'Attack on Titan's' English Voice Cast Share Thoughts on 'Bittersweet' Goodbye to Anime

Attack on Titan fans have been preparing for the end of Eren, Mikasa and Armin's journey in the anime for some time, and so too has the show's English voice cast Bryce Papenbrook, Trina Nishimura, and Josh Grelle.

But now that it's here, eight years after the anime first aired, the voice actors told Newsweek it is going to be a "bittersweet" farewell when they finish recording the dub for Season 4 Part 2, which launches on Funimation on Sunday, February 13.

Saying Goodbye to an Iconic Franchise

Papenbrook, who portrays Eren Jaeger in the anime, said it was "appropriate" for the show to end now, but said that while it was sad he would still enjoy it.

"It's very bittersweet but appropriate for the show," he explained. "For me, I have no idea what's about to happen. I haven't read the manga, my method is to go in kind of blank and immerse myself in the show, and whatever comes out comes out in that moment.

"I don't know what's going to happen towards the end of this journey, so it's exciting. You know, I'm really looking forward to finally understanding what's going on in this show.

"But of course I'm sad to step away from the role and see it come to an end. I really love being able to play this character and I love working with these guys, Josh and Trina are just amazing to act across from."

Nishimura agreed with her co-star, also calling it "bittersweet" and explaining that she also chose not to read the manga because she would rather be in the moment when voicing Mikasa.

Reflecting on bidding farewell to the show, she said: "I really prefer going on the journey with Mikasa as a character, and being able to react in real time to what's happening on the screen and in the script.

"It has certainly been an amazing journey, and I've met some amazing people like Bryce and I've gotten to know Josh more over the course of these seven, eight years. It's been really amazing.

"I feel incredibly fortunate to have been tasked by Mike McFarland, the amazing director, and to be part of this world. I would have been happy being 'Girl A' that got smashed by a boulder in the very first episode!

"But being able to play such an amazing female character and being part of such an amazing franchise has been life-altering, and I'm sad to see it go but I feel very lucky to have been part of it."

Grelle said they could "only echo" Papenbrook and Nishimura, but added it was "sad" to have to end the show and their time with Armin.

They explained: "It's sad to say goodbye to a character and a franchise, or a show, especially one that you've been a part of, for a very long time. This is the longest that I've ever been with a character and with the show in my career, like Trina said, it has been life-changing.

"I've gotten to meet a bunch of amazing people, work with even more amazing people like Bryce and Trina and the rest of the crew, and gotten to travel all over and get to see how this show and these characters have impacted people's lives."

The voice actor added: "Leaving the show behind and finishing everything up is definitely going to be bittersweet."

Attack on Titan
Eren in "Attack on Titan" Season 4 Part 2. Hajime Isayama, KODANSHA/"Attack on Titan" The Final Season Production Committee

On How Eren Has Changed Since Season 1 and the Dark Journey Ahead

Eren began the show as a young boy who vowed to kill all Titans following the death of his mother at the hands of one, but as the seasons have progressed he has become steadily different.

Where in Seasons 1 to 3 he was driven by his "anger", as Papenbrook describes, Season 4 features an altogether different Eren, one who keeps his cards close to his chest and has more malicious intentions.

This has led the voice actor to take a different approach to the role, because he wanted to find a new way to convey this darker side to him.

"The first three seasons of the character, he was angry, and there was this anger coming through every single line, every single moment, you just feel it radiating from him," Papenbrook began. "And in this last season that anger is there, but it's under this like layer of ice, like this coldness.

"So Mike McFarland, the director and I, we had to re-establish and recreate the character in this new version of himself.

"And, as an actor, it's very fun to be able to do that, to live with a character for years and years and then re-think where that character is and, you know, explore the deeper range of my voice, which I don't always get the opportunity to do.

"I feel like, personally, my voice hasn't changed since middle school. It's a bit of Benjamin Button voice-acting disease, I tend to play a lot of younger-sounding characters and it's really great that recently I've been able to explore my deeper range and, you know, see where that can go.

"Saying things as Eren that are things I never anticipated him saying, it's really great to do as an actor. It's fun to do that stuff. So, yeah, it's been very enjoyable and challenging and exciting and I can't wait for more."

For Mikasa and Armin it's been difficult to understand how Eren has changed, or how he could have such violent plans in the fight against the Marleyans, who are determined to eradicate the Eldians on Paradis Island.

