Voice Actor Brad Swaile on the Importance of Anime Conventions

The anime and video game voice actor shares why conventions like the annual Anime Ohio event are so essential for the fan community.
Voice actor Brad Swaile takes a picture with a “Death Note” fan at Anime Ohio.

Photograph Courtesy of Anime Ohio

Anime Ohio returned to the Sharonville Convention Center June 21-23, giving fans a chance to meet up and celebrate all things anime. Attendees were able to shop locally made art, compete in the annual costume contest, meet some of their favorite anime voice actors, and more. One big name featured on this year’s guest lineup was Brad Swaile.

Swaile has performed in myriad projects throughout his career, most notably as Rock in Black Lagoon, Gohan in Dragon Ball Z, and Light Yagami in Death Note—some of the most popular anime series of all time. After acting with the Vancouver Youth Theatre as a child, he began his voice acting career at 16, when he was cast as Ace in the 1990s animated TV show My Little Pony Tales. Shortly after, he made his anime debut in Ranma ½ and has been a major force in the anime world ever since.

Swaile and fellow Death Note lead Alessandro Juliani, the voice of detective L Lawliet, headlined the convention and brought one of the most iconic anime rivalries to Ohio. While large conventions like these are tremendously important opportunities for the artists, cosplayers, and fans who attend them, they also hold a special importance for many of the performers.

“There are entire shows I’ve worked on over the years where I’ve never met my castmates in person,” says Swaile. One instance was with fellow Death Note star, Shannon Chan-Kent, who played Misa Amane, the pseudo-love interest of Swaile’s character. “Now that we’ve managed to get to some conventions, we’re able to spend the entire weekend together. It’s a really excellent opportunity to get to know these people better as people and not just their characters. You get the opportunity to meet new friends and see some old friends.”

The energy that attendees bring to conventions like Anime Ohio is palpable, and certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by guests like Swaile. “We’ll talk about a show that I worked on two or 15 years ago, and somebody will have a connection with it,” he says. “That just makes me want to keep going. There’s something pretty incredible that I take away from these conventions. It gives me the strength to keep pushing on, even when I feel like quitting, which is something we all need from time to time. I take home a lot of great memories.”

While Swaile has received his fair share of potato chips in the 17 years since the Death Note dub was released (see Light’s iconic potato chip scene for why), he has also received boxes upon boxes of fan-made art. He’s kept every piece he’s been given throughout his convention years.

Swaile has a degree in Graphic and Visual Design from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Canada, a program that allowed him to learn the more technical side of animation and illustration. He has worked in graphic design consistently since graduating college, but always sets aside time for recording his roles, auditioning for new ones, and attending conventions.

As an artist himself, Swaile has always been captivated by the art side of conventions. This year, Anime Ohio featured more than 120 artists, vendors, and exhibitors. “When I get an opportunity, the first place I usually look at is the artist alley,” he says. “There are a lot of interests and hobbies of mine that are on full display at these conventions. There’s so much going on around me that I want to experience.”

Between graphic design and voice acting, raising a family and working, and geeking out at conventions while being a VIP guest, Swaile says life is all about finding that perfect harmony. “It’s about trying to find that balance, where I can be my inner nerd, but also perform my duties, whatever they may be. Life is about balance.”

Mark your calendars for Anime Ohio 2025, which will take place June 27, 28, and 29 of 2025 at the Sharonville Convention Center. Anime fans will want to check out the Cincinnati Anime Film Festival starting July 11.

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