HIDIVE hosted numerous panels over the four days of Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). And it’s understandable because HIDIVE is a large anime streaming service. One such panel was a discussion with two voice actors from the English dub of Made in Abyss, which is only available on HIDIVE. Brittany Lauda voices Riko, one part of the leading duo, and Cat Thomas voices Faputa, a plot-moving character introduced in season two. Brittany and Cat discuss their feelings about season two, the hurdles of being a voice actor, and the challenges of recording season two.
When asked to describe the characters they voice and how they’ve changed in season two, Brittany described Riko as “a young girl with so much excitement and a thirst for knowledge in her…she goes for 100% on everything she does, whether that’s ‘I’m going to make so much food that’s delicious and use all these ingredients’ or ‘I’m going to zap the heck out of a robot and make him wake up and name him after my dog'” or go deep into the Abyss as a child when most people are like “I’m not going to go that deep.” She aims to find out what’s at the bottom of the Abyss because she believes her mom is waiting for her. Her mother is a legendary cave raider, so she aspires to be the same. She has endless enthusiasm and excitement for the world around her; she’ll tackle whatever comes her way.
In season two, it’s apparent that Riko has become seasoned—she’s had to face the realities of what lies in the Abyss. Brittany says that, surprisingly, this trial by fire “hasn’t altered her optimism. She’s so excited to experience these new things even after horrible things have happened. She puts her own positive spin on it in some way.” For example, in season two, when Riko and Reg discover a village deep in the Abyss, Riko is asked if she regrets coming to this place. Riko responds that she doesn’t because she wouldn’t have met the people in the village—the Hollows—or learned about their culture. “She wears all her negative experiences as a badge of honor.”
But while Riko is one of the show’s main characters, her story takes a step back in season two to let Faputa’s story shine. While the HIDIVE panel couldn’t reveal too much about Faputa to avoid spoilers, Cat describes Faputa as the “princess of the Hollows.” She has a fascinating backstory; many of her motivations are vengeance for her mother, breaking the path, and “living through that rage.” Faputa is a strong character, to say the least, and Cat relays that it’s been interesting getting into her mindset.
As a newer addition to the Made in Abyss voice-acting team, Cat was asked about her experience coming into an already well-established franchise. “Coming into this massive franchise with a lot of really devoted fans and an amazing storyline,” and with an anime that’s hugely different from other animes, has been an amazing experience, Cat says. As an English dub voice actor, Cat also expressed how outstanding the Japanese voice actor was, especially regarding the last few episodes in season two, and hoped she matched the same level of effort and excellence. In fact, I would personally recommend giving the subbed version of Made in Abyss season two a watch if you haven’t already.
When preparing for these characters, Brittany revealed that she knew nothing about the show when she first auditioned. However, after getting the part for Riko, she watched the entire show within a day before her first voice-acting session. However, for the movie, Brittany went in blind because it hadn’t been released at the time of recording. That in itself was wild and scary because she never knew what was going to happen. So, for season two of the anime, she leaned on the manga. After a long session recording an episode, Brittany used her lunch break to read through the next few chapters so she’d be ready for the next episode’s recording.
Brittany and Cat were asked if they feel pressured when returning for a second season or if it is relieving. Brittany says her pressure comes from not knowing if she can still do the voice. Besides that, “it’s comforting, like returning home to a character and story I know.” Cat adds that voice acting Faputa was nerve-wracking since she’s a highly anticipated character. So coming into that is intimidating, but “it’s also exciting because there is already this community and everyone is really supportive and excited, and it’s cool to just be a part of this world that already has this love around it.” Cat revealed that she is usually cast as characters whose voices are similar to her own, so the challenge with Faputa was if she could voice an inhuman character.
Cat was then asked if her theatre experience and background helped her voice acting career. She replied that “being on your toes” and “acting with your whole body” is essential, even in the booth. They want you to hold your body out, act like you’re running, and swing your arms. It’s a full-body experience. John Swazy relayed to Cat, “if you’re playing a character, don’t worry about putting on a happy voice. If you’re smiling…the audience will hear your smile.” So, as Cat says, “there is this full-bodiness, but there’s also allowing your subtlety to play together.” And, as an aside, “I love the screaming stuff. It’s very cathartic for me, especially in Houston. I’ll spend 20 to 30 minutes driving, and then I get to go into the booth to scream my lungs out. Pretty great.”
Finally, the voice actors were asked if there was a moment in this season that was the most challenging. Brittany says that “from a technical standpoint, learning the language” and how Riko had to speak it at different points were the most challenging. For anyone unfamiliar with season two, Riko tries to learn the Hollow’s language. So “trying to make it sound like she’s not 100% confident in it—she just learned it—but she needs to be able to say it in a way that the [villagers] are going to respond and understand it.” How do you say these things, what do they mean, and what’s the intent behind them; “trying to dice that out in a session is interesting.” Cat relays that her struggles were similar but “also trying to sound like [Faputa doesn’t] know how to speak English as well, and not sound like a robot…” was challenging—”make it natural but also unnatural.”
Listening to Cat and Brittany relay their adoration and admiration for Riko and Faputa was a treat, and learning a bit more about the voice-acting process was eye-opening. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend giving Made in Abyss a read or a watch over on HIDIVE.