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Ryan Colt Levy And Reagan Murdock Cut Into Dubbing Chainsaw Man - Exclusive Interview

"Chainsaw Man," the hit new anime series based on the manga of the same name by Tatsuki Fujimoto, follows Denji, a 16-year-old orphan trapped under immense debt and with no friends other than his Chainsaw Devil dog, Pochita. When a job hunting demons goes wrong and kills Denji, Pochita merges with his human master, reviving him and transforming them into the human-Devil hybrid Chainsaw Man. Chainsaw Man is recruited by Public Safety Devil Hunters, an organization that provides him with actual human contact and a much higher standard of living than he ever had before. Now responsible for supervising Denji is Aki Hayakawa, a powerful hunter with a tragic past and a serious hatred for Devils.

Looper got the chance to speak with Ryan Colt Levy, the voice of Denji in the English dub, and Reagan Murdock, the English voice of Aki, following the release of the anime's sixth episode. The voice actors shared what they love about the manga and anime so far, how they've approached the challenges of the roles, and the other anime roles they treated as alternative versions of their "Chainsaw Man" characters.

Balancing humor and drama in Chainsaw Man

"Chainsaw Man" is a series that goes way over the top in a way that has a sense of humor to it, but the characters' emotions are nonetheless played seriously. How do you approach that tonal balance when voice acting in the show?

Ryan Colt Levy: You almost answered it in the question. The characters are designed to be taken seriously, and that's what helps make the big stuff feel digestible in a way that doesn't feel like it's coming out of left field or that it's some genre mash that doesn't fit.

The way that a story like this has to work is the characters have to be played genuinely, because otherwise, I don't think you'd go on that journey with them. You have to believe a man with a chainsaw head. You have to first believe in the heart, in his body.

Reagan Murdock: Also, the comedy comes from the characters being so authentic and believable — especially that scene that Denji and Aki have in the alleyway, that infamous one. It only works if both of them are coming at this from a very authentic place: Aki with his very rigid ideas of what a person should be, and Denji completely disregarding that. It's that clash of these two very real personalities that makes both the serious moments and the comedic moments work so well.

The balance is especially complicated with Denji because his baser instincts would play as pure comic relief in most anime, but they end up being taken more seriously here, even with all the humor.

Levy: Yes. There's something that's like because he takes it so seriously and you feel how genuinely this stuff matters to him, it makes it funnier as an outside viewer. [It's like] in the same way that we got introduced to Kobeni, who can be so genuinely sad, and that's where the humor comes from.

It's not because it's like, "Look at how funny this sadness is." A lot of the characters, you have to be honest about who they are in that moment, and Denji's a real 16-year-old kid who hasn't had a great education at all. He hasn't had any education, he has no connection to people who've ever shown him real affection, and he is raw nerve endings.

He's all of these feelings at a point in his life where any person is full of all of those feelings and getting thrown into the world for the first time. It's seeing someone experiencing sensory overload in real-time.

Denji goes wild, while Aki keeps his cool

Denji also has a lot of intense screaming scenes. Is it hard on your voice to perform those?

Levy: Thankfully, no, because our director, Mike [McFarland], is very careful. We don't spend tons of time doing a bunch of screamy takes. Usually, we take more time watching and planning out what we want to do and then executing once or twice. Also, thankfully, I used to sing and scream in all kinds of hardcore bands and stuff like that as a kid, so I know how to do that stuff without hurting myself, and I know my threshold.

It's about doing it as technically safely as I can and not overdoing it in any particular session. [I] want to have longevity with this and only get better at this process and at expressing how he feels. In these crazy scenes, I want to do them smart and safely, but it's definitely something that — thankfully — I'm comfortable with.

Reagan, would you be able to survive having Denji and Power as roommates, or is that one way Aki is stronger than you in real life?

Murdock: Aki is so much stronger than me in so many ways. You might actually be surprised at how sloppy I am as a home caretaker, but I'm not sure how I would do with somebody who constantly stuffs my toilet with paper and other refuse. Brisk as Aki can be, I would've thrown them out a lot sooner.

