Authors note: The following is my personal opinion and may contain light spoilers, read at your own risk.
So with Netflix deciding it was in their best interest to indulge the average American weeb, a rather large library has popped up on their platform. One of which that stood out to me was actually Netflix partnership with Wit Studio, a work that took place all across the world as we follow a group of pro con artist working their skills. Without further ado, let’s look into the banger filled psychedelic looking world of the Great Pretender.
Disclaimer, at the time of this being written there is 23 episodes but only 14 in the US. I have only seen the first 14 episodes.
So this addition to Netflix I think overall was a solid add. An interesting animation take based over a rocking sound and a con story to boot. The first impression I got and kinda stuck with through the series was a mild interest. The story was okay, the characters devolved decently, but at a slightly annoying rate. The outro is literally Great Pretender by Freddie fucking Mercury so how can I bitch about that? What really caught me off guard overall however was the animation. I am not 100% up with Wit Studio, honestly I couldn’t name another series they have done. But when it started with this way over the top colorful background, partnered with an overtly animated character, I was hesitant of how I would feel as it played out. But after about three episodes in, it started to grow on me. The interesting color takes for LA and the plane race that takes part in the second arc really had me take a step back and say, ‘holy shit this show is beautiful.’ Though it is important to note it isn’t such in the traditional way. For those who read my Rent-A-Girlfriend take you will note that I called the show one of the most beautifully animated series I have seen in a while. And even though that is true, it is animated in what I feel is the more normal style for the date. And taking the more common style and upping the ante, was done amazingly well. Great Pretender went a different route however, they seemingly wanted to keep a pretty standard character design but make the world in which they live in breath a different type of style, and honestly I think the sound had a lot to do with it. The music and sound track to this series is a major player and I think the team that worked on it wanted the world in which these jobs were taking place to reflect the sound of the show. And the more I saw this and thought about it, the more I loved it. I think Wit Studio did an amazing job with all the shots and scenes, and it is without a doubt, when paired with the music, it is it’s strongest piece. But as all of you know, it is not the only, let’s look at the story and how the characters develop.
So the main is a fine young Japanese fellow Edamura, Makoto, or Edameme as he is usually called. A swindler by nature and the first character you get to see fleshed out. Seeming to pull a fast one on a tourist, Laurent Thierry, Edamura and his partner at the time, Kudou head back to count their winnings only to find out that they were the ones that got played. Around this time, cops seem to move in on their house forcing them to flee, in which Edamura see the blond hair Laurent getting into a car. Letting his pride get the best of him he decides in the moment to chance it and try to work over Laurent one more time. It’s in this instant Edamura quickly realizes that Laurent is no tourist, and while hanging from the Hollywood sign, that this crew he found himself mixed in, were no amateur. This starts the narrative that Edamura was recruited by a high level con group that have been Robin Hooding jobs all over the planet. Finding himself in the middle of this mess Edamura makes the best, showing at times that he never wanted to be in this world. This comes to a boil as the crimes of his family come to life at a young age and he himself fell victim to a con. Having no were else to go he goes back to swindling, the only thing that ever made him money. This is an interesting show on how society treats cons in a lot of ways, it was one of the many times the show reflected on real world issues. Defeated, and unable to get a job, a con, goes back to conning. What else do you expect to happen? Either way Edamura wants to do good and after the first ark tries to make good of his past and serve time, only to get out and within an episode later, finding himself in the game yet again.
Next we will look at Laurent, the seeming laid back main boss that we actually know the least about In the 14 episodes that are covered in the US we learn about Edamura, Abbie, and Cynthia, three of the four big players. Laurent is an interesting character and honestly one of my favorites, though I feel he is actually the most morally broken. Laurent is laid back, French, charming, and overall on top of things. He is a master at his craft to the point he even cons his crew during the con to pull off the big con (there is a lot of connning). Though for the most part, it makes his crew hate, but trust him since time and time again it works. This flows into another very troubled con and Laurent’s go to, Abbie.
