Back on Thanksgiving weekend, San Diego Comic-Con hosted a Special Edition to make up for the cancellations of the 2020 and 2021 Comic-Cons due to COVID-19. There on Sunday, I met up with Bryce Papenbrook, a prominent voice actor in the anime, cartoon, and video game scene. Bryce is a familiar voice for those who watch Toonami every Saturday, as he has been the English voice actor for many popular characters, including Kirito from Sword Art Online, Eren Jaeger from Attack on Titan, Liebe from Black Clover, Inouske from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Rin Okumura from Blue Exorcist, Masaomi Kida from Durarara! and many more.
We met at the Sails Pavillion within the convention center halls, where Bryce was meeting with and signing autographs with fans throughout the convention. Bryce is a big fan of Toonami and the Toonami Faithful community, and fortunately for us, he managed to have some spare time to meet with us towards the end of the event.
For those that don’t know, I used to be a contributor to ToonamiFaithful.com, and I previously had the opportunity to talk with Bryce Papenbrook twice, once during the Sword Art Online: Alicization premiere in Hollywood in September 2018, plus a group interview with some of the other SAO English dub cast at Anime Expo 2019.
Daniel: What’s up, Toonami Faithful. My name is Daniel Limjoco, also known as @AnimeSavior, and I’m hanging out with Bryce Papenbrook.
Daniel: Having a good Comic-Con?
Bryce: It’s been great being back at San Diego Comic-Con, yeah. First time I’ve done a signing here at the event, and yeah, it’s been pretty crazy. This is the first time that we’ve had a lull enough to actually have a conversation.
Of course, you’ve been pretty busy as of late. First time we talked, SAO we hoped would return to Toonami, and now we’re back here [talking] and SAO has completed its [season 3] run on Toonami. We got a movie coming up, Progressive. (Bryce: Absolutely.) Looking back, how does it feel to have done what you have done with Kirito?
Bryce: Pretty incredible. The journey through SAO Alicization was really amazing. I mean, there were ups and downs, highs and lows for Kirito, but I thought the story was incredible and I’m glad that they didn’t compress it and make it a shorter arc than it was. Doing it in 52 episodes was I think the right length. And then, leaving Aliciziation, I just wanted more. And it’s really exciting to return to Aincrad in Sword Art Online Progressive and we are about less than a week away from the premiere of the movie [at the time we did this interview] and I cannot wait for people to see it.
Daniel: Hopefully we’ll see Cradle of the Moon pretty soon [in regards to Alicization]. But speaking of Progressive, we’re going back to Aincrad. You and your colleague Cherami Leigh got plenty of work to do in this coming arc, to put it lightly. What challenges are you looking forward to with Progressive?
Bryce: When I first watched that Aincrad arc, I fell in love with the show. The thing I wanted was more. There were those time-skips in that first season, and I to know all of the details that happened in those time skips. And Progressive is going to give us a lot more of those details. I also love that the story kind of shifts perspectives at different moments, so to get more time from Asuna’s point of view, I think it’s really a great choice. And Cherami is such a talented actress, such an amazing person, and I love her performance as Asuna. So, I’m very excited to see Cherami kind of lead this movie. I know she’s going to absolutely kill it.
Daniel: Same here. Speaking of Asuna, until rather recently, Reki Kawahara has been putting her on the sidelines, so to speak. Fortunately, with Progressive and future arcs, we’ll see more of her.
Bryce: Yeah. Throughout the series, I think Asuna has been such an amazing character, such a strong character, and I love that character. And I love what Cherami does with her and it would be incredible to see more of her. I think having opportunities to let some of the other characters in the show shine, it’s really something special.
Daniel: Switching gears to Attack on Titan, we’re a couple months away from the final part of the final season…
Bryce: Yeah, and I’m at the point right now where I still have no idea what is about to happen. I have not read the manga; I have not spoiled myself. So, I am just excited to see to see where this story goes.
Daniel: Same here. One of my colleagues (Steve Durso) is reading the manga, [and] he’s just like “You’re not ready” so to speak.
Bryce: I can’t wait.
Eren has been having a bit of a personality change through the series. At the start of the show, Eren was like: “I want to kill all of the Titans!” Then he finds out the true origins of the Titans, and he’s all like “Ohh…” This season, he’s been focused on trying to get his revenge. How does it feel to be voicing him as he experiences all that?
Bryce: Yeah, it’s been really a great experience. I describe it as this anger that has been running through Eren for these first three seasons. And in Season 4, that anger is still there, it’s just kinda buried really deep. Under this layer of coldness. So, recreating the character after living with him for that long was really a great collaboration with Mike McFarland (ADR Director for Attack on Titan). And it was really fun to do and I’m really proud of what we captured and his first half of the season. And I’m up for the challenge of whatever the show brings that in this next part.
Daniel: Yeah, we’re two months away at least.
Bryce: We’re getting close.
Daniel: Hopefully soon.
COVID-19 has kind of messed everything up as you guys have had to record from home. How has that been? What are some of the challenges to adapting to these times?
Bryce: Yes, right as the pandemic hit in March, I actually was invited to go to Australia for a convention because Japan shut down first, all of their Japanese guests had to cancel, unfortunately. Yuki Kaji-san [for instance] was supposed to go to Madman Anime Fest in Australia. The week of the event, they reached out to me and said “are you interested in coming out to Australia” and I said “Absolutely, it would be my pleasure to come out.” So I was there in March, and when I landed back in Los Angeles there was no toilet paper. So, that’s how close we cut it.
