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Bryson Baugus and Kamen Casey Talk ‘Blue Lock The Movie -Episode Nagi’

The voice actors, who portray Seishiro Nagi and Reo Mikage in the English dub of the first movie to come from Taku Kishimoto’s award-winning ‘Blue Lock’ soccer anime, based on Muneyuki Kaneshiro’s manga, discuss how difficult it is embrace a role when you can’t access the entire film, with enough prep time, to dig into and capture a character’s full depth, drive, and complexity; the film releases June 28, 2024 in the U.S.

Those who dub animated film and TV series enjoy a privilege that few voice actors get the chance to experience: recording while watching the final cut of animation.

“I've been doing this coming up on nine years and every time I get the chance to work, it is an amazing opportunity to play,” says Bryson Baugus, who has lent his voice to roles like Falco Grice in Attack on Titan, Mitsuru in Darling in the FranXX, Shoyo Hinata in Haikyu!! and Seishiro Nagi in the award-winning soccer anime Blue Lock. “But when you get shows like Blue Lock, it feels like such a rare occurrence. The show is so well put together. The characters are all very on point and well fleshed out, and the visuals are great at reinforcing all of it. It’s invigorating.”

Produced by Eight Bit Co. (also known as 8bit) and released theatrically in the U.S. on June 28 by Crunchyroll, Blue Lock the Movie -Episode Nagi is the first film to come out of the Blue Lock property. Taku Kishimoto’s anime released just four months after Muneyuki Kaneshiro’s manga debuted in June of 2022, and since then, the story has also been adapted as a stage play written by Naohiro Ise, a smartphone game titled Blue Lock: Blaze Battle, and prologue novel Blue Lock: Tatakai no Mae, Bokura wa Aryū, Barō, Yukimiya (Blue Lock: Before the Fight, We are Aryu, Barō, Yukimiya')

Blue Lock’s main story focuses on Yoichi Isagi, an unknown high school football player who decides to join football enigma Ego Jinpachi’s “Blue Lock” training regimen designed to create the world's greatest egotist striker. The catch is those who fail Blue Lock will never again be permitted to represent Japan. And there can only be one striker to come out on top. 

Adapted from the Blue Lock Episode Nagi spinoff manga, serialized in Kodansha's Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine, the Episode Nagi movie dives further into the stories of characters Seishiro Nagi, a lazy student and athletic prodigy, and Reo Mikage, who rebelliously embarked on pursuing a soccer career to separate himself from his parents’ plans. The film recounts Nagi and Reo’s first time meeting in school; Reo recruiting Nagi to be part of his soccer team; their eventual enrollment in Ego’s program; and Nagi’s awakening as a player, which leads to his separation from Reo. Though the film revisits many of the same events that took place over the course of the show’s current 24 episodes, it dives deeper into Reo and Nagi’s psyches and fills in the spaces of lost context. 

Check out the trailer:

“There were some lines from the show that are in the film that we actually got a second crack at because there's just so much more context now,” notes Kamen Casey, the English dub voice of Reo, also known for voicing Kyôya Nagi in A Sign of Affection and Lecker in Frieren: Beyond Journey's End.

Baugus adds, “Because of the nature of how we record these shows, we don’t always get to dwell too much on the stuff where we're not speaking, just because we need to get through all the lines in a certain amount of time. And, because of the nature of casting and how quickly we start work, we don’t always get to spend the time we’d like researching and learning about these characters. So, getting to work on this film was special because Kamen and I both got to learn a lot more about Reo and Nagi and their motivations. It’s given us a rare opportunity to go back to those initial moments and reincorporate that wider perspective.”

Categorized as “Shōnen,” an anime genre that primarily focuses on action and adventure with the fighting of monsters or other forces of evil, Blue Lock may be about soccer, but the way the show is animated and the way these athletes play the game is much more akin to a Marvel Avengers-level battle. As players sweep across the field, they leave behind trails of neon light with their eyes set aflame by the same bright colors. Black smoke emits from characters as they seethe with aggression while sparks and lightning bolts explode from players’ feet and legs as they bend the soccer ball to their will.