Each episode of the anime has a different ending theme. They've all been awesome, but if you had to choose, which has been your favorite so far?

Murdock: Maximum the Hormone. Oh my God, I love that. I love that band so much, and I've loved them since I was a teenager. Getting to hear them in a show that I'm in — and not only that, they say one of my character's lines, [and] when I tell you I was jumping up and down the second I heard that — it's so cool.

Levy: It's so gnarly. It really is so good. They're one of my favorite bands too. That one and [the one from] the second episode [are my favorites]; I loved the low-fi city vibes of [the latter]. I am blown away by all of them. It's one of those crazy things where every week I'm excited to see the vibe of it, what's going to be next, but [Episode 3's ending] right now [is my pick, with] the chaotic visuals. It's wild.

The actors' worst fears and anime recommendations

If your greatest fear took the form of a Devil, what would it be?

Murdock: In a physical sense? Probably a Cockroach Devil. I hate bugs. But if you're talking in a more philosophical sense, I don't know — what would the failure devil look like?

Levy: Ooh, that's a good one. Maybe the Spider Devil. I love spiders as far as what they could do for the home, but I'm not a fan of ... If something of that nature were in devil form, that'd be pretty terrifying.

Spiders and cockroaches were what your co-stars, Sarah Yeung and Susie Wiedenheft, talked about as well.

Levy: That's so funny. We're family.

Murdock: The brain cell we share.

"Chainsaw Man" was basically destined to be the season's most popular anime before it even premiered, but are there any lesser-known anime that you've been in that you think deserve more attention?

Levy: We got to be in a show together called "The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent," which is a very long title but a very sweet show. It was the first time we got to actually meet and develop what would ultimately be this odd couple pairing that is pure joy.

Murdock: I love that show. I love getting to work with Caitlin [Glass]. Another show that I hope people would enjoy would be this show called "Takt Op. Destiny." It was another one that Caitlin directed, and if you love music — especially classical music, like me — it's a wonderful, wonderful show. [It's] also done by MAPPA with this fantastic animation. The characters are all so well-developed. All the other actors are fantastic.

You've got Jason Liebrecht as the lead ... We've got Emi Lo as Destiny, and I got to shout out Natalie Hoover as my partner in crime, Titan. It's a wonderfully made show, and I hope that people check it out.

Popuko and Pipimi as versions of Denji and Aki

On a completely different note, you both recently co-starred in an episode of "Pop Team Epic." How do you think Popuko and Pipimi would fare in the world of "Chainsaw Man"?

Levy: They would fare pretty well, actually. They fit right in with the chaos. In a weird way, it felt like an alternate version of Denji and Aki, the way that we played them. It was like, "Okay, what is this relationship dynamic that we could bring to this?"

Murdock: It's one of those things where they probably could fix all the problems in this world by sheer chaotic cartoony-ness, but the question is, would they? It's wonderful being able to be let off the leash like that.

I know we're not allowed to talk about specific spoiler events from the manga that haven't been in the anime yet. But speaking more broadly, what are your favorite aspects of the manga, and how are you feeling the anime is adapting them — or are you looking forward to how they adapt it?

Levy: Already, just from the episodes that we've been able to share with everybody, we can see — for those who have read it — how incredibly faithful they're being to it and how they're giving all of these important moments so much room to breathe in a way that is also not sacrificing the pacing of the story. For me personally, there's a lot of emotional places that Denji gets to go to that I'm excited to ride on that journey with ... Aki and Denji have a particular bonding moment that is incredibly fun that I'm really looking forward to.

Murdock: It's wonderful getting to see these moments that we saw when we read the manga for the first time being adapted, and even the stuff that was added specifically for the anime. A lot of it is centered around Aki. You get to see that baseline that he's used to, and the way that these two incredibly chaotic characters throw that completely upside down — and the way that it's going to affect him as a person, and the way that it's going to force him to open up later down the line — is a really wonderful thing to see. I'm so looking forward to getting to make it happen.

New episodes of "Chainsaw Man" premiere Tuesdays on Crunchyroll.

This interview has been edited for clarity.