Chainsaw Man is proving to be one of, if not the hottest anime on the block right now, scoring a fresh rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of 4.9/5 on Crunchyroll.
If you’re out of the loop, Chainsaw Man is a story about a young dude with a hard-knock life that makes friends with a chainsaw dog. A series of events transpire that result in him becoming Da Chainsaw Man, a man who can also become a chainsaw. I’m purposefully not giving too much away because I think you should watch it.
Chainsaw Man also comes to us in an era unheard of to many anime fans, and that’s one where a lot of anime coming out these days is incredibly well-dubbed. Gone are the days of 4Kids giving characters the most New York accent you’ve ever heard (although I do miss some of them), we are finally in a time where watching the dub over the sub is not that bad.
In saying that, the Chainsaw Man dub rocks. It’s genuinely very good. There are still plenty of shows that I’d definitely watch the sub over the dub, but this isn’t one of them. What a time to be alive.
I had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the two leading lads of the Chainsaw Man English dub cast, Ryan Colt Levy (Denji) and Reagan Murdock (Aki), to ask them all about their time on the show, their history of playing the odd couples in anime, getting dads into anime, and having no fear of clowns.
If you’re looking for our interview with Suzie Yeung (Makima) and Sarah Wiedenheft (Power), you can head over here.
What has your experience been like so far working on such a long-desired anime like Chainsaw Man?
Ryan: It’s been a literal dream come true. It is so much fun. One, being a huge fan of it already and getting to just play this character but then two, session-to-session week-to-week getting to just get this dialogue and be like “I get to say this now? I get to do that now?” like, total gifts every time.
Reagan: You know, at first, I was absolutely terrified beyond all belief, but it’s just transformed into oh my gosh, I get to be part of something that’s so unique and that so many people love and you know, that’s why I, you know, got into performing is because I just wanted to give people the kinds of experiences that inspired me, you know, as a child and continue to now so I’m just grateful to be part of it.
And your roles as Denji and Aki, I feel like are obviously polar opposites and even at complete odds with one another, which is similar to your past roles as Uri and Erhart in The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent.
Reagan: You know about that!
Yeah! So I just wanted to ask, like, what’s your real-life dynamic like considering this isn’t the first time you’ve both voiced characters that are so mismatched and always hate one another?
Ryan: We have a lot more love for each other. I will say that I’m definitely you know, a loose crazy person and Reagan is far more classy than I am in every way. You know that is obvious. But I think our real-life dynamic is far more loving and brotherly off the bat. What I think is great, though, is I think the nice thing about our pairings is even though they’re kind of like, you know, tearing each other’s hairs out, they’re also like, you get the sense that they’re also kind of inseparable like you get the sense that they’d be worse off without each other and that there is a deep-rooted respect, regardless of the annoyance and there’s something just magical about that kind of pairing. I’ve always loved like, in all of storytelling, The Odd Couple dynamic is my favourite.
Ryan: Right? So getting to share that is just the best.
Reagan: Yeah, we’ve gotten on so well from the very beginning. And I’ve just always, you know, you know, Ryan, you keep talking about how I outclass you, you have this openness about you and you are so loving and caring in ways that I so admire, and so wish I could be. And I’m just so so grateful that I get to continue to perform with you and it’s one of my favourite things. And I know like you said, we play these characters that sometimes get on each other’s nerves, sometimes a whole lot, but like you said they would really not be the same people without each other and it’s good that they are able to challenge and build one another.
Ryan: Yeah, for better or worse, circumstantially, they encourage growth.
That’s so lovely. Do you feel like Denji and Aki represent you both as people or do you find yourself aligning with other characters in the series?
Ryan: I mean, I will totally line up with Denji I think you know, people can take that however they want but I think they’re gonna run with that. But I just feel that he is a beautifully honest and open and sensitive and funny, zany, kind of character and I think his ultimate optimism and enthusiasm for the unknown and what comes next and the exciting adventure and all of that I vibe with so much and it’s why I resonated with him in the first place. His ability to also not take any shit, which I just genuinely love, you know, as someone who is inherently very loving and warm, I also do not suffer fools and do not like to see injustices. I think there’s something about Denji where he just sees through bullshit really beautifully.
Reagan: Yeah, I really relate to Aki, as a person who is very introverted. I, you know, I spent a lot of time in my younger years, very closed off from people and didn’t like to let people in cuz it hurts sometimes when you do that. But it’s something that I think Aki is going to need to learn and is being taught to him by characters like Denji and Power is the willingness to be vulnerable with people and to have your ideas about what a person should be like, be challenged is really one of the great joys in life, to see other people’s perspectives and to be changed and, in many ways improved by them.
Yeah, absolutely. So, Ryan, you recently got your dad into anime. So how did that go? And does he have a favourite character in Chainsaw Man?
Ryan: Oh, man. So yeah, so my whole family, my mom, my dad, my sister all separately have really been kind of getting into a lot of this more and more since I’ve been voicing a lot of these characters. And I think there’s something about… One, they’re just excited. You know, like, we grew up as a family watching movies together. And like, we’re a very cinematic-language-based family. So he inherently immediately gets all of the elements, like this show is the perfect show for him. Because it’s such a cinematic silly, zany, and the same thing. Like we would go see Tarantino movies together. Like he loves this kind of stuff. As I was saying earlier, my only regret is that because he’s in New York and I’m in LA, we don’t get to watch the episodes together. Because I know that he’s cracking up at, you know, the crassest, insane, zany moments. And, you know, because I don’t spoil anything for him, I just tell him “Hey, the show’s intense and, you know, really out there and just go in blind,” and he is loving it. And he loves Denji. I mean, I think there’s just something so unexpected every time he opens his mouth. He loves Power. He loves all of them. He’s just having such a good time with it. And it’s so much fun to see because he’ll take like, our text chain is literally him just like updating me when he’s like seeing a scene or when like, he’s genuinely invested. It’s great.
