‘Great Pretender’ review

People on Twitter had been telling me for months to watch Netflix’s newest hit anime, Great Pretender. Now that the semester is over for me, I finally had to time to watch all 21 episodes and it was an amazing ride. Everything from the animation to the English dub was mind-blowingly amazing. Great Pretender is easily one of the most fun and well written anime of 2020.

The newest anime from writer Ryota Kosawa and director Hiro Kaburagi, Great Pretender follows small-time Japanese con artist Makoto “Edamame” Edamura. After being inexplicitly involved in a con, his career is tainted, finding it increasingly more difficult to get a straight job. Soon after, he attempts to con a French tourist, only to realize that the tourist is an experienced con artist himself named Laurent Thierry. Laurent, after kidnapping Edamura and hanging him off of the Hollywood sign, convinces him to help con a dirty film maker. Along the way he meets Abigail Jones, Laurent’s second-in-command, and Cynthia Moore, an actress-turned confidence woman. Together, the group targets dirtier criminals, including drug dealers, embezzlers and human traffickers.

Edamura, Abbie and Laurent eating a delicious meal in off the coast of the Pacific in episode 2, “Case 1_2: Los Angeles Connection”

Edamura is incredibly relatable, coming off more as an everyman who was roped into the con artist life by his peers. Unlike the other members of the group, Edamura is significantly less talented and experienced. This is most noticeable in the first arc, as a slight misjudgment by Laurent led to Edamura nearly ruining the entire plan for them.

The rest of the group act like stone cold, heartless criminals, but most of them actually have a heart of gold except for Laurent. Laurent is the man who oozes cool. He is always calm and collected, even when a job is teetering on failure. His charisma carries scenes and his personality reminds me of Reigen from Mob Psycho 100. His backstory, as revealed near the end of the show, is surprisingly touching, giving me reason to care for this jerk despite the terrible things he has forced his teammates to do. His roundabout way of forcing Edamura to continue working with them is consistently hilarious, despite the negative effect it likely has on Edamura’s psyche.

Cynthia riding off into the distance in episode 6, “Case 2_1: Singapore Sky”

Wit Studio brought a vibrant color palette to this action-comedy series, compared to the darker shades seen in Attack on Titan and Vinland Saga. Along with the absolutely gorgeous animation, Great Pretender stands out among the rest of 2020’s anime. With that said, the show gets moody and dark when need be, especially during the dark character backstories that rival Golden Wind‘s. It is quite apparent that Great Pretender‘s style is heavily inspired by other popular anime/manga like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cowboy Bebop and Lupin the Third, but it sets itself apart due to the mostly comedic tone and Kosawa’s writing. Kaburagi even storyboarded Lupin the Third: Part IV, so of course Great Pretender echoes the same style and tone.

Great Pretender also has a fantastic score by composer Yutaka Yamada (Tokyo Ghoul, Vinland Saga) that compliment its beautiful visuals perfectly. The jazzy main theme is remixed multiple times to match the mood of the scenes without feeling out of place. The lyrical music by YVY did not once take me out of the experience.

An air race above Singapore from episode 10, “Case 2_5: Singapore Sky”

Saying that Great Pretender’s English dub is phenomenal is an understatement. English dubs, for the most part, are significantly better than they were a decade ago. However, NYAV Post outdid themselves with the dub here. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) directors Kyle McCarley (Carole & Tuesday), Michael Schneider (Promare) and Michael Sinterniklaas (Lupin the Third: The First) did an outstanding job. The accents never once felt silly or out of place like they have in other anime, while bringing this added flavor to the show. It also makes more sense for the characters to be speaking English when they are together, rather than Japanese, due to their varied background. With that said, I can’t deny it was slightly weird hearing the Japanese characters speak English when there weren’t other people around in Great Pretender‘s final arc.

The entire cast did a great job being “great pretenders” themselves. Kausar Mohammed (Abbie), Laura Post (Cynthia), Abe Matell (Sam Ibrahim), Kirk Thornton (Seiji Ozaki), Trevor Devall (James Coleman) and the rest of the cast brought life to their characters, and were largely entertaining when they didn’t feel completely despicable due to the excellent writing. However, the clear stand outs were Aaron Phillips as Laurent and Alan Lee as Edamura. Both of them play off of each other perfectly and it is always a delight whenever both of them are on screen in no small part due to Phillips and Lee’s voicework. All of these factors combined make Great Pretender‘s English dub the best I have heard in a while.

Cynthia and Thomas Meyer admiring Thomas’ artwork from episode 13, “Case 3_3: Snow of London”

Whether you need a fun comedic action adventure or a tight-laced intricately written drama, you will find your hunger satisfied by Great Pretender. The vibrant animation, musically delightful score and terrific voice acting come together to make Great Pretender one of the best anime I have ever seen. You can watch it right now on Netflix, and if you don’t, Laurent might find you and hang you upside down on the Hollywood sign.

Rating: 9.5/10

Published by John Wintroub

I am a fan of all things pop-culture related, especially film, music, anime, and comic books. Killer Queen has already touched this bio and King Crimson has obliterated the rest.

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