What’s it about? A small time con-artist, Edamura Makoto, scams people for a living and considers himself the “Best Con-Man in Japan”. He thinks his schemes are going well until he tries to scam a fellow con-artist named Laurent Thierry and instead is swindled out of his money. Before Makoto can even process his failed scheme, he has to run from the police and ends up following Laurent to Los Angeles. Makoto doesn’t realize his non-coincidental meeting with the suave Frenchman is only the beginning to a life scamming rich and corrupt people.
The literal first image of Makoto hanging upside down on the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is a good indicator how chaotic his life is going to be in the series. Despite his unfortunate and hilarious circumstances, Great Pretender doesn’t waste any time on showing us that Laurent Thierry is on a different level with his con-artistry and targets high-end people out of millions of dollars. In comparison, Makoto schemes of tricking the elderly into buying expensive water filters and pickpocketing seems like child’s play, but it was enough to catch the attention of our favorite charismatic Frenchman.
Regardless of their differences, Makoto and Laurent immediately have a good rapport with each other (that chemistry, though) and it’s clear their interactions are going to be entertaining to watch moving forward. While Makoto thinks he is the “Best Con-Man in Japan”, once he sees Laurent selling fake drug infused sakura candy to Eddie Cassano, who is a movie producer and mafia boss, he quickly realizes he is in way over his head.
There is also a quick introduction of Abigail “Abby” Jones who seems to be quite the fighter and is working with Laurent to scam Eddie Cassano. There isn’t much I can say about her except she definitely leaves a strong impression and I’m curious to see what kind of vibe she is going to have with our dynamic duo.
Makoto’s facial reaction to any given situation is amusing and his gradual realization that everything from the beginning of Episode 1 was staged by Laurent so that they can meet and go to Los Angeles together is probably the funniest thing I have seen in awhile.
Makoto definitely has a lot to learn if he wants to play with the big leagues and the show doesn’t spare us of his constant state of confusion about the high stakes involved with Laurent’s plans.
The vibrant colors and the overall lively energy in Great Pretender is reminiscent of shows like Kyousougiga and Space Dandy. The series also clearly wants to emulate the aesthetics of iconic heist and spy movies like the Ocean’s trilogy and James Bond which is a fun combination for an exciting show.
Thankfully, Great Pretender starts off with a bang and while the pacing is quick it doesn’t hinder us from understanding what is happening in the story. It isn’t surprising Great Pretender has a strong debut considering Wit Studio’s is responsible for mainstream hits like Attack on Titan, The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Vinland Saga. It’s also worth noting that Kaburagi Hiro also directed 91 Days which is known for its homage to mafia films and is a thrilling revenge story. It’s safe to say that Great Pretender is in good hands and I’m excited to watch more.
I also want to mention I love the jazz music and black silhouette art shown in the opening theme “G.P.” composed by Yamada Yutaka and honestly anything that reminds me of the opening of Cowboy Bebop is a major win.
It isn’t lost on me that the ending theme literally called the “The Great Pretender” sung by Freddie Mercury (originally sung by an African American group called The Platters) foreshadows eventually exploring the real people behind the facade created by the main cast and why they started a life of thievery. The soundtrack is amazing and it just brings out the eccentric elements the show wants to convey.
Lastly, I find it interesting the series went out of its way to make us hear Makoto and Laurent’s English accents for a short time before switching back to Japanese. I mean it’s something I don’t think about in anything I watch, but I guess for the people who are heavily invested in how they are communicating with each other despite the language barrier, well this is for you.
Overall, the series makes me want to know more about these colorful characters and what kind of shenanigans they are going to create together. Honestly, stop reading this and go watch it on Netflix.