Johnny Yong Bosch is a hero who walks between worlds. As one of the first Power Rangers and the voice of iconic characters in anime and video games from Trigun to Akira to Bleach to Devil May Cry, odds are you’re already a fan of the soft-spoken Bosch’s work – and you may not even notice. But the crowd in full force for Bosch’s first appearance at Florida Supercon this year was certainly fully aware of the impact he’s had on some of our favorite stories. Even we swooned a little when he first came out to greet the crowd at this spotlight panel (he sounds exactly like Vash the Stampede!). And with his down-to-earth realism with his multi-decade career and his winsome humility, it’s hard not to root for Bosch as a simple working man who’s been through it all to pursue a dream.
2022 may be Bosch’s first Supercon, but he’s no stranger to conventions. Bosch loves the convention circuit, because it shows him what kind of people connect with which areas of his work, which tells him as much about them as it does about the work he does once it’s finished. There’s no telling what kind of impact your creative work has, after all, until you find the audience that responds to it.
One of the questions Bosch gets most is which character he’s done is his favorite. It’s impossible to answer. “I like them all,” he says. “Each character and the worlds are very different. So it’s very hard for me to pick a favorite. They’re all very different. Like in Naruto, it’s easy for me to go ‘Sasori,’ of the characters I play in that world. But when I go to Bleach, or something else it’s harder. It’s easy to say something like Devil May Cry because I got to go to Japan for that one for the first time, and do motion capture.”
"It was hard for me to go anywhere without getting recognized because I lived where I worked."
Just as beloved as his many voice roles is his history with the Power Rangers franchise, which he joined all the way in the second season as the new Black Ranger. But the whole phenomenon of being part of this massive franchise game at first as a shock. “You don’t think about all that,” Bosch says. “For me I just wanted to do martial arts on TV, and I was on a show and it was popular. So all that stuff kind of came later. I experienced it that I would film and people would be outside and we’d sign autographs, but I didn’t really feel it that much, how popular it was.
“It was hard for me to go anywhere without getting recognized because I lived where I worked,” he says, reflecting on his time on Power Rangers at its height. “But it was never like being on TMZ, it was like ‘Hey, you’re the guy from the thing!’ ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ ‘Hey, Zack!’ “Well, it’s Adam, but that’s fine.’”
The crowd groaned sympathetically at the thought of being confused on sight for the wrong Black Ranger.
Acting was never Bosch’s ambition growing up, though. Bosch’s background was in martial arts. That love began “at a very young age, watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee doing really cool things, and thinking that’s really awesome. And then getting picked on and being like I better learn something. But then it became a discipline and I kept doing it.
“Acting, I didn’t even know what it was. On Power Rangers I would skip through the story and be like, ‘When are we fighting?’ It wasn’t really until Turbo that I started thinking about that a bit more. And that’s when they cut us. So I was like ‘What am I gonna do now?’ So I started a band.”
"Acting, I didn’t even know what it was. On Power Rangers I would skip through the story and be like, ‘When are we fighting?’"
As a musician, Johnny Yong Bosch has recorded nine albums and three EPs since 2008. But before all that was Power Rangers.
“I was studying kung fu at the time and my instructor saw an ad that they were looking for Power Rangers. It wasn’t clear, it just said ‘New Power Rangers.’ It could have just been stunt people, we were assuming. I had never auditioned before. My instructor told me to give it a shot. I went to an audition expecting just to do some kicks and punches. Then they flew me from Texas to California. It was a little scary.”
Scary? Bosch explains.
“Never been away from home for so long. I was 18. I didn’t have anything. A bed or a sofa or a TV. I had a suitcase full of clothes, and some nunchucks I brought with me. You know, the necessities. I would just sleep in a pile of clothes and that was just how I lived until I got my first paycheck.”
That’s when the moderator asked for some stories about bloopers on the set of Power Rangers, prompting Bosch to tell a story he’s shared many times before, on the set of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie. MMPR fans will probably be familiar with this story, and it’s one even Bosch admitted he’s probably told 200 times, but here it is for you for the first time on Popverse.
“So we’re in Australia, we’re shooting the movie, they’re setting up lights for this whole sequence they didn’t even use. And there’s a palm tree. Jason Frank [the White Ranger] and I are there, we’re bored, we have our civvies on, and we decided to do a backflip off this tree, because we had time to kill. We had different tehniques that Jason would do a three-step flip, and I would just bounce off it, cause I was a frog [his animal totem in the film]. And this was maybe 30 minutes to an hour, and Jason was running towards me like ‘I just wanna keep going!’ And so he goes and I count one step, two steps, three steps… four, five, five and a half. And now he’s coming towards me head first! And he’s a big guy, and I’m like, a regular guy. And I can't spot [him]. So I just… let him fall. And he falls on his face, pops back up, and I’m like ‘Hey man. You have a cut on your face.’ We got yelled at a lot, and cussed out. Not my fault. He should have stuck to three steps. He tried to kill me after, to get revenge. We won’t talk about that.”