And I was not set up to record from home. I had to very quickly build a studio inside a closet which I recorded in for the better half of last year. And then, I finally needed to truly adapt and invest in recording remotely so I built a professional studio inside my house. One of the walls is soundproof glass, the others, the walls are built the right way to keep all that sound that you don’t want out and keep the good stuff in, and it’s a really great space to be creative in. All of the studios really adapted quickly, so I think voice actors and our industry have been able to kind of thrive through the pandemic and still continue to work and bring great things at great quality out to the market, So, it’s something I’ve become accustomed with less time yelling at people in traffic, more time yelling inside my booth at home.
First session recorded today out of my new pro-quality home studio, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been working out of a temporary setup in a closet since March of last year. I can finally scream to my heart’s content and not scare my neighbors 🤗 pic.twitter.com/hzwrmY5g9c
— Bryce Papenbrook (@BrycePapenbrook) January 19, 2021
You got to voice Liebe in the final two episodes of Black Clover before its hiatus? How was it like voicing him?
Bryce: Incredible. Any time you join a new show, in the middle of a show or towards the end of the show, it’s always interesting because so much has happened, there’s so much past. And so much depends upon getting caught up [to the story] quickly. But working with Chris George, it was just a great experience, sharing another role with Nobu-san (Nobuhiko Okamoto), whom I share Rin Okumura with. It was also really great; I was ready to scream and it put my microphone at home to the test. I actually discovered some new tricks to catch this sounds a little better and not blow out my preamp in my mic. So, Liebe really helped me learn that so continue to grow on the remote engineering side, which all of us actors in how to learn a little bit of. But yeah, such a great series and so cool to join the show, especially a character like Liebe. So, I’m excited for more, I hope there’s more. I hope we get a movie or another series and then I get to continue the journey of Black Clover.
Daniel: Same here. Hopefully, the hiatus won’t be for long.
Demon Slayer continues to be a hit franchise with the second season underway, and you get to voice Inouske, who is a really popular character. How does it feel to voice him?
Bryce: It’s amazing. I’ve really had a lot of fun with the character. Because when we’re working on these shows you’re watching the show and you’re talking as the character’s talking onscreen. Normally you’re stuck in this box of lip-flaps, you needed to hit sync to look like it’s coming from the character. But because Inouske is wearing this boar head, I only have to worry about snout movement. So, I have a lot more freedom with the character to kind of make it my own and really have a good time and that’s what I’ve been doing.
Of course, the movie was a big success, and now Season 2 is airing in Japan (and on streaming). What are you looking forward to?
Bryce: Very much. I mean, Mugen Train was a special moment in anime, because we saw the response in the box office, and I think that took a lot of people by surprise. We’ve been seeing this growth of the anime world for years and years now. And I think that is kind of a moment in time, where anime is not this niche market but truly something mainstream. So, to be a part of that was really special. And there’s a lot of hype and buzz and excitement around Demon Slayer and it lives up to it. I love the show and I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2.
One Issue we might be seeing for Toonami viewers in particular in the future is that because the Sword Art Online movies are canon to the storyline, fans might get, for lack of a better term, disenfranchised from the overall continuity, if Toonami is unable to show the events of the films. We saw this with Ordinal Scale, and fans were concerned with this happening with Mugen Train and Progressive (although Mugen Train now has a TV adaptation.) Do you think Toonami should air the SAO films in the future?
Bryce: It would be great if Toonami would show those, and celebrate those films. I think they’re beautiful. And I think one really awesome thing that’s happening right now anime is it’s just become so much more accessible. Because of things like FUNimation and Crunchyroll and Netflix, people can find these shows. I absolutely love Toonami, I think it’s amazing to keep that going and keep the celebration of Saturday nights happening. But if there’s something you miss on Toonami you can find it in other places and I think that’s really a really great thing.
Daniel: That will help things a bit but hopefully Toonami can help too.
Besides continuing your roles as Eren and Kirito, among many others, you’ve also got to voice some new roles. Such names include Yo “Discount Deku” Shindo in My Hero Academia, Inouske in Demon Slayer, and Liebe in Black Clover. Alongside the likes of Steve Blum, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Chris Sabat, your voice is among the most prominent on Toonami. Tell us your history with the block, and how does it feel to be a prominent voice in it?
Bryce: It’s very cool to be featured on Toonami, it’s always something special. Actually, my very first lead in an anime was in a show called .hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet as a character named Shugo, and that show was featured on Toonami. So, I started right from the beginning on the block and there were a number of years where I had at least one show that I was a lead in, starting with Blue Exorcist and Durarara, and Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan. Having all of their shows play on Toonami is always special. So, I hope that there’s lots more opportunities with Demon Slayer, with Black Clover, with Attack on Titan, hopefully more of the other shows I mentioned as well, to be back on Toonami and hang out with everyone late night Saturday night.
Daniel: Same here. Hopefully, we’ll see you back in more seasons of all those shows, more SAO…maybe we will see you in some more new shows.
Bryce: Gotta love it, I’ve been auditioning a lot and talking a lot so hopefully there’s lots more coming.
Anything else you’d like to say before we head out?
Bryce: Yes. Thank you to everyone who’s been watching my work, I really appreciate it. I hope I get to meet you at a con like San Diego Comic-Con or one in your area. And definitely follow me @BrycePapenbrook on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll be announcing all my new stuff there as soon as I’m allowed.
Daniel: Alright, so on behalf of the Toonami Faithful and my colleagues at Toonami Squad, thank you so much for talking with me, and we’ll see you again next time.
Bryce: Yeah, man. Good to chat with you and always good to see you.
What are your thoughts of this interview? Let us know what you think at the comments below or directly on our social media.