Interview: Bryce Papenbook and Yuki Kaji, The Seven Deadly Sins' Meliodas

by Kalai Chik,

To the excitement of fans, popular series, The Seven Deadly Sins, returns with an upcoming movie on August 18, 2018. As one of top watched anime on Netflix, an upcoming film in August 2018, and a lineup of the biggest names in the industry, The Seven Deadly Sins has captured the hearts of anime fans on all continents. The story follows Meliodas and his group of legendary knights, who help Princess Elizabeth in her plight to take back the kingdom from the Holy Knights.

After a successful and packed Anime Expo panel for The Seven Deadly Sins, fans now patiently wait for more news on what's next for the characters. In a rare opportunity, both Meliodas' Japanese and English voice actors, Yuki Kaji and Bryce Papenbrook, were in attendance and spoke to Anime News Network about their work on the show. Both played off each other and give insight into the subtleties of playing the complex character that is Melodias.

ANN: It's rare to for the Japanese and English voice actors to meet each other. Have you had the opportunity to spend some time together?

Yuki Kaji: I was surprised to find out that we play a lot of the same characters. We're even the same age. I feel like it's almost fate to meet him and do this together. I feel like he's another me in the United States.

Bryce Papenbrook: Thank you for saying that! It's an honor to do something like this. It really is rare and we're so far apart, but we have such similar experiences after playing these roles. We met this morning and we've been able to talking in between everything.

If you could choose for Melodias to be a Sin other than Wrath, what do you like him to be?

Yuki Kaji: Because I like eating, I'd say Gluttony.

Bryce Papenbrook: I think Wrath is very fitting for him. Deep down he has that in him, but I think Love/Lust would be funny because he's a very big fan of it.

Meliodas is very different from some of the other roles that you both play. He's comical, but can be very serious when he needs to be. How do you prepare yourself for when you're internalizing his character and acting as him?

Yuki Kaji: Throughout my career, I've learned so many traits and skills to play a variety of characters. Meliodas really tests my skills. His looks and his personality are very different, which is a challenge to overcome. I have to switch on and off during comedic moments to more serious moments. Within his personality, there's his backstory of where he comes from. He was a Demon King and as the story progresses, I'm always conscious of how that will come about in his personality. I've always been mindful of his history when I'm speaking as Meliodas.

Bryce Papenbrook: One thing I try to do when I'm creating a character is look at them, and become them as much as possible. What I noticed about Meliodas, when I'm recording him, is when he speaks he raises his eyebrows very high. I've started to raise my eyebrows so high that it stretches out my vocal cords. That's how I get immediately into character. But like Kaji said, he's an interesting yet complicated person. I, too, try to stay conscious of how angry he is and how much he's hiding that demon inside of him. When he lets it out, and I try to let that feeling show.

Since The Seven Deadly Sins is an adaptation of a manga, when you're reading his attacks, “Revenge Counter” and “Full Counter,” how do you imagine yourself reading the line?

Yuki Kaji: It's not very different from how I portray other characters. With any character, I imagine myself in their shoes and I connect to the heart of my character. Meliodas is very easy, simple character to understand, however there are some nuances. When he's channeling energy to release his attack, and also because he's the Dragon Sin of Wrath, some of that internal feeling comes naturally. He's not a character that's intentionally malicious.

I have to also be careful during times when he's yelling and drawing power from inside, yet not using his full power to strike a death blow, to attack. I have to channel different parts of him when I'm reading lines where he's speaking normally, because there's a bit of a character gap between his attacks themselves and his regular speaking voice.

Bryce Papenbrook: Kaji captures the sound very well. It's a very powerful, yet effortless delivery. Because Meliodas has this interesting way about him; he's very overpowered but its contained. It's hard to describe.

Bryce, you've also voiced other characters that Yuki Kaji has voiced, such as Eren from Attack on Titan. As Meliodas, did you base some of your voice acting off of Kaji's version or did the voice come from something you wanted to do?

Bryce Papenbrook: I never try to imitate or copy what other actors do. I do take a lot of inspiration from the performance, and we go line by line when we're working on the show I hear a lot of his performance and I try to take aspect of it, but bring of a different spin to the character. As you watch it, you'll see a lot of things that are similar and other things that are unique.

What's your favorite fight scene in the series?

Yuki Kaji: Hmm...

Bryce Papenbrook: I'm glad he's able to go first so I can think!

Yuki Kaji: Haha! I have to say my favorite scene would have to be the fight with Ban. It's a very old school, Showa era styled fight. There's a lot of nuances and a lot of emotion in the fight, and whenever I think about it, I feel my heart pumping. Also fight with Hendrickson at the end of season one, where Hawk throws himself in front to protect everyone else, is an amazing, memorable scene.

Bryce Papenbrook: There are a lot of great fights in the show, and it's hard to narrow it down to just one. I would have to say the entire Vaizel Fighting Festival with Diane's hammer. I had the opportunity to play the little annoying referee during that and talk to myself, so that was really fun. I agree that the fight with Ban in that festival was epic.

Similar to how Meliodas and Ban get along and tease each other in the show, do you have a similar relationship with the other voice actors?

Yuki Kaji: As you know, this is a long running show. The teamwork between the cast is very strong and we've developed a close relationship with everyone. We often go out to eat after recording wraps up, and somehow we usually end up eating pork dishes. I have a very strong bond with Suzuki Tatsuhisa, who plays Ban, and I think that comes out in our acting. We play off each other.

Bryce Papenbrook: The actor who plays Ban in English is Ben Diskin, who is an amazing voice actor with an out of control range. Some of the best experiences I've had with him is during interviews; He plays a character called Death Gun in Sword Art Online and I play Kirito. We fought quite a lot in that show and did some bonus features in the physical releases. We did a live radio show and if you listen to that show, you'll hear how funny Ben is. We get along really well and he's an amazing actor. I hope we have more opportunities to hang out, and we should all get together and go out for pork!

Do you have a message for your fans in attendance at America?

Yuki Kaji: I'm very grateful to be invited here at Anime Expo. I was able to see how popular anime has become outside of Japan. And I'm very happy to see that people are interested in different aspects of Japanese culture. Not just anime, but the lives of voice actors and how they work. I'd like to continue to promote this interest worldwide. The Seven Deadly Sins will continue through the show, the movie, and the manga, so please continue to support us.

Bryce Papenbrook: Thank you to everyone for all of the support. I'm excited to see where the anime is going and what happens next. I appreciate all the support, and I hope people enjoy watching as much as I enjoy working on it.

Our thanks to Funimation, Bryce Papenbrook, Yuki Kaji and Anime Expo for this opportunity.

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