My Hero Academia is one of the biggest anime series to come out in the past few years. It’s a delicate coming-of-age story that looks at what truly makes a hero and why it’s important to have role models that give the world hope.
There is no shortage of superhero content out there, yet My Hero Academia takes archetypes from the genre and recontextualizes them through its heightened world of overpowered individuals. Each season chronicles the next generation of heroes’ growth as they train to become the best versions of themselves. My Hero Academia is optimistic and bright, but a dark undertone has gradually crept in that guarantees that each season is more dramatic and challenging than the last.
Izuku “Deku” Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo are two of My Hero Academia’s most important characters that both represent different extremes of heroics. Season five tests this duo in greater ways than ever before as they compete against new heroes in Class 1-B and face a rejuvenated League of Villains, while also discovering crucial details about themselves. Justin Briner and Clifford Chapin, the voice actors behind these two iconic heroes, spoke with Den of Geek about the new challenges that lie ahead this season, how the past has changed Midoriya and Bakugo, and the anime’s evolving and tricky relationship between heroes and villains. Plus Ultra!
DEN OF GEEK: This new season mixes together the students of Class 1-A with the 1-B group. How do all of these new characters change the dynamic and status quo that Midoriya and Bakugo have gotten used to?
JUSTIN BRINER: I think one of the show’s real strengths is its cast, starting from Deku and then fanning out to everyone else. Everyone is someone’s favorite out there and so any time that another character gets a moment in the spotlight is super exciting for everyone involved. You get to learn more about them, but then that also extrapolates to how they relate with the rest of the cast. I just think that it strengthens the overall bonds of this universe that they’re all living in.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: I completely agree. We have so many well-developed characters over the course of the show and pretty much whenever someone new gets introduced you know that they’ll get a moment soon enough where they’ll prove that they’re cool and what they can do. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Class 1-B kids show off their stuff a little more, but it’s also really cool because we had some interactions with them back in season two, but pretty minimally. So I’m excited to see those characters get delved into a lot more and see what they’re really about.
Midoriya and Bakugo have kind of been pulled in different directions over the past seasons, but these new episodes reunite them. Has it been satisfying to get to bounce off of each other more and return to that earlier dynamic of these characters?
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: Any time that I get to be in a scene with Justin I end up thoroughly enjoying it. It’s usually a situation where Bakugo gets to express the most development. We get to see that character grow a lot more through his interactions with Deku. So any time I get to have a scene with Justin I’m excited for it because it means that we’ll get to see Bakugo push himself to the next level.
JUSTIN BRINER: It’s just so remarkable to see how far they’ve come as friends, as rivals, and every time that they get together it begs the question, “Okay, where does this go next?” I’m really excited to see how their bond further develops over time.
Why do you think their relationship resonates so much with fans? It’s really become such an important part of the show.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: The reason that I think fans have gravitated to their relationship so much is because there’s so much to explore in that relationship. It’s a relationship where they start out as friends, then one blossoms and the other doesn’t, which creates an odd tension between them. The relationship has gone through so many different waves and forms over the course of the show and over the course of the characters’ histories.
There’s so much to it now that it’s hard to not be invested in that growth, where they’ll end up, and if they’ll turn into the best team. We don’t know, but that’s part of the mystery and intrigue behind just how far they’ve come. It’s so captivating and I think that it keeps pulling people back into the show.
Both of your characters went through a tremendous amount in the previous season. How do those events continue to affect your characters this year?
JUSTIN BRINER: Yeah, always! Any time that there are these big, combustible plots it leads to these characters changing, for better or for worse. They learn lessons and build new goals. Especially after the events of season four, which featured these over the top and unstoppable villains. It’s exciting to see what they build towards.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: Absolutely. Every time there’s a new scene or moment you can feel the weight of the previous moment carrying through. Bakugo wasn’t really front and center in the fights in season four against Overhaul, but he’s important when it comes to the remedial lessons with the kids when they’re trying to get their provisional licenses. Bakugo talks to the kids about how you can’t look down on others, which is a lesson that he himself has learned, and continues to carry on. So I feel like we’ve always seen that what’s happened in the past is always relevant in the present. It just keeps fueling the characters and pushing them forward.
Justin, a major component of this new season is that Midoriya gains a better understanding of One For All. Has it been exciting to finally explore such a huge part of the character and see how Midoriya’s powers continue to evolve?
JUSTIN BRINER: Absolutely. I really don’t have the faintest idea where it’s headed, but there’s been so much mystery behind the power of One For All and its relationship with All For One. Fans have been clamoring for answers, but I’m just as anxious and excited to learn more! Totally though, I’m right on board.
