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Great Pretender (2020) Netflix Season 1.0 Review: TV Completionist #003

Originally released in 2008 I was a big fan of the show Leverage. The basic premise of the show was that each episode featured a group of con artists/thieves planning and executing a con to trick someone out of their wealth. The unique thing about the show was that the target of each episode was someone who was guilty of evil deeds in their past which regularly included ripping off common people. What I really liked about the show was that many of the cons were quite clever and it was satisfying seeing the target of each episode getting what was coming to them. I bring this up because as soon as I heard about Great Pretender it immediately reminded me of Leverage. While waiting for the revival of Leverage (coming sometime in 2021 to IMDb TV), I have been looking for a new show to fill in. I have only recently started getting into anime, but I was really interested to see how a con artist show mixed with anime would turn out. You wouldn’t think that anime and a con artist show would work so well together, but Great Pretender does a great job combining them to create a genuinely fun and surprisingly deep show that I had a blast watching.

Great Pretender tells the story of Makoto Edamura. Makoto is a petty criminal/con artist that sells snake oil products and performs other small cons to grift people out of their hard earned money. One day he tries one of his grifts on a man named Laurent. He believes that his grift worked until he finds out that Laurent actually scammed him out of his money. Makoto eventually agrees to help Laurent on his next big heist where he meets Abigail and the rest of his crew. Laurent and his group are unique in that they try to target the evil and powerful to expose the truth of their evil deeds while making a little money in the process. Season 1.0 covers the group’s first three cases which take them around the world from Los Angeles to Singapore and London.

When I first heard of Great Pretender it immediately reminded me a lot of the show Leverage. I mostly thought this as the premise seemed similar as the show was about stealing from the rich and powerful and giving to the poor/downtrodden. My initial impression was basically spot on as the show reminded me a lot of Leverage. The format of the show is very similar as the cons are basically what you would have seen on Leverage. In some ways the cons are a little more elaborate as each case takes place over four or five episodes (20 some minutes each) instead of most of the Leverage episodes which concluded in one episode.

The main difference between the two shows is that Great Pretender is also an anime. It isn’t much of a stretch to call Great Pretender what you would get if you turned a show like Leverage into an anime. For those who have never seen any anime series before it may take some time to adjust to these elements as they are different than most US shows. The show was originally created for Japanese audiences, but was also made in partnership with Netflix so it appears to have been “Americanized” in some ways as well. There are few times during the show where the translations seem a little off, but otherwise it translates pretty well to American audiences. Fans of anime should enjoy the show a lot. Even if you have never seen an anime before I would highly recommend checking out Great Pretender.

I say this for two reasons. First the show is just great fun. If you have never really cared for heist/con artist shows it probably won’t change your mind in any significant way. Those who love the genre or at least don’t mind it should have a lot of fun with the show. Like all good con artist shows it relies on having a big plan featuring a bunch of twists and turns. Some of these are kind of predictable, but some are truly unexpected. With the cases spanning four to five episodes there is plenty of time to have enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Anyone who is a fan of this genre should love the series as it is just really fun to watch. The show is rated mature though due to language and other adult content which I wanted to point out as many of these type of shows are made with more of a teen plus audience in mind.

In many ways the show is meant to be simple fun as it has humorous moments and the cons are not to be taken too seriously. I was actually surprised that the show can be quite a bit deeper than I expected as well. Season 1.0 is broken down into three cases. In addition to planning and implementing the con each case also dives into one of the character’s backstory that lead them to joining the team. I thought these elements did a really good job humanizing the characters. The show does a good job with the characters as there is a good mix as each is interesting in their own way.

Along with telling an engaging story Great Pretender deserves credit for its art style. I haven’t watched a ton of anime so I can’t really compare the series to other anime series. I thought the art style looked really nice though. It might take a little while to get used to for people who haven’t really watched much anime before. The show does a great job utilizing color though as there are scenes that look stunning. Anyone who enjoys animation should really like the series’ animation style.

I really liked Great Pretender. If I were to have any complaints with the series it would be that it can be a little slow at times. I think the series could have been improved by cutting a little here and there to make the show run a little smoother. At max I would maybe cut out a minute or two from each episode. I think this mostly comes from the fact that the cases span four to five episodes which lead to them being stretched a little further than they needed to be. This isn’t a huge problem but it is probably the biggest issue that I had with the show.

At this point only the first fourteen episodes of Great Pretender has been released on Netflix in the US. The show has nine more episodes scheduled for its first season. These are expected to air in Japan in late September and hopefully will be added to Netflix by the end of the year or early next year. As I really enjoyed the first fourteen episodes I am really excited about what these last nine episodes have to offer. I also hope the show gets a second season as I think it has lasting power as you can always come up with more cons.

When I first saw Great Pretender I thought it was going to be what you would get if you combined anime with the TV show Leverage. My first impression was on the money as that is exactly what it is. The show is basically a group of con artists that pull jobs on the rich and powerful in retaliation for their past evil deeds. As a fan of these type of cons/heists I really enjoyed Great Pretender. The cases are fun and filled with plenty of twists that fans of this genre should really enjoy. The show is also deeper than I expected as the characters are interesting and the stories are darker than I expected. The animation is fantastic as well. If I had any complaints it would probably be that there are a few slow points that sometimes feel like padding to extend the length of the episodes.

If you either hate anime or heist/con artist shows, Great Pretender probably won’t be for you. For everyone else though I would highly recommend Great Pretender as it is a fantastic show.

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended For: Fans of anime, heist/con artist shows, or anyone that just wants to have a good time.

Appears On the Following List Posts: None at the moment

Watch Great Pretender: Netflix

TV Completionist is our never-ending TV series review journal where the ultimate goal is to watch, write about, and curate as many shows (both new and old) as humanly possible. For more information on this post series and a list of shows already covered, see this post.

#002: The Great Heist <– TV Completionist Introduction Post and List of Series Covered –> #004: Wizards: Tales of Arcadia (Coming Soon)