Being Sasuke: Life in the Naruto Universe

Walking into the expo hall, it didn’t take long to spot the queue for voice actor Yuri Lowenthal. All I had to do was follow the queue of ninjas wearing orange boiler suits to find Yuri, who has become synonymous with Sasuke, the sometimes enemy, sometimes friend of Naruto from the hit ninja anime show. Yuri talks about who he thinks would ultimately win in a deathmatch between Sasuke and Naruto and the darker side of Sasuke’s soul:

At the beginning, how did you feel about being involved in Naruto?

When you are working on something that’s so popular, it can be nerve wracking too, because there is an expectation from the fans to get it right. We were really nervous when we first started doing Naruto because everyone was expecting we would get it wrong. They were up in arms saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to suck!’ and everything, so there was a lot of pressure.

Naruto has gone on to be a smash hit around the world, so what’s it like playing Sasuke, a character who is arguably more popular than Naruto?

I love Sasuke! He gets a mixed reaction from fans, some people say he’s too Emo or they say, ‘why is he so mean to Naruto?’ and some people prefer him over Naruto. I think it’s because a lot of people like the bad boy, he’s the tortured hero. I love him because of that, because up until Sasuke I had played mostly upstanding naive hero types and so Sasuke was sort of a reach for me in that I wasn’t used to playing that kind of dark character.

Sasuke was a good role for me and my development as an actor as I had to access a darker place in my soul to find what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling , and I didn’t really have to do that with the characters that I did before. 

Tell us something about Sasuke that only you would know?

It’s a lot harder for Sasuke to be the way that he is than people think. A lot of people think, ‘Sasuke’s so mean,’ and, ‘Why is he so serious?’ but it’s very hard for him. When he was very young he was a lot more carefree and more happier. I mean the death of his clan, even almost more importantly than his brother’s betrayal, turned him into what he is. Obviously at the time he didn’t understand why his brother did what he did and he only found out later but by then it’s too late. He’s wasted his life chasing vengeance, which never gets you anywhere.

Who would ultimately win in a showdown between Sasuke and Naruto?

I think it’s a tough question, because on one hand, one of the reasons why Sasuke hates Naruto so much is because he knows that Naruto has more potential than him and is more powerful than he is – and he knows that Naruto squanders that!  In the end, because he knows Naruto fights like that, it would make Sasuke more ruthless. Naruto would probably stop just short of killing Sasuke because he couldn’t do it, but I think Sasuke would probably go all the way.

Not everyone knows this, but you are also the voice of Ben 10. What’s it like playing Ben after playing such a dark character as Sasuke?

It’s fun going back between the darker characters and the hero characters. Ben is a hero but he also has a darkness to him in that he is constantly saddled with saving the world. That causes stress after a while, so we are back to relationships and he has a complicated relationship with his cousin. Kevin used to be his enemy and now they are friends. Sometimes the trust goes and we are not sure if he can trust him and then they become friends again and the sacrifices change their relationship. He is certainly more carefree, snotty or sarcastic and full of himself, but he’s fun.

AUKN also had a quick chat with fellow voice actor, Tara Platt, who plays Temari in Naruto and is involved in the new Gundam project, Gundam Unicorn. Here, she talks about life in the Naruto universe and how anime can provide strong role models for young girls:

Naruto has been such a huge success, what’s it like being a part of such a popular show?

It’s a little intimidating to work on a series that is so well known and that has a huge fan following. You don’t want to upset fans, you want to be true to the series but you also want to bring your own work to it and take your own spin on it. It’s a fine line because there is a widespread love of the show so you want to do a good job for that.

How does voice acting for computer games differ from anime shows?

When you are doing original animation, everyone is in a room recording much like a taping of a play. But for anime you have to do it individually to match each loop, timing and the rhythm and make sure flaps are timed up. You never see the other people you are working with. Video games are very similar, whether it’s dubbed or original it’s always you in the booth, from line to line, and you might have a two hour or four hour session.

Before your involvement in Gundam Unicorn, did you know much about the franchise? And what do you think about the Gundam world?

I actually didn’t grow up with a television, I read a lot, so I wasn’t familiar with the series, but with my marriage to my husband Yuri, who is quite the self professed geek, he has been expanding my mind and showing me things and I have grown to love it!

It’s fascinating because, in that world, you have the giant mecha. It’s a cool, futuristic, sci-fi world where you have these giant robots. Like I usually do, I am playing a strong female character. It’s a phenomenal series and it’s a great series to be part of!

Who has been your favourite character to play?

Apart from Temari who I love, it was a great experience to play Wonder Woman in the game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. She’s such an iconic character, it was such a delight to play a role that was so well known and loved but also interesting.

Have you ever worn the Wonder Woman outfit?

I will never tell.

I will assume that is a yes…

(Laughing) No, but we joked about that because Yuri played Superman and I played Wonder Woman and we joked about wearing that for a Halloween costume.

You have played some very strong female characters. How important do you think it is for young girls to have strong role models?

I think it’s extremely important for girls growing up to have strong, powerful role models that they can admire, look up to and learn from. Because I think that the world that we live in you are inundated with visual stimulus from magazines, TV, billboards to all sort of things that are weight, beauty and career conscience. All these things that girls in this world are trying to be: being a working women in the world, beautiful and sexy, having your hair done in the right way, all these things put pressure on people.

So I think anime can be a wonderful outlet, not only to express your own creativity in getting to be a fan and watching it, but also in having role models where they learn a different world and to be yourself. 

AUKN would like to thank Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt for letting us hijack their signing table for the interview. Special thanks go to Jerome from Manga for setting up the interview.