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‘Chainsaw Man’s Suzie Yeung and Sarah Wiedenheft on Icy Composure, Beloved Lost Pets, and More

Power not eating the snacks in Chainsaw Man

When MAPPA’s adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man was on the cusp of premiering, there were high expectations abound: expectations for the animation, the gore, the action. But I think very few of us expected just how tenderly MAPPA would deal with the series’ characters. Their emotional lives and struggles shine even brighter than all the chainsaw-slashed blood strewn across various streets and warehouses.

The centering and gravitation towards the characters is all the more astounding because half of the main cast—Power and Makima—don’t strike you as average people. The former is a fiend—a devil who has taken over a human corpse—and is inspired by Eric Cartman. The latter is a “girl boss” from icy hell, appearing not to blink or so much as fidget, all while being excellent at manipulating others. How do you pull the audience towards caring about such bizarre characters? That’s where Sarah Wiedenheft and Suzie Yeung, the voices of Power and Makima respectively in the absolutely excellent Chainsaw Man dub, work their magic.

Both Yeung and Wiedenheft told me that, in order to understand their characters, they did their research—i.e. reading ahead in the manga. “Knowing what their intentions are is very helpful,” Wiedenheft reflected. “Something about Power is that she is very self absorbed, moves chaotically, doesn’t care about others, [is a] pathological liar. [She] is just basically just existing and having the best time in most terrible way for others. Knowing that she’s very selfish, I just put myself into that space … I know that whatever I’m going to be doing is for me.” Weidenheft then chortled mischievously.

Makima is on the opposite end of the chaos spectrum. “I tried to kind of exude that sense of composure,” Yeung told me, “and just [to make] sure that there’s no drop of flaw or anything like that.” Simple, right? Of course not!

“It was a little bit hard to do, especially in the first session,” Yeung continued. “I was super nervous, because, you know, it’s Chainsaw Man! The director was like, ‘Suzie, that line’s kind of shaky. Do you want to come in again?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, my heart is beating very fast! It’s not very Makima-like, I’m sorry!’ … I was just trying to get a hold of myself and really ground myself.”

So how did Yeung find that Makima space? “Well, I think for me, from a performance perspective, I just have to take a deep breath and be mindful of my posture, and just detach myself.” Yeung said, before reflecting on how that makes Makima come off. “Some people might say she sounds completely emotionless, like an AI. And I think that’s kind of the idea, at least in the beginning. You don’t really know what she’s about … There are times when she’s very friendly, but still controlled, very subdued. She’s never over a certain degree. So it’s a lot of trying to stay measured and not going too far, too emotional.”

“[Makima] is very warm and friendly while also being very intimidating,” Weidenheft added. “There’s definitely a presence, and I think that’s what the mystery is about her. She’s pretty, she seems very kind, and [she’s] scary, somehow. But I’m not sure why she would be threatening in some way or why so many people are scared of her.”

“It’s her eyes,” Yeung mused. “And the anime really emphasizes [them].”

“They do that circle thing!” Weidenheft added. “It’s like the character’s a little bit off-hinged. Cool. Love it.” Makima’s eyes are, indeed, very emphasized in the anime and very scary. And for this article, Crunchyroll did indeed send me an entire folder of screen caps from one episode which were mostly close-ups on various single eyes. I did not use them for the header. They were effective and creepy.

But, of course, there’s more to that mystery Weidenheft mentioned. Unfortunately, betraying any knowledge of it would be a momentous spoiler. That gives Yeung the incredibly hard task of having to perform the vocal equivalent of a poker face. “It was a little challenging at first, especially in the very beginning, because Mike [McFarland, the series’ ADR director] and I were trying to find that balance with her … It’s like this very, very subtle, teetering kind of level,” Yeung said. “So I have to be very in control of my voice. Very cautious of my diction. Very cold and measured, but also very soft. Kind of siren-like, honestly.”