Abbigail Jones, is introduced as one of the many fan girls partying at rich movie director/ part time mob man, Eddie Cassano. Turns out however after a rather bizarre display of acting she is actually part of Laurent’s team and is a very rounded skilled con. To start she comes off as harsh and cold, mostly towards everyone around her. She works with Laurent but seems not to have much of an affinity for him, stating that at the drop of a hat she would turn on them if it was in her best interest. This of course I think was bull shit, because she sticks around. As the show goes on to the Singapore arc is where we learn most of her story, it is also in this arc she and Edumaru become a little closer, and it carrier throughout the rest of the series. Even though Abbie plays a major role within the group most of the time I found myself not really caring what she was doing. She wasn’t invested in the game she was just merely playing it to die and the show really stuck with that angel. Due to that she was risky, short tempered and genuinely pissed off most of the time so it got to the point where I payed little mind. By no means do I think her character was small or weak but out of the two main females within the crew she was definitely the weaker of the two. It honestly puts her in a really weird spot due to this and makes it rather hard to identify how much she actually gave to the show, even in her own arc. She has a break down, we learn she is from Iraq and has PTSD, that is fine I guess, but it doesn’t really excuse some of her actions that take place. She also finds herself as the muscle of the gigs, usually being the one who is in the ring throwing matches or learning how to race planes. And for that reason her place within the show is cemented, which is kinda unfortunate because her first on screen appearance I was really excited to see how she would play out. Now I do want to take a moment to state two things. One Abbie, when she has to shed the dark past and play the role, does a fairly good job. But, with that being said, her acting is mostly her being nice, and not trying to kill war vets.
On that note I do want to say, fantastic job Great Pretenders in calling out the Iraq war crimes, you are right Abbie, your parents shouldn’t have died, anyways.
This leads us to the second heroine of the story, Cynthia Moore. Now were the story kinda fell flat with Abbie it soared with Cynthia. Cynthia makes her appearance in the first ark playing the role of an FBI agent, which she does fantastically well. When it comes to acting between the group I feel her natural ability is the best out of the crew, but as we see in the second arc, her skills are still quite limited. Using both her wit and look to swoon others time and time again we find her working over someone in someway. Now this overall is a pretty flat character, a hot woman using her feminine appeal to win favor. And it’s at this point I would put Abbie at a higher level as far as depth goes, then the third ark came. Digging into her past all to ruin someone who took something dear to her. Cynthia starts to play out not the strong witty con, but the young girl who is in love. This side of her was unexpected, to see her without makeup, to see her grounded, to see a girl just trying to figure it out. It is in this ark as well we see and interesting shift as it all starts to unravel in front of her, she begins to understand things can’t always be seen through the shade of rose colored glasses. This segway into her becoming more jaded was a nice touch to the overall story and really made me look at Cynthia in a different, more positive light. Now I cannot say she was the most fleshed out character, but I can say she overall was my favorite in the series and I look forward to the release the rest of the series here in NA.
The rest of the crew is made up of part time cons that come and help out from time to time but honestly their screen time is cut down to them doing the job then getting the fuck out so what even is the point discussing them. (Kudou is one of these crewmen)
Overall Great Pretenders was a real fun show to me, it is like Catch Me If You Can but anime. Granted Frank Abagnale was more known for forging not ripping off the rich so nevermind. But I digress, mixed with its whacky animation, banger sound track, bags full of mischief and con jobs all carried out by seemingly interesting pros. It really filled the con show hole in my heart that used to be placed by White Collar and I am pumped for the rest of the season to launch. They really should use aliases though, using your real name on a con job around the world, might not be the best idea.
If I had to put a number on it I would give this show a solid 6/10. It was fun and interesting but it was hardly exciting and after 14 episodes it didn’t leave me strongly emotionally invested. But if you are in the mood of a witty, psychedelic ride with the Oceans 13 crew, well this is your show.
Thanks for the read!