Earning its place among shōnen manga for some of the best fights in anime, Jujitsu Kaisen was written and illustrated by Gege Akutami in 2018. Pushing huge milestones in 2021 for its success as an anime, it follows the unnatural story of Yuji Itadori, played by Adam McArthur in the English dub, and classmate Nobara Kugisaki, played by Anne Yatco. The Mercury was privately invited along with “Manga Brownies” to co-interview both lead stars about their experience as voice actors and on the show.
What do you feel is the importance of having an internet or online presence in creative work?
“I used to think it was unimportant. That was when I had no internet presence. As someone who, I suppose, gained internet presence more recently during the pandemic, I can see where in this world, where content comes out so fast and people are so fervent in their enjoyment of the material with each other in following forms, to see actors also be passionate about those projects with them. I think fans really appreciate that.”
“I kind of feel like maybe it’s just devil’s advocate, [but] some of my favorite voice actors, Fred Tavish or Scott Meadville, don’t post on anything. And they work all the time. So it’s like what is it about? Can it be advantageous for someone who’s like streaming on Twitch so that people know when you’re streaming and know what you’re up to? Totally. But like, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, there’s something really awesome about networking in person. Definitely, you know, face to face with people.”
Both of you have very prestigious resumes and experienced talent portfolios. Can either of you provide insight to what’s helped you develop such successful careers?
“Aw, well thank you.”
“It is hard, you know. There’s that voice of “you’ll never work again” after every single job. You get impostor syndrome — it’s a real thing and it’s very loud. Even for people who have been working, I mean … I’ve been voice acting for about 24 years. My first job was 24 years ago, and I’m still like, “Who knows if I’ll get any jobs next year?” But yeah, it’s about just kind of stopping and stepping back and being grateful.
The other thing is that, you know, we’ve been lucky to have things on our resume that people know, that people are like, “Oh, that’s a cool role.” I like to tell people I won the lottery a couple of times. And that’s not to say that there aren’t countless other voice actors who are working like every day, you know, every week, doing all kinds of stuff, making a living full time as actors who maybe don’t ever win the lottery of notable characters. It doesn’t make them any less of an actor or any less talented … I got lucky.
As an Asian American what is it like to work in the voice acting industry?
There’s been so much talk lately about the importance of representation in all forms of media. You know, it’s not something I take lightly. It’s weird to find myself as a person of prominence that people come and look at me and they say, “Oh, I’m just so glad that you’re there. I love that I can hear myself and see myself in you” and that always touches me that, you know, I can somehow be something like that for other people. I hope that it just inspires them to, you know, reach for whatever it is they’re looking for, if it’s to also be in the industry. Or if it’s just to feel validated and seen. And I hope that we can keep being that for each other.
What was your journey into voice acting or how you broke into the industry?
Mine was pretty weird. Okay, not weird. I was just a kid and I had begged my parents for acting classes. They finally put me in an acting class, and the school was owned by a woman who was on Sesame Street as a voice in Northern California, and all the local talent agencies knew her and that she had a school for kids and teens. So they would often have auditions go through her to find youth. Something came across the table and I ended up getting my first — my first professional paying gig was a voiceover commercial for Macy’s. And the first one turned into like 36. And then I just saved my money … I just did kind of what I wanted and then got agents and never quit.
My road is much longer and weirder. So I have a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. And then I went to Cal Arts to get my MFA in acting. And then when student loans were about to kick in, I thought, hey, I should get like a full-time job. And, weirdly enough, a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and an MFA in acting isn’t, I don’t know, attractive to Target or restaurants. I didn’t get it. It’s weird. But I found a job as a forensic scientist for like seven and a half years.
Can you imagine not finding a job at Target so then you go become a forensic scientist?