Plenty of anime series grow into phenomena over time and build a reputation for themselves, but Attack on Titan in particular has seen great success ever since its debut. The anime’s premise, where a community of resistance fighters live in a walled city to protect themselves from gigantic man-eating monsters known as Titans, is instantly addictive. It’s not uncommon for popular anime to lose momentum over time or struggle to stick their landings, but each season of Attack on Titan has only improved upon what’s come before it.
Attack on Titan gloriously defies expectations and it’s led to a final season that’s highly unconventional and explores the anime’s universe from a creative new vantage point. Excitement for Attack on Titan has never been higher now that its end is in sight and thankfully the series’ English dub has just become available to run in tandem with these final episodes. Bryce Papenbrook, who voices the series’ ever-evolving protagonist, Eren Jaeger, and Lindsay Seidel, the voice actor responsible for the final season’s new Warrior recruit, Gabi, took some time to talk with Den of Geek about the events of the final season, bringing a reality to their characters, and just what Attack on Titan means to them.
DEN OF GEEK: This new season is so different from the rest. What were your first impressions when you saw what was happening in this final season?
Bryce Papenbrook: This show has kept me on the edge of my seat since the beginning. I’m one of those people who has watched along and never got anything right. So, when it started to shift gears it initially threw me, but it sucked me back into the show even more. It made me so curious who these new characters are and what’s going on. That first episode that hit Toonami last Saturday was just phenomenal. Titan continues to surprise me and pull me in. I can’t wait to see where it’s going.
Lindsay Seidel: In the first episode of this season you can definitely tell that things are different. We’re introduced to new characters, including my character, Gabi. Something that Attack on Titan does so well is that it always keeps you on the edge of your seat due to all of the questions that it’s asking. The start of this season is no different. The first episode makes it clear you’re meeting some cool, new characters with backgrounds that we know nothing about yet. I’m just excited to see how it will all unfold and how these people may connect to the old characters that we’ve come to know and love.
Lindsay, what has it been like to join a show like this during its final season and in such an important role?
Lindsay Seidel: I can’t fully express how excited and honored that I am to join the cast, really in any capacity, but then I was thrilled when I learned that I’d be voicing Gabi. I love getting to play female characters who are intelligent, brave, strong, and definitely sassy–Gabi is sassy–and I love that about her, too. To be honest, it also felt a little nerve-racking because this is a show that people have grown to adore and so I felt the weight of becoming a part of a show where people have high expectations.
Gabi enters the series so fully formed and this anime handled characterization so well. Lindsay, is there anyone that you’re drawing on for inspiration with your Gabi performance?
Lindsay Seidel: Not anyone specifically. I don’t like to draw on any other specific characters that I’ve been introduced to in the past when I approach characters. I like to come in with a fresh slate and see what the original Japanese actors have done and then also follow the direction of my director—Mike McFarland in the case of this show. When I first came in to record for the show, he gave me plenty of direction and the lowdown on Gabi, who she is, what she’s like, and the type of voice that he had in mind for her. And then the way that it works is that we’ll play around with it for a little bit, figure it out, and then go through some lines. I’ll give it a few reads, he’ll suggest some adjustments, and then we’ll land somewhere that feels right for Gabi. It’s been really, really fun to get to know this character.
Bryce, there’s a major jump in time between when Eren is seen at the end of season three and when he’s returned to in season four. How did you approach getting into this new headspace for the character?
Bryce Papenbrook: It’s been an interesting process and I don’t want to get spoiler-y beyond anything that’s come out in English, but we see Eren at the end of season three standing at the sea and wondering what’s on the other side. I believe it’s a four-year time jump between seasons and I don’t even know how different Eren is yet with where I’m at right now. Up until recently I had been blind about what happens in this final season and now very quickly, I learned much more, including where Eren is and how he’s changed. A major part of the fun comes out of how Eren comes back and how the show re-introduces him and how he’s changed in that time. It’s definitely been fun from what I’ve done so far.
I think one of the most fascinating things about this final season is how it plays around with perspective. Lindsay, do you consider Gabi and the fellow Warriors to be the villains in this story?
