We got the chance to sit down with Sung Jinwoo and ADR Director Caitlin Glass to chat about their experiences in the recording booth of Solo Leveling.
- Solo Leveling is a highly anticipated anime that fans have been waiting for.
- The visual presentation and music in the anime are stunning and captivating.
- The collaboration and dedication of the voice actors and ADR director have brought the characters to life in a powerful way.
GAMERANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Solo Leveling is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. New episodes air every Saturday at 9:30 am PST, while the English dubbed episodes air on Saturdays at 1:00pm PST.
Solo Leveling is one of the most anticipated anime projects in the last few years, and has been on fans’ lists of titles desperately in need of an anime adaptation for a very long time. GameRant got the chance to talk about the significance of and experiences working on the Solo Leveling project with two individuals involved in the series’ English dub, courtesy of Crunchyroll.
We had a great chat with Aleks Le, voice of Sung Jinwoo, and ADR Director Caitlin Glass, whose wealth of experience from working in anime for over 20 years has helped the former hone his craft as he sought to continue improving himself and deliver his brilliantly polished portrayal of the Solo Leveling protagonist.
RELATED Why is Everyone So Excited About Solo Leveling? Solo Leveling is one of the most anticipated anime of the year. What is it that has anime fans so excited?
What drew you to the Solo Leveling project?
Caitlin Glass: I was really drawn to the fact that it’s adapted from a manhwa, I think that’s really great. I’ve been working in anime for 20 years, and it’s just cool to see manhwa being adapted into anime, and probably one of the most famous ones ever. I didn’t know that it was happening until the rest of the world found out. I didn’t have any kind of insider information being here at Crunchyroll, so when I heard, I was like, “Are you kidding? That’s fantastic!” To learn that A-1 Pictures was attached to it, I was like, “It’s gonna be awesome, I really, really hope I get to be a part of it”, and here we are, so lucky me!
Aleks Le: I was also in the unknown until Caitlin told me about the project. I’m a big anime fan, but I don’t keep my eye on the latest and greatest, but I did see some really cool things, and I love working with Aniplex and I love working with A-1 Pictures. To see that they were taking on this project, I was like, “Wow, good for them! That’s an awesome show, I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future!” and then when I finally got the call that I had booked Jinwoo, I was like, “Well, that is awesome!” I was very excited. This project meant a lot to me, and I related a lot with the journey of the main character – not that I died in real life or anything… Maybe I did die in real life! (chuckles) It was definitely a story that stuck out to me despite the limitations of the genre it was set in. It had a lot of interesting and new ideas I hadn’t seen implemented before, and I felt like it was a special and cool take, one that speaks to me particularly. This project was definitely a dream come true, for sure.
Sung Jinwoo Solo Leveling Episode 1 Official Stills
It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to actually be THE Sung Jinwoo! Fans have been waiting several years for this anime adaptation. In both your opinion, what are the main reasons for someone to get into Solo Leveling? Aleks, you mentioned that you resonated with the journey of the main character, but what would you say are the main reasons for getting into the show?
Le: Well, there’s a lot for me. The presentation was very, very striking, especially with the animation and the music by Sawano-san. I was actually blown away, because when a big, big project like this gets picked up, y’know, obviously the first thing that comes to fans’ minds, and even my mind, is “I hope they don’t screw this up.” (laughs) You’re like, “This is gonna be really good… if they do it right”, and then they put out teasers, and you’re like “That’s not enough to judge, I don’t know, I don’t know”. But I was very, very happy once I got to see the other trailers and the episodes, I thought “This is absolutely phenomenal”.
The visual presentation was stunning, how they paced the story, the worldbuilding. There are a lot of things in the anime that are paced differently. Even the music itself was like, every time I watched an episode and I heard a piece of music, I thought “This is so good!” Usually, I’m the type who’s like “Ah, it was cool, that was a nice scene”, but now I’m actually looking up when the CD for this is dropping because I want to listen to these songs again. So I loved the animation, and I loved just how unhinged they were with it, because it’s like, REALLY graphic, and I was afraid that if they were gonna adapt this, they were gonna consider toning it down. They DID NOT tone it down. They were like, “Chop that guy… in half – I want him turned to paste, right now” (laughs) Definitely, my favourite part about the adaptation is how they paced the story and how they chose to visually depict it.
“I’ve been working in anime for 20 years, and it’s just cool to see manhwa being adapted into anime, and probably one of the most famous ones ever…”
Solo Leveling Episode 2 Official Stills Rumbling at the Cartenon Temple
Glass: I would say Aleks hit on a lot of the main points. It is visually stunning, and just really clean. I love how something that’s such a dark story can also still have a lot of brightness to it, so it’s not like you’re stuck inside some cave – and a lot of the plotlines take place inside of dungeons and stuff! It is such a wonderful balance… “meshing?”… of everything that makes anime great, and it seems that everyone is firing on all cylinders, all the voice actors, the animators, the musicians. It’s already powerful when Aleks is in the booth recording some amazing Jinwoo stuff, and then when we add the music in with it and all the rest, it’s like “How can this only get better, how is this possible!?” (laughs)
I think it is a true testament to the quality of the show itself, so it’s definitely worth watching for that alone! (laughs) And then there’s the fact that the story is very groundbreaking. There are a lot of stories in this genre, utilizing videogame mechanics, etc., but the manhwa is a bit older, so I feel that it set a lot of groundwork that tons of other anime that we’ve seen before now kind of pulled from, so this is neat to see. “Here’s maybe where it all started” (laughs).
