phone broke.

JB: Shoot, I have to get that new, cool one.

my hero academia all might
All Might is pretty much the Superman of the My Hero Academia universe. Photo: Funimation Entertainment

Let’s talk spoilers!

JB & CS: [Laughs]

CS: I don’t want spoilers, but I constantly ask people who have been keeping up with the manga. I want to know, but I don’t want to know if All Might dies, because I’m so terrified that he’s going to die [laughs].

Well, since you brought that up. How does it feel to play a character whose time is limited? I mean, he will eventually have to die.

CS: He will and I don’t like it. It’s really weird. Those two [All Might/Deku] are kind of running in polar opposites. I think that’s what it’s supposed to be, where they meet in the middle and they’re supposed to do one person is going up and the other is going down. I’m really terrified, but it’s very unusual because the traditional manga, Shonen style, someone starts from nothing and becomes a hero. But here you have someone who is a hero and is slowly transforming into nothing and it’s crazy. It’s ridiculously fun and if he dies in the next season I would be upset, but I’ve already got to play one of the best characters I’ve ever got to play, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed.

On the reverse of All Might, we're told from the beginning that Deku will be the next All Might, the next number one hero. Does that take away from his character or his appeal?

JB: I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of nice to know that this kid who started from the bottom, he tells you upfront, “this is my story, this is how I became number one.” And I did start from the bottom. As it is now, it’s hard to see where he claims to get to. I think that’s the fun part of the journey seeing him continue to learn, continue to grow and eventually he will get there.

CS: [laughs] I’d love it if they eventually got to the scene where they finally cut to the scene where he’s talking and he’s like [mimics drunkenness]:  “And that’s how I became the world’s greatest hero.”

JB: “Can you believe they believed me?”

CS: And then all you hear is, “Dude, can we just get our drugs and go?” [Laughs]

[Laughs] That would take the show into a VERY different direction.

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