Maile Flanagan Didn’t Know Anything About Anime Before Becoming The Voice Of Naruto

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With over 250 million copies sold, Masashi Kishimoto’s “Naruto” is one of the most popular manga series in the world. Over the past 20 years, the famous story has been adapted from the popular manga into three equally popular anime series, “Naruto,” “Naruto Shippūden,” and “Boruto.” However, despite Kishimoto’s rich world, intricate storylines, and groundbreaking fights, the series wouldn’t be quite as popular without its knucklehead protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki, and there would be no Naruto without Maile Flanagan.

According to a 2014 interview with Western Herald, Flanagan started out in improv before moving into the world of acting. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, she made small appearances in “MADtv,” “Men in Black: The Series,” and “Jackie Chan Adventures” before landing “Naruto” in 2002. Prior to becoming Naruto’s English voice, Flanagan had never heard of the character or the manga. “I had no idea how big ‘Naruto’ was,” she told a3ktv in 2010. “It wasn’t until I started actually doing the show that I realized how hugely popular it was.” In fact, despite making a living from the medium for the past 20 years, Flanagan told Crunchy Roll in 2022 that she’s still not an anime fan. However, like so many of us, she has a special place in her heart for Naruto Uzumaki.

The Woman Behind Naruto

I’ve been a fan of anime since my early 20s, and I only recently discovered that a woman supplied the voice for the lead character of “Naruto.” Honestly, it surprised me that a middle-aged female produces the gravelly voice of the ninja, and I’m not alone. Flanagan told Western Herald fans are often shocked to find out she’s the voice of Naruto. This could be for a few different reasons.

First of all, her vocal talents are impressive, and she pulls off the gravelly tone of a prepubescent male ninja so wonderfully that you presume it’s performed by a guy. The second assumption is that older women aren’t interested in anime, as was the case for Flanagan before becoming the voice of Naruto. The actress told a3ktv that:

“I really wasn’t aware of anime before I did ‘Naruto.’ I mean, I was aware that it existed, but I wasn’t a big fan of it. I just hadn’t really seen a lot of it. Since I’ve been doing it, I’ve paid a lot more attention to anime, but I’m sure the viewers and the fans know a lot more about anime than I do.”

Over the past two decades, Flanagan has become a staple in the anime community and a familiar face at fan conventions around the globe. Although the actress is no longer as oblivious to anime as she once was, she told Crunchy Roll that it’s still not a source of entertainment for her:

“I don’t watch anime. I watch Naruto when it’s on. I don’t have a lot of time for it. I wasn’t an anime fan. I didn’t know anything about anime till ‘Naruto.’ Now I know a lot about it and I don’t tend to watch it.”

Aging Naruto

Even Naruto’s “Talk No Jutsu” couldn’t make Flanagan an anime watcher, but she found a comfortable home with the lead character for a long time. On top of 671 anime episodes, she’s also provided the character’s voice for 9 movies and dozens of video games. But why would a woman who isn’t all that into anime spend the majority of her career providing the voice for one?

Firstly, because the show offered her a unique growth opportunity. Although she began the series playing a pre-teen character, “Naruto Shippūden,” and “Boruto” allowed Flanagan a rare opportunity to age the character. “What’s extraordinary is that cartoon characters don’t always, or often, hardly ever grow up,” she told Crunchy Roll. “As an actor, it’s so great to be able to play those different mindsets, ages, and emotions that go along with it.” Young Naruto is such a huge hit with fans that changing his personality too drastically could have ruined the series, but Flanagan only made small adjustments as the character grew:

“I try and be a little more stern. A little more emotionally stern, I guess. A little more emotionally grounded. The first several episodes of ‘Boruto,’ not gonna lie, there was a lot of me lecturing. I was like, ‘Is this how it is?’ Then that stopped and it got to be very adventuresome, fun and interesting.”

While some things about the character changed as the series progressed, the most important aspects of Naruto remained. Naruto’s unwavering perseverance and determination captivate viewers throughout the series, and even inspired the actress behind his voice. The actress told Crunchy Roll that her time playing Naruto “taught [her] to never give up” and that “anything’s possible.” Well, except maybe turning Flanagan into an anime fan.

Read this next: 18 Underrated Anime Movies You Really Need To See

The post Maile Flanagan Didn’t Know Anything About Anime Before Becoming The Voice Of Naruto appeared first on /Film.

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