Clifford, Bakugo has also grown a lot as a hero and he continues to refine his Quirk. Does that pursuit of perfection continue this season?
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: Truth be told, I’m not sure what lies ahead beyond the opening skirmish with Class 1-B. I would imagine, based on how the series has gone, that we’ll continue to see Bakugo get pushed. That’s the stuff that I’m most excited to visit. I’m excited to see how his character continues to grow. We have a little bit of a hint of what lies ahead because of the previous movie, which is set a little further in the timeline. That offers a few answers, but I have no idea when the series will visit them, but I’m excited for when they do.
This season seems like it continues to blur the lines between heroes and villains. Talk a little about this grey area and why these layered characters help make the series’ villains so fascinating.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: I think that all goes back to the writing. [Kohei] Horikoshi is just masterful in his development of the characters. No character is two-dimensional here. They all have a drive, backstory, and something that compels them to fight. We see that with Shigaraki that his story parallels Deku’s a little bit. To see one rise as the greatest hero while the other rises to potentially become the greatest villain leaves a lot to be explored. It’s exciting to see because we, the audience, are so used to getting the hero’s journey and not really seeing the villain’s. My Hero Academia is very good about helping you also explore the villains’ journey, which helps make them become more compelling in the process.
JUSTIN BRINER: Totally. All of these characters are in a world where superheroes are honored and kind of revered, so to look at what it takes to become a villain in this society becomes a fascinating question.
My Hero Academia has grown a lot in five seasons and it even reaches its 100th episode this year. What are some of the biggest changes that you’ve noticed since its start?
JUSTIN BRINER: I think it’s funny, especially in Deku’s case, that it’s easy to track his progress because he’s literally yelling, “5%! 10%!” Other than that though there are so many characters that have come a long way and we’ve learned so much about the world that they inhabit. I always appreciate when there’s more world building and backstory. I just think that their society is so interesting to think about.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: I agree. As far as outside of the series, it’s incredible to see how far My Hero Academia has come and how big that it’s gotten. I personally never thought that I’d be seeing it when I go to the store—that there are figures and memorabilia. To see it just be so well received and become popular is phenomenal, especially when you get to grow with it from the start. Sometimes I have to catch myself and be like, “Wow, this is the fifth season.” It’s crazy and we don’t get to experience that a whole lot when working on other anime. It’s incredibly exciting and humbling to be on this ride for as long as it goes on.
On that note, I’ve appreciated how My Hero Academia gets progressively more mature with each season as these characters grow older and face tougher threats. Season four was definitely the most brutal yet. Does this direction continue in season five or does it seem like a lighter season?
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: I honestly don’t know, but that’s one of the things that I love about My Hero Academia. You’ll have a really dark moment and then you’ll have a light one afterwards to pull you out of the darkness, which I think also plays into the themes of the show, too. So much of Deku’s mission is to just bring a smile to people’s faces. I feel like My Hero Academia rides that wave really well. I don’t know if I expect it to get darker right away or if it will stay lighthearted because a lot of season four was dark and heavy. I’m eager to see because if it stays lighthearted it will be fun, but if it gets dark then I can only imagine where it will go.
JUSTIN BRINER: Yeah, exactly. It’s hard to say. Right now I’m feeling light because I’m excited that it’s back and I hope that it doesn’t get too dark too quickly.
The third My Hero Academia movie just got announced! What can you tease about that and is it exciting to get to tell these bigger stories independently of the anime and give the fans a cinematic experience?
JUSTIN BRINER: Absolutely. It’s just a different sort of experience and vibe when watching a movie–especially when we could see things on big screens—because there’s a certain energy there. It’s different from an episode-to-episode sort of feeling. I think it’s super exciting that there’s more of that on the way.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: We got to do the premiere last year for the second movie and just being able to be in the theater with the fans as they were seeing the movie for the first time—and we were seeing it complete for the first time—was an experience unlike anything else I can describe. Hopefully, with any sort of luck, the premiere for the next movie could be something like that again. Here’s hoping!
Finally, if you could have any Quirk from the series, which one would you be most drawn towards?
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: I’m trying to think of a character who doesn’t get enough love or exposure…
JUSTIN BRINER: I think I might go for Lunch Rush’s Quirk. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know that it’s delicious.
CLIFFORD CHAPIN: That’s right up your alley. That’d be perfect. For me, is it weird that I like Kamui Woods’ weird tendril-y bark power? I think it’s so strange and unique. I don’t know what you’d do with it other than what Kamui Woods does with it, but I feel like it’s an interesting Quirk that we could stand to see explored more in the series.
The dub for My Hero Academia season 5 is currently streaming on Funimation.com, with new episodes premiering on Saturdays.