And Reagan, you’re quite the Fan Art Appreciator online, which is always good to see, you know, talented artists getting some recognition. How does it feel to see someone love a character that you’ve voiced so much that they decide to make art of them?
Reagan: It’s just amazing seeing these incredibly talented people being inspired by the same thing that inspires me, you know, it’s a way of connecting with people that you probably never would have met in real life. But you see the work that they’re putting out, and it’s this magnificent stuff, this stuff that I could never do in a million years. And these people are just putting it out like it’s nothing and it’s just wonderful that these amazingly talented people resonate with the same thing that I do. And it’s so wonderful, the way that art brings people together.
Amazing, and also, why aren’t clowns scary to you?
Reagan: They just… It’s, you know… For one thing, I’ve never been scared of them even as a child. It’s like, they’re just trying to make people laugh, like, what’s the problem? And my roommate’s gotten me into going to a lot of haunted houses and like, every single time there’s an exhibit where you go through and there’s a bunch of clowns. It’s a bunch of clowns and it’s like, okay, all right. I don’t know!
Ryan: They’re like, “Damn, you’re immune…”
Ryan: “BOO! BOO! COME ON!”
Reagan: It’s like, “Well, you’re doing great buddy. Love the performance.”
You’re both also voicing side-by-side as Pipimi and Popuko in one of my favourite shows, Pop Team Epic. So what’s it like going from a gritty-yet-sometimes-goofy show like Chainsaw Man to the pure batshit energy of Pop Team Epic?
Ryan: What a gift. I mean, a gift on top of a gift because you know we just did the one episode and it was so funny because like there were some sequences that felt like alternate universe Aki and Denji so there was something almost like okay, let’s just take this relationship dynamic, throw it into a blender, take off any like emotional intention that I would make as an actor and just go like what’s the zaniest dumbest way I could say this line, like, how do I make the director laugh at this moment? And how do I ultimately, when Reagan sees this, make him like spit milk out of his nose? Like that’s, that’s the goal.
Reagan: Exactly. Yeah, it’s just, it’s really refreshing to go from a really serious, very dark kind of show where we’re so happy to be thinking about all the different ways that our characters are evolving, it’s such a really emotionally involved process, and just go from that straight into, “How can I make this as stupid as humanly possible?”, and just take off the leash, just let everything out. In particular, my favourite part is when we battle with our dumbass personalities because it’s just the two of us making these stupid noises. And I’m just like, well, I can do that. That’s half the conversations I have with my roommates.
Ryan: It’s amazing. Yeah, and Reagan recorded before I did. So it was one of the hardest sessions I’ve ever had because I was just cracking up over anything he would do. So it was like, it took me twice as long to get any of my lines out because I would just laugh in the middle of doing something.
Ruby: That’s always a good way to go into it though, right? Go in laughing.
Reagan: Go in laughing!
Ryan: It was the best. Yeah, absolutely the best.
Amazing. So you’ve both also voice-acted in multiple video games. So I’ve got to ask, what are some of your favourites? And do you ever feel weird hearing your own voice while playing a game?
Ryan: It’s definitely trippy, especially because I’ve been a gamer since I was an infant, I had the original Nintendo and I’ve just grown from there. So it’s wild. More recently, three games that I actually loved being a part of GUNVOLT 3 was a super fun franchise to be a part of, and I get to play a very kind of loud, brash character as well. Shin Megami Tensei 5, I got to be part of that legendary franchise, and I’m a big JRPG guy so that was a really cool experience. And more recently, another personal thing was, I got to be part of the latest Fire Emblem game and when I first started my voice acting career in late 2019, I was playing the current Fire Emblem game that was out at that time going like, “Man, this would be an incredible thing to be able to work on, something at this scale someday.” And a few years later, I’m in the sequel going, “I don’t know how this happened.” But, dream come true again.
Reagan: Yeah, I think it was actually… My first voice acting role was for an alternate skin of a character in SMITE. And it was so like you said, incredibly trippy, playing a game and knowing that that’s my voice coming out of that character, that had never happened to me before. But it was you know, the SMITE community was and is just so amazing and I love them. More recently, I’ve loved getting to play in the remake of Live A Live for the Nintendo Switch. I played the character The Sundown Kid and he’s this very, you know, Clint Eastwood gruff cowboy character, and it’s great, being a native Texan, being able to use a Texas accent for that. And I’ve always loved westerns and being able to portray this very world-weary but still very noble and caring man who’s just had this really rough go of life but he still wants to fight injustice and protect the people that he can and it’s the fan response to that was absolutely mind-blowing. So I’m just so grateful to be able to do what I love. You know, how many people can say that they get to make a living doing what they love doing?
Absolutely. And we’ve still got some time so I just quickly want to ask, what was the anime that you saw that convinced you that that was something that you wanted to get into?
Ryan: Oooh, um, there were like different levels of it for me, but I think ultimately when I was old enough to really process like the emotional side of it on that scale like as an actor, it was probably where most people found maybe what was their first anime. But for me, the gateway as a performer was Cowboy Bebop for sure.
Reagan: Yeah, the show that got me into anime, as a concept was definitely Naruto way back in the day. The one that convinced me that I want to be a voice actor in this, I think was Death Note. The English dub of that show is one of the greatest animated series ever made. And y’know, not saying anything bad about the Japanese version. But the English version is just absolutely immaculately crafted. And you’ve got these actors giving these amazing performances and I was like if I can do anything like that, heck yeah.
The English dub for Chainsaw Man is streaming now on Crunchyroll.
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