Lindsay Seidel: I love that question because I love discussing how Attack on Titan treats its characters like real people in the sense that you don’t always know everything about someone upon meeting them. You can think that they’re good, or bad, and then you find out more about their backstory and it’s suddenly much more complicated than some black and white enemy/ally scenario. My approach with Gabi, which is the same with any character that I play, is that this is a real person. Even if I’m playing a “villain” then I need to keep in mind that they have motivations behind their actions. We still may not have seen a ton of Gabi at this point and what she’ll do, but it’s been exciting to get deeper into her motivations and why she fights. It’s become clear right from the premiere that she’s a real person who’s complex and has different layers to her.
You’re continuing to record episodes from home. Has that had an influence on your performances at all this season and helped you get into the feeling of isolation that’s present through these episodes?
Bryce Papenbrook: I’m based out of Los Angeles, so 100% of my recording has been remote for the past couple of seasons. That’s obviously now due to the pandemic and safety, but previously it’s been due to the show’s release schedule. When we’re working on a simuldub and there’s an episode coming out every week it becomes difficult to travel across the country and get in the studio, especially when Eren is sometimes the focus of an episode and at other points may only have a few lines. It’s a lot of work. Recording remotely from home has definitely been a challenge.
I’m actually mid-construction on a new booth in my house, which I’m really excited about because it means that I can scream to my heart’s content and the neighbors won’t hear. I haven’t seen much screaming yet for Eren, but the level of intensity of the screams in Attack on Titan is like nothing else and so I’m not holding my breath—so to speak—on not screaming this season. I know that I’ll be prepared to give it my all and that the equipment will be able to withstand it when it becomes necessary.
Lindsay Seidel: That’s awesome. I’m envious!
Bryce Papenbrook: It’s been months of working out of a closet, so it’s been nice to get a bit of a bigger space with some natural light. I think it will have a huge influence on things.
Lindsay Seidel: I live in Dallas and while for most of the shows that I work on I’ve been recording from home, in my closet, I have been lucky enough that specifically on Attack on Titan I’ve been able to get into the studio to record. At Funimation they have a whole safety protocol that when you go into record you never encounter another human being the entire time. It’s very nice. It actually felt like a special treat to get to go into record for Attack on Titan after operating out of my closet for so many months. It’s been a strange luxury to be like, “Oh my God, all I have to do now is just act and do my job? I don’t have to worry about outside elements like if a car drives by outside.
Now that the series is starting to come to an end, what are your favorite memories that you have associated with Attack on Titan?
Bryce Papenbrook: I’ve been with the show now for a number of years so that list has gotten really long, but I think what stands out the most are some of my experiences from season one where I did get to go into Funimation and work with Mike [McFarland] and meet a lot of the other actors that worked on the show. It was really special for me because Eren was my first audition for Funimation. That whole experience of going out to Dallas to audition and Mike McFarland was just so welcoming–he let me stay with him out there! We’d drive into the studio together every day and Mike loves metal music so it’d be like thirty minutes of that blaring before work.
It was just an incredible experience and I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends with many of the people that I met on the show. I’m really going to miss the recording, the process, and it’s all very bittersweet for this show to wrap up. But I’m so curious to finally know what’s going on. Like I said, I haven’t guessed anything right from the beginning. It continues to trick me and I can’t wait to see where it goes and then re-live the whole thing again from the start.
Lindsay Seidel: My work on the show is more recent, but my favorite memory really has to be when I found out that I would be voicing Gabi in the first place. I did not know which character I was going to be playing until I stepped into the studio to record for the first episode. I knew that I’d be recording for Attack on Titan, which was super exciting for me even if I didn’t know who I was going to voice, but I became ecstatic after Mike told me it was Gabi and gave me a little more information about her. I’m sure that as the season goes on I’ll be creating more fond memories, too.
Are you scared over whether your characters will make it to the end of the series alive?
Bryce Papenbrook: I’m scared for every character in this show. They can die at any time. No one is safe, as previous seasons have shown. I’m not really sure who will make it and who won’t, but I’m expecting there to be a lot of action. Based on what the season has shown so far, I’m expecting it to continue to change perspectives and flip this world upside down time and time again. So, am I scared for Eren? Always! But I would say that’s what makes it so exciting. I cannot wait to see what happens.
Lindsay Seidel: Absolutely. I have to agree with Bryce in that this is a show where you’re scared for every character all of the time!
New episodes of Attack on Titan season 4 premiere every Sunday on Crunchyroll and Funimation.