My Hero Academia star Justin Briner talks Deku’s journey, Heroes Rising


We speak to My Hero Academia star Justin Briner about Deku’s journey during the past season, and what’s next.

The fourth season of My Hero Academia concluded back in April, with an accompanying announcement that the anime had already been greenlit for a fifth season. And with the show’s popularity, there was never any doubt that the story would continue. Fans are invested in Deku’s journey to becoming the Number One Hero and next Symbol of Peace, and they’ll see that adventure through to the end.

We spoke with Justin Briner, who voices Deku in the English dub of My Hero Academia, at FunimationCon this month, diving into how he felt about his character’s development this past season, and where things might go from here.

There’s no denying that Deku’s come a long way from being the Quirkless kid we met in season one. In fact, the most recent season emphasizes just how much he’s transformed, seeing him defeat not one but two major heroes on his own.

“Deku has really been kind of pushed to his limits in this season,” Briner said. “And I think it’s really cool to see that he’s fighting for a purpose in this season. It’s all about trying to better the life of this poor girl he comes across. So, for me, I wanted to try to channel that strength, but also the desperation. In this season, he is really willing to do anything to save this child — to put his life on the line and beyond. So, I just tried to be as truthful to that as I could.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Justin Briner attends “My Hero Academia” World Dub Premiere at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on September 13, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Funimation)

And Deku’s desperation to save Eri goes beyond merely retrieving her from Overhaul’s clutches. The second half of season 4 shows him trying to bring her happiness in spite of everything she’s been through. “And it’s amazing because she also, quite literally, saves him,” Briner added. “So it’s nice to see that the work they’re both putting in is paying off.”

Of course, showing Eri what happiness looks like is easier said than done. The season’s second villain, Gentle Criminal, almost derails U.A. High’s plans to host its School Festival — something that would have dashed Eri’s hopes and stepped on the students’ hard work. Briner pointed out that contending with Gentle was one of the highlights of the season, since this is a villain who’s no going to see sense:

"I thought, after all the high-stakes drama of the Overhaul arc and the raid on the Shie Hissaikai, I had so much fun voicing the fight with Gentle because, ultimately, at its core, it’s like, he can’t be reasoned with. Why are you doing this, Gentle? Well, I want views on my YouTube channel. No, listen, you’re going to ruin this girl’s life if you do this. Well, I’ve got the good tea out today."

Luckily, Deku manages to stop Gentle’s plans from unfolding, even if he’s unable to reason with him.

Unfortunately, Deku’s season 4 journey isn’t all triumph. During the early episodes, our main character is forced to come to terms with the heartbreaking revelation that his mentor and idol may not be around to see him become the next Symbol of Peace. Sir Nighteye’s vision of All Might’s untimely death has yet to come true, but it’s added a new worry to Deku’s plate.

“It’s definitely tough to reconcile,” Briner said. “As My Hero is very much sort of a coming-of-age story for all these kids growing up, there is a part in all of our lives, I think, where we need to come to terms with the fact that our mentors and our heroes won’t be around forever. We need to carry the torch for them and keep it burning brightly. It’s going to be a harsh lesson, but I think he’s finally begun to deal with the weight that’s on his shoulders now. It’s definitely going to be hard, but it’s a journey worth taking, I think. And he’ll be stronger for it.”

In addition to working on the anime’s fourth season, the cast of My Hero Academia also tackled another project this year: Heroes Rising, the second feature film set in this world. “For the movie, specifically, I think that the major difference there is that the story is self-contained,” Briner said. “You know, there are references to what’s going on in the series on the outside, but generally, the action that you see and the momentum that propels you forward is specific to that movie. So you get to really dig your heels in and tell this story which has very cinematic stakes.”

"So as opposed to the TV show where things move a little slower, you know where you’re headed, you take your time to get their a little bit, in the movie — and seeing it in the theater — it’s just larger than life for about an hour and a half. So you really need to make sure that, one, you’re not spending 100 percent of your energy at the beginning and B, that you’re using that 100 percent when it’s finally time."

And the film had plenty of energy, especially when Deku and Bakugou finally worked as a team to overcome the movie’s villain, something that would have been unthinkable just a few seasons ago. After years of an unhealthy rivalry, it seems these two are on the way to a developing a grudging respect for one another.

“Fans of these characters and their dynamic have wanted a moment like this, I think, for a long time,” Briner explained. “And to see it so grand is really amazing. Because they did work together, and over time, they’ve seen how to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, how bolster each other’s strengths. So it wasn’t only that they were working together, it’s that they were working together as a team.”

Briner would love to see more moments like this going forward (wouldn’t we all), as well as more episodes that focus on the students of Class 1A and how they’re improving as heroes. “I love the sort of gradual way that you get to see all the students improving their Quirks and their personal techniques and their fighting styles,” he said. “So I just hope to see some more of that. We saw some really big developments for Deku and crew in this past season, and now with that experience under their belt, I want to see what they cook up next.”

There’s currently no timeline for when the next chapter of My Hero Academia will arrive, but fans can agree with Briner on one thing: We’ll be waiting to see where our favorite heroes-in-training go next.

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