"And he’s a big guy, and I’m like, a regular guy. And I can't spot [him]. So I just… let him fall."
The transition from there to voice work, as it turns out, was a bit of a fluke – especially for a half-Korean actor like Bosch, for whom there were few roles at the time.
“After Power Rangers I couldn’t get a job,” Bosch said. “I was very fortunate to land that job as the Asian guy. There were like no half-Asian roles. They just didn’t exist. You had to be an Asian guy or a caucasian guy and I was kind of both. It kind of confused casting agents like ‘Are you Mexican?’ ‘Can I play one?’ I was basically homeless, had a cot and two trashbags full of clothes. Wrote songs about it. Fortunately the Japanese stunt guys needed me because I could do my own stunts. The camera was working for some reason, but the audio wasn’t so I ended up dubbing over my own voice. And the director said, ‘You have a great hero voice. Come work with us on Trigun.’ And this voiceover thing keeps knocking on my door. Once you land a couple things, you keep going… total fluke.”
Which brought us, now, to the voiceover period of Bosch’s career. Even if he couldn’t pick a favorite, the moderator pressed him for some memorable roles.
“Akira. Wolf’s Rain, which a lot of people haven’t seen, but it’s really good. Code Geass, Bleach, Naruto. Persona, of course. You guys know, 'The Ones',” he emphasizes, as if referring to a sacred canon. “There are so many of them. Little pieces of history for me. That’s when people come up and I’m like ‘Fragile Dreams, that’s right! That’s really old!’
“And if people come up to me with Fate/Stay Zero, I’m gonna know there’s something wrong with you. You’re a dark person.” This got some laughs. But the point was a good one: wherever you know Johnny Yong Bosch from, it’s going to say something about your own interests.
"And if people come up to me with Fate/Stay Zero, I’m gonna know there’s something wrong with you. You’re a dark person."
“When I meet Wolf’s Rain people it’s usually in Seattle, where it rains a lot,” Bosch observes.
And as for Vash the Stampede, who’ll be returning to us in a new CGI remake… Johnny’s unsure if he has a future with the character who started his vocal career.
“Trigun’s coming back. I don’t know if I’m in it. I know there’s a new cast but that’s for the Japanese dub. I know his hair’s different. Maybe it’s just the wind,” he whispers.
When stepping into a new character, Bosch likes to find some element he can connect with. “Like, I like how he needs to protect his family and his friends. And once I find that, it’s like a lightbulb where I can see myself as this character. And once I do that I can be real in that moment. In some shows it’s just like okay, this is just a goofy show, I’m gonna have fun. But you still try to find a piece you can connect with.”
One might think that when dubbing an anime role, you’d want your performance to be as close to the original Japanese voice actor’s as possible. But as it turns out, that’s not always necessarily the case. “Sometimes the producers want it close tonally. I won’t copy though. I’m like why do you have me if you just want to get someone to copy? They’re just afraid. They want people to like it as much as they like it in the Japanese. They want to make it exactly the same, and sometimes it doesn’t work. And it’s really different, like who’s in control of them. Some studios write the script a whole lot better. Some studios are better at making sure the flaps already fit. Sometimes a writer is also an actor, and knows how to time it out.
“Lately they haven’t been doing that where you have to stick exactly like it. It’s more so tonally than anything else. But there is a point where it was less important, and they were like, ‘People know your name,’ so I was cast because of who I am. Which is kind of weird because it wasn’t usually the kind of character I play, so I had to stretch.”
Sometimes for Bosch, voice acting can be a form of primal therapy. And when he thinks about which roles have been the most therapeutic, the top of the list is his work on Bleach.
"Bleach was definitely that way. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of grunts, it was much more therapeutic."
“Bleach! Bleach was definitely that way. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of grunts, it was much more therapeutic. And I was working on Code Geass at the same time. And I’d work on COde Geass feeling dirty or disturbed, and I would go to Bleach and it would even out. And at first it didn’t line up that way, but I was like ‘Wait a second!’ and rearranged my schedule so I ended with Bleach. It was like working out. A stress reliever.”
Lately, Bosch has been working on directing some of his own projects. The sudden disappearance of voice acting opportunities over the pandemic taught him that he can’t always rely on other people to get him a job, so he has to make creative work for himself. You can see his latest self-directed sci-fi short film, Arc Exodus, on voxrocketstudio.com.