“The show describes all these soccer players having a monster in them, and they all showcase that in different ways,” says Baugus. “That smokiness that surrounds Nagi and the skull imagery on the side of his face shows when he’s in monster mode. Our English dub director Jonathan Rigg had brought that to our attention early on.”

The field may as well be a battlefield, with each participating athlete acting as the hero in their own story and the villain in everyone else’s. And in Blue Lock’s main story, Nagi and Reo certainly start out as self-serving antagonists in Isagi’s eyes. 

The music and the visuals make it so easy to get into the competitive nature and the dog-eat-dog world mindset of the show,” says Casey. “I grew up with Dragon Ball Z, where it was this underdog and Goku who had to work out to get a better power level to compete with these big bad guys, and there's never enough time. But we they had to figure it out anyways, and everyone's training and working out to topple the monster. I haven't felt that level of energy since, until Blue Lock.”

But, as Nagi and Reo’s journey unfolds, viewers find out that Reo, in particular, may be the least selfish player at Blue Lock as he commits his time in the program solely to helping Nagi become the best striker. 

“Jonathan did a great job at making sure it came across that Reo wasn’t there to ride Nagi’s coattails,” shares Casey. “These guys are actually friends.’”

Casey notes that as much as the visuals pump up the competitive energies of Blue Lock’s story, they also heighten the more emotional moments as well, such as when Nagi decides to leave Reo behind in search of his own athletic ambitions. As Nagi gives Reo all his reasons for partnering with another player, chains begin wrapping around Reo and the screen while the character is left speechless, helpless to convince his friend to stay at his side. 

“I have always interpreted their dynamic as, ‘We're going to be the best together,’” shares Baugus. “And because the rules of Blue Lock only allow one person left standing, there was always going to be conflict. Reo and Nagi’s initial mindset is totally at odds with the situation they're in. But a lot of the developments that follow help with the betterment of both of them. They both grow from that experience in their own ways, and it makes them better characters. In Nagi’s case, he goes from this very laid back, not really caring about anything kind of guy, to being curious about why he cares so much about this sport outside of just doing it for Reo.”

Casey and Baugus both express that one of the most impactful aspects of Blue Lock is that every character, for one reason or another, is looking to better themselves and overcome their own limitations. Though Baugus has spent the last year getting to know Nagi, he says his favorite character in the show is Hyōma Chigiri, a character apprehensive about expressing his full potential in soccer for fear of permanently damaging his previously torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament, or one of the bands of tissue that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone).

“He’s one of my favorite characters because that past physical trauma actually relates to his English voice actor, Aaron Dismuke,” notes Baugus. “Aaron wrote an article for Crunchyroll about his story with Muscle Tension Dysphonia and how he related to Chigiri’s character because he had to step back from recording voiceover due to the vocal damage he suffered.”

Muscle Tension Dysphonia occurs when the speaker exerts too much pressure, or effort, on the laryngeal muscles, causing the voice to sound tight or strained. This tension prevents the speaker from working efficiently.

Dismuke’s article talks about seeing doctors, retraining his voice, and eventually getting cast as Chigiri. He goes on to talk about how cathartic the experience was of voicing Chigiri’s breakthrough where the character decides, “One final time, I will dream.” The article concludes with how Shōnen anime characters often speak life to the monster inside all of us who is dying to give something one final try and overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of the goal. 

“As I watch the show, it puts me in this mindset like, ‘I’ve got to work on my own dreams and try to turn zero into one,’” says Casey, making a reference to Ego’s riddle in the show about turning unproductive action into productive action. “How can you not when every episode shows these incredibly gifted characters being like, ‘Man, I’ve still got to get better.’”

Baugus, who says he already has tickets to see the movie twice and plans to see it again a third time, looks forward to seeing how the movie and the show’s upcoming Season 2, confirmed to release October 2024, inspires people and perhaps motivates some kids to pick up soccer themselves. 

“I've been working on Haikyu!! for seven years, and at every convention, I get at least one or two people saying, ‘I got into volleyball because of this show,’” shares Baugus. “I'm excited to see that happen with Blue Lock as well. It's only been around for about two years, but it's quickly gaining traction, and I can easily see it being a lot of kids’ first introduction to the sport. The only soccer I ever played was when I was four years old but, after this role, even I look forward to the FIFA World Cup.”

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at