With the new anime season now starting up (however scant the offerings this time around to due COVID-related scheduling issues), I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention Great Pretender. This title isn’t actually a regular weekly airing series, but is instead being produced by and released one story arc at a time on Netflix Japan. As of this writing, 14 episodes (of an expected 23) are out, although I won’t be giving any spoilers and will mainly be focusing on just the first handful of episodes.
The first thing you should probably know is that Great Pretender is the anime of the summer season. Yes, I feel absolutely confident writing that despite not yet having seen a single other summer anime. Following a small team of conmen with a lot of, shall we say ‘interesting’ contacts and an equally interesting combined skillset, the series swerves between humour, drama, and action, although the emphasis is mostly on the more light-hearted and often spectacularly ridiculous fare, especially since the characters are sometimes just as concerned with out-conning each other as they are in fooling their marks. Still, there are some perhaps surprisingly nuanced moments here too, so don’t be fooled into thinking that Great Pretender is all comedy and no heart.
One of my very favourite aspects of this show is the settings. Although our main MC is from Japan, the series is very much centered on overseas exploits, with the first big con taking place in LA, apparently at some point in the 90s. The interpretation of this setting alone is a perfectly valid reason to give this show a look – it’s vibrantly colourful, sleazy in only the way an over-the-top Hollywood movie producer/drug kingpin-run town could be, and entertaining as all hell. Other story arcs are set in the likes of Singapore, France, and London, and needless to say, the highly stylized artwork plays a huge role in bringing these places.
The artwork itself has that fast and loose vibe about it, at first almost tricking the viewer into believing that it hasn’t all been painstakingly drawn and with enough detail to put most other currently airing and recently-finished shows to shame. Overall, it has a very city pop air to it, with its playful combination of wonderfully vivid colours and almost surrealist art style. Not only that, but Great Pretender also sounds fantastic – and I’m not even talking about that classic Eddy Mercury cover used for the ED. Mixing smooth jazz that reminds me a bit of Baccano! with a little 90s-inspired hip-hop thrown in for good measure, the music is yet another major point in Great Pretender’s favour.
If you’re in the mood to watch nothing else this summer or feel that anime is growing stale, Great Pretender is bound to cure your boredom with its undeniable sense of fun. While some story arcs may be better executed than others, I cannot recommend the first one (episodes 1 through 5) enough. I guarantee, there’s something here for everyone.