When you’re as prolific an actor and creator as Johnny Yong Bosch, not everything lands the way you’d like. He claims it’s these failures which keep him humble, and show him how to grow. “If you’re not humble,” Bosch warns, “you will be humbled.”
After a little more discussion about his music- currently on hiatus from producing new material, as his guitarist spends some time in Japan- the moderator opened the floor for questions.
One attendee asked Bosch about the Kickstarter film Legend of the White Dragon, which Bosch began work on some years ago with fellow Ranger Jason Frank.
“I have been involved in a few crowdfunded projects that were not in my control,” Bosch explains. One of them was The Order, about a bunch of different Rangers coming together, and SAG shut it down. Legend of the White Dragon, I helped with the first trailer and helped write the story. We didn’t succeed on the Kickstarter the first time. Time went on. Certain things I can talk about, some things I shouldn’t. Long story short, I was supposed to do another film. But there were two or three projects on Kickstarter that just never happened, and it was never my own thing, I was working with somebody else. So I felt bad, I wanted to shoot a film and pay for it myself, and just put it out there. The original plan was to shoot an action film, but then my lead actor quit, so I reshot it as a sci-fi action, and that’s where Arc Exodus came from. I was working on Legend of the White Dragon when COVID broke out, and I didn’t feel comfortable doing a Kickstarter for that during this time when people really needed the money. So they changed the story so my character’s not in it anymore, so it’s completely different from what I was doing originally.
“I’m sure it’s gonna be fine,” Bosch said. “I don’t know when it’s coming out. I think they announced it’s coming soon. I don’t know. With this other film, even though I was supposed to shoot this thing in one week, that was something where I was like I need to give something to the fans. Legend of the White Dragon is very Power Ranger-y. Arc Exodus is a completely different thing. If I did a Power Rangers short film, more people would gravitate to it, but this one is not. And Jason Narvy is in it, who plays Skull [of the Power Rangers’ civilian antagonists Bulk and Skull]. Long way to say I’m unfortunately not in it. I can’t post that I’m not in it because it would seem like I’m against it, which I’m not. I was hoping they’d say something, but they haven’t. I’m sure it’s coming soon.”
The next attendee asked if he was getting ready for the revival of the Bleach animated series, Bleach: Blood War.
"It was bittersweet how [Bleach] ended, so I’m happy there’s a lot of questions that’s gonna be answered. Also looking forward to lots of awesome fights."
“Haven’t started dubbing yet,” he says. “They’re not done. We haven’t even signed contracts. We know they plan on having us back, but don’t know when that’s gonna happen. It was bittersweet how it ended, so I’m happy there’s a lot of questions that’s gonna be answered. Also looking forward to lots of awesome fights.”
Next, an attendee asked about his work on the video game Persona 4, where [SPOILER ALERT] Bosch voiced both the protagonist and the antagonist. Was that an intentional choice?
“No,” Bosch reveals. “All I knew was I was doing [the antagonist] Adachi, I never knew I was doing Narukami. But because I finished Adachi early it was like ‘Oh we’re also gonna have you be the protagonist.’ And I panicked because it was like I didn’t leave room for that. But of course it was all callouts and shouts, so that was fine, but then the animation came out and we had to differentiate the characters a little more, or otherwise it would be weird. I didn’t know. I’m actually glad I got to do both of them. I think it’s neat that it worked out that way. It was a good challenge for me.”
Another attendee asked about the revival of the Code Geass franchise with an ambitious “ten-year plan,” and his involvement in it. Was that return to Code Geass something he ever saw coming?
“No,” he said, echoing my own thoughts about the series’ original quite definitive ending. “I thought at the end of Season 2, I was like wow. That was a good ending. And when they did Resurrection [the cinematic retelling of the original story], there was only one thing I didn’t like. They took something out that made Lelouch who he was, but maybe they didn’t have time for it in a movie.”
The attendee asked if that was the omission of the character Shirley. It was.
"I don’t even know if I’m coming back for Trigun. Have you seen what they did to the hair?"
“Maybe they have plans for her,” he says optimistically. “There are things falling out of the sky at the end of the movie, those are the Geass powers. That’s part of the 10 year plan, they’re going around collecting Geass powers. This was before COVID. I’m not sure if it’s still planned.
“It would be great if they have me back,” he said of the future for Code Geass. “I don’t even know if I’m coming back for Trigun. Have you seen what they did to the hair?”
Maybe it’s the wind.
Catch up on all the major moments from this weekend's convention with Popverse's Florida Supercon round-up.