You mentioned the stellar performances of the voice actors, so Caitlin, as an ADR Director, what are some of Aleks’ biggest strengths in his performance as Sung Jinwoo?
Glass: Well, he has a lot of them, so how much time do you have? (laughs) He has a keen eye for detail. He can really pick up a lot of subtleties of multiple things at once. So, what Taito Ban, the seiyuu, is giving him to work with, for example; small changes in subtle things in the animation itself; how the music is interacting with a particular line. He’s hearing all of it on a level that I’m used to just me paying that much attention, and then giving that kind of information to the actor as needed. I’ve never worked with Aleks before working on this title, and it did not take us long at all to get in the same lane and off we went. I would say that we share a braincell, but maybe we just share a brain. We definitely need more than one cell working on this show! (laughs)
Le: Oh, we definitely need way more than one brain cell working on this show!
Solo Leveling Episode 1 Sung Jinwoo close-up
Glass (continued): He’s excellent at those things, and another thing I truly appreciate is… I think there could be actors who, when given the opportunity to play the title character of such an important show could really let it go to their heads, could really be stubborn and want to do things their way, and I have been very honored at his humility, vulnerability, and willingness to do something he maybe wasn’t thinking of. He’ll always ask, “I think maybe it’s this, or could sound this way?” and if I don’t agree with him, he doesn’t fight me on it, he’ll just say “Okay, let’s try that!”. That’s so refreshing! It’s really nice to have that level of collaboration, and I think that it pays off; we can be a lot more proud of the work that we do afterward.
“…we just spent so much time just honouring Taito Ban’s performance because it was such a riveting moment that I really wanted to make sure that nothing was lost in translation.”
Aleks, you made a hilarious joke on Instagram about how you got “jumped in the studio” to get that visceral portrayal of Jinwoo’s death in the Cartenon Temple. What was the most enjoyable aspect of doing that and working with Caitlin on that scene?
Le: Well, I was honored that Caitlin herself decided to do the jumping! (laughs) That scene was definitely one of the hardest that we knew we were gonna have to tackle. I was so grateful that we had such an amazing team. We have Caitlin, we have Jamal; who is our engineer, and these two work at lightning speed. They help me as a creative to latch onto my own flow, adapt and be able to have new ideas emerge in the moment. One of the most important things for me about a scene like this is to have the time to let it all sit, and to absorb it all. On this project in particular, more so than most that I’ve worked on, I’m very fortunate to have Caitlin as, not only my guide, but somebody I can also confide in terms of my insecurities about particular parts of the performance. We’ll always talk about it – we work on this show both in and outside and the booth sometimes, unfortunately. I do know we both need to sleep and eat (chuckles).
“It’s such a wonderful balance of everything that makes anime great, and it seems that everyone is firing on all cylinders, all the voice actors, the animators, the musicians.”
Solo Leveling Official Stills Sung Jinwoo Injured
I do remember there were so many aspects of the scene that we had ideas for, and we just spent so much time just honouring Taito Ban’s performance, because it was such a riveting moment that I really wanted to make sure that nothing was lost in translation. Even after our first pass at the scene, I remember going home and messaging Caitlin. We were at the Solo Leveling premiere in LA, after we saw the first two episodes, we gave each other a hug, and I was like, (self-mockingly) “Hey, now that I heard the episode again, I think we should go back and do this”. She’s very graceful and open for collaboration and ideas, so she was like “Okay, I will see what I can do”.
Sung Jinwoo Voice Actor Aleks Le at Solo Leveling LA Premiere Wielding Kasaka’s Fang
That’s one of the reasons why I feel that this project, more than others I’ve worked on, has given me a sense of relief as an actor, because sometimes you’re very hard on yourself and your work. You’re like, “That could’ve been better”, “If only I could’ve had a second chance” – that sounds familiar! For this project, every time I wanted to do something, I could do it, and that was great because sometimes my ideas are terrible! (laughs) Sometimes I have an idea that is great, and then I do it and it sounds great, so I’m glad that I had the ability to do that. I feel that, in line with the themes of the anime, the second chances and the ability to be self-aware and improve on your strengths was a very near and dear part of the whole thing, to me at least.
Aleks Le is an actor and voice actor based in Los Angeles, California. Moving to the United States from Asia at the age of 10, Aleks had no concept of the English language. He used cartoons and video games to help him learn the language, which also inspired a passion for voice work that he later used to pursue his career.
A voice actress and ADR director, best known for the role of Winry Rockbell in the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, Caitlin has been working in the anime industry since 2004. Caitlin was the ADR director for the English dub of the fan-favorite, Ouran High School Host Club, as well as the voice of Haruhi Fujioka.
MORE Solo Leveling’s First Episode Is Exactly What Fans Were Hoping It Would Be Setting things up for the rest of the series, Solo Leveling is off to a great start as it faithfully adapts the source material with minor changes.