Justin Briner is a Dallas-based actor and singer known primarily for his work in anime. He is currently starring as everyone’s favorite kid with a quirk Izuku “Deku” Midoriya in third season of My Hero Academia. You can also hear his acting talent as the voice of Mikaela in Seraph of the End, Yukito and Yue in Cardcaptor Sakura, Ayanokoji in Classroom of the Elite, Qwenthur in Heavy Object, and Manato in Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions. We were able to catch up with Justin at Crunchyroll Expo in San Jose, California.
Interview with Justin Briner - Voice Actor in My Hero Academia, Cardcaptor Sakura, Seraph of the End & More!
You are currently playing the hero in My Hero Academia, Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. The show is a bone fide hit with a rabid fan base. What do you think is the key to the mass appeal of the show?
I know that the author, Horikoshi-sensei, really was inspired by western sensibilities, comic books, television, and superhero stories. So to see this work tow the line between both of the audiences (anime and western) and get such acclaim is a testament to all of the studiousness that he had in its development. I also think Deku is someone that you can really root for. The narrative is also compelling in that the story is about students that are really growing up in front of your eyes. You watch them, from season to season, each form their own convictions. You are rooting for these high school kids and it can be kind of rewarding because it can feel like you’re rooting for your high school self.
You are not only a star in a current show but in the cast of a recent season of a genre-defining show as Yukito and Yue in Cardcaptor Sakura. What is it like to have your name attached to such a historic franchise?
The character was a really fun and interesting challenge because they share a body but don’t inhabit it at the same time. So one is never quite privy to what the other is doing. It think it was quite cool in differentiating the characters just enough. Yukito is your classic boy-next-door filled with sunshine and Yue was really interesting. I needed to fill that space between the masculine and the feminine, especially for the role of Yue to make him more ethereal and yet real. The director went to great lengths to differentiate them but have enough of a common thread, a part of which was accomplished by casting me as both.
Who is your biggest influence as a voice actor? Whom do you admire?
I’d say in the ADR field, Chris Sabat was really great to look up to when I was starting to travel to conventions for the first time because he has been doing it for a long time. I’d have to say growing up and thinking about what I wanted to do voiceover-wise, I was really inspired by the cartoons and video games of my childhood, folks like Rob Paulson (Yakko in Animaniacs), Tom Kenny (Plankton in Sponge Bob), and Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario). I like the people that had high registers, but had great vocal ranges. I can recognize them just enough to pick them out but am amazed by what they can do.
Zeke-senpai loved Heavy Object and calls it a near-perfect buddy movie. Do you have a good relationship with Micah Solusod? Because you really sounded like buddies to us. Did you get to record any scenes with him?
Unfortunately no, that is the shame of what we do. We are always in the booth alone with the director and the engineer. We were never able to [record together]. It’s unfortunate because that was before all the special features they are doing now. I imagine if we were dubbing it today there would have been some featurette where he and I were bumming around or something.
The story of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions is an amazing telling of a soldier’s story. The kind of story that has weight to it since it doesn’t seem to, despite its fantasy setting, get overly romantic about the daily slog of life in the trenches so to speak. You played Manato; were you surprised by the depth of the story as you got into your role?
I was really interested in just the concept of the show right away. I felt they were subverting things in clever ways. The trapped-in-a-fantasy-realm had been done a lot and this one approached it very differently. You had to team up with people you didn’t know and put a lot of trust in them without really knowing what could happen otherwise. I think it was very real of the soldier’s story. You team up with whoever is around and you have to trust them even when things look bleak.
What is your favorite trope? Or to put it another way, if you were trapped in an anime what genre would you prefer?
I’d be interested in being trapped in a video game, if only because I’ve played a lot of video games and it might give me an edge. It doesn’t seem fair, so I’d like to be trapped in a shonen adventure world. I really like One Piece, the grand scope of these big adventure stories. I think to be in one of those would be excellent.
What has been a line that really stuck with you? A line you feel like you couldn’t have said better?
I just finished playing 9 Alpha on DARLING in the FRANXX and he was sort of a disrupter and antagonized the folks, and in the end they have sort of a begrudging team-up. Then, at the end of it all, he says something to the effect of “I guess being human wasn’t so bad after all.” We thought oh, he learned how to be human. The director said no, it more like “oh, that was a nice little diversion.”
What is your favorite line you’ve gotten to say?
I really like doing anime laughing, like when I play villainous roles, playing the antagonist or the disrupter. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that so whenever they do their callous laughter that is super fun to me.
You say you enjoy cooking? What do you like to cook? Do you have a go-to recipe?
I’ve really been trying to hammer home French onion soup recently. I think I’ve got the onions down and now I’m working on making a homemade beef stock to put into it and then I think I’ll finally capture the essence of French onion soup. I’m always on a quest to expand our spice cabinet so I’ve been working on Indian curries recently.
Do you have any upcoming projects or things you’d like to add?
The My Hero Academia movie is coming out next month. I got to work on that from beginning to end so look forward to that.
We want to thank Justin Briner for taking the time to sit down and talk to us; we know he has a lot on his plate with saving the world as Deku. The chance to meet a hero in person is always a treat. We look forward to continuing to hear his talented voice on My Hero Academia and many other shows in the future.
Author: Zeke Changuris
I’m a journalist, writer, photographer, video producer, social media manager and above all a storyteller. I’m located on the east coast of the United States but travel the world with the love of my life. I’ve been a nerd since birth with a love of history and science. I fell in love with anime, watching ROBOTECH and Venus Wars in the 80s when our only source was secondhand VHS dubs. A crazy new thing called the internet changed that, giving me access to new and amazing anime every day. I love to write for work and pleasure. I’m living the dream of every kid, getting paid to watch anime and loving every subtitled line.