Of how they feel, Grelle said of the characters: "It feels like Armin and Mikasa are still holding onto every ounce of hope that they have that this is just some sort of misunderstanding, an error, and Eren has some sort of great plan.

"But even then, they're not completely convinced of it. They're not sure what to think of their childhood friend, family essentially. I'm looking forward to seeing where that takes us. I imagine it's not going to be someplace pleasant!"

Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan
Eren, Mikasa, and Armin in "Attack on Titan" Season 4 Part 2.

How Mikasa Has Defied Stereotypes and the Anime's Refreshing Approach to Gender

Nishimura, meanwhile, reflected on the way in which Mikasa has been able to defy social expectations of female characters, especially in anime.

Not only is Mikasa the best fighter of the trio she is also the strongest, and she isn't defined by any romantic relationship.

"Not just Mikasa as a character, but the way that Attack on Titan approaches gender overall, is really amazing," Nishimura said.

"I've been fortunate enough to have a long career thus far, and watching gender roles change throughout the course of my almost 20 years of doing voice acting has been really interesting.

"So being able to play a female character and a female lead for typical gender roles, i.e. to be pretty or to be the love interest or to be, you know, the smart one, being able to be a female lead that is physically the most capable out of the group and the most skilled fighter has been really amazing."

She went on: "Just to be able to show my niece at some point, she's not old enough yet, but able to show her girls can be strong too, and you don't just have to be pretty, and you don't just have to be X or Y.

"And on that same token, the male characters, like Armin, they don't have those skills, they aren't the most physically capable, but are strategically the smartest, which is typically reserved for the "weaker gender", right?

"And on a whole other level, you know, there's a whole character within the series whose gender is never defined, and I think that that's a really amazing reflection of where we're going as a society.

"That we're no longer boxed in by conventional terms as far as gender goes, and being able to relay that to generations, or even to older anime fans, has been really special."

Grelle, who chimed in to tell Nishimura to "preach" as she spoke, also appreciated how the anime approached gender, particularly for their character.

"Trina touched on something that I just kind of wanted to add to," they said. "From the opposite end of that gender role spectrum, Armin, aside from being kind of the philosopher character of the show on occasion, Armin seems to have very much adopted the the role of the nurturer over the course of this show.

"Armin is kind of the mom, he is taking care of everyone like that, he's always thinking about like, what is Mikasa thinking and feeling right now, and how can I help? And what is Eren thinking and feeling right now, and how could I help him?

"He tries to do that with everyone. I just wanted to add to that, I felt like that was a very poignant point to make."

On Their Gratitude for the Show and its Fans

Papenbrook, Nishimura and Grelle went on to share their closing thoughts on the franchise and what it was like to reach the end of an era.

All three voice actors were overwhelmed by a feeling of "gratitude" to the show and its fans, even if it was sad to finish their journey with Eren, Mikasa and Armin.

Nishimura reflected: "Attack on Titan has been so helpful for me... and so important in various aspects of my life that I just feel a lot of gratitude. Because if it wasn't for the fans, and if it wasn't for people like you, I mean we wouldn't be here and I just, I feel incredibly grateful and sad, but happy. So somewhere in there."

Grelle joked they were all feeling "a complicated set of emotions," adding: "I'm in the same boat, happy and sad... I can't think of any other word than sad right now about leaving the show behind, you know, finishing the show.

"But I'm also looking forward to it being closed and being a whole, and complete thing. This will be one of the few anime's that I've ever worked on where the entire story was encapsulated, where the entire thing was animated, and there was no filler. It was such a true-to-the original material thing.

"The patience of the fandom and of everyone else involved waiting for all the animation to get done, instead of, you know, having filler, filler, filler.

"We were patient and we waited for the next parts to come because we knew that it was going to be worth the wait, and it has been in every single instance."

Papenbrook agreed with Nishimura and Grelle, saying he was "extremely grateful" to have been part of the anime.

"I just don't know how I feel yet, I'm trying to savour every moment that I still have with the show, and with this opportunity, and with the character," he admitted.

"Just trying to enjoy this final season as much as I can while while we're in the middle of it. I'm sure it's all going to hit me at the end."

The English dub for Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 2 launches on Funimation and Crunchyroll on Sunday, February 13, and will air weekly alongside the Japanese simulcast.

Correction 02.15.2022 6.43 a.m.: This article was updated to correct Josh Grelle's pronouns to they/them throughout the interview.