Power, on the other hand, doesn’t have that kind of composure in the slightest. She’s got that Cartman-inspired selfishness, after all—a tidbit neither Yeung nor Weidenheft seemed to have heard about, and they both laughed hard. “That does makes sense!” Weidenheft said, still stifling laugher. “He’s also a huge degenerate who moves solely for himself … I love that they put on top of that old English text.”

“I love how she’s written!” Yeung chimed in. “It’s amazing how she’s adapted. I was like, ‘That’s genius!'”

Despite her truly remarkable selfishness, Power at least has some principles. When I brought up the spectacular scene in which she allows Denji to touch her boobs, Weidenheft very quickly pointed out the positive aspect of Power’s personality that the scene brings up. “She honors things. She makes a promise? She honors it, which is incredible. Because you think like, ‘Oh, wait, I thought you were selfish? If you’re selfish, why would you go forward with that?’ That shows that even though she’s selfish, she’s also loyal.” Breast pads and all!

“But she also has to show off,” Yeung pointed out. “Like, ‘Oh, you will be blessed!'” I added, too, that Power tells Denji he may “fondle her breast” as she sits on the toilet, right as Denji’s finished cleaning her un-flushed turds that were clinging to the toilet bowl with a now completely brown toilet brush. “That’s a true power play,” Weidenheft grinned.

“It was exciting [to record that scene],” Weidenheft continued. “I’d been anticipating it from the beginning … Because she’s so hilarious about it.”

Power, indeed, seems like an incredibly fun character to play, but chaos isn’t easy, either. “I definitely do get references [from the Japanese cast] and warm up to her a little bit,” Weidenheft reflected, “but sometimes I get a little excited in there, and I might go a little bit too Gremlin, too chaotic, too energy-filled. And Mike [McFarland] would be like, ‘Come back down, there! Just a few steps, alright?'”

A too-excited Power might be hard to imagine, but Weidenheft said that usually, it takes the form of her initial take being too loud. But then there’s scenes like when Power kills the sea cucumber devil and begins laughing wildly. “That was my third take,” Weidenheft told me. “The first two were kind of like warmups … The second one was like, ‘I’m getting more into the crazy,’ [but then I was] like, ‘No, I think I can go more crazy, actually. Let’s do that.'”

Power has a soft side, too—specifically (and pretty much only) for her cat, Meowy. Making the tender side of such a chaotic character sell is a difficult task, but as it turns out, the topic of lost beloved pets really hit home for Weidenheft. “I also had a pet cat that I loved dearly,” she said, audibly emotional in a way all animal-lovers mourning a lost companion would understand, “and I actually needed to step back a few times because I kept on thinking about her throughout the process. I actually needed to be like, ‘Oh no!‘ Because, the thing is, when you when you lose someone or an animal, that pain that comes along with it doesn’t actually really go away. Some people say with time, things heal, but honestly, I think you just learn to live with it. And there are times when you remember again, [and] you’re like, ‘Oh no!'”

Weidenheft offered a heart-breaking, personal detail. “Sometimes, I’ll still find her little tag. I still keep it a little jewelry box. And I’ll forget about it, and I’ll open it up, and I’ll see it again, and I’m like, ‘Oh no!‘” This elicited sad, empathetic laughter from all three of us on the call, if you can imagine such a thing. It felt like we all understood this feeling.

“So it wasn’t too hard to be in that place [with Power],” Weidenheft concluded. “[I] also know where those feelings are.” This resonance is incredibly potent in the anime, just watching the scene in episode four with Power and Meowy together. When I watched it, pre-interview, I had been away from my own cats for three months, and I started crying.

Such is the beauty of Chainsaw Man. One moment, I’m tearing up over the bond between a human (or, technically, a fiend) and a cat. The next, I’m watching that same character sit on a newly-cleaned toilet, telling the protagonist he has been “thrice blessed” and may touch her boobs. All while Makima lurks, icily, mysteriously.

(featured image: MAPPA)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.