Great Pretender is a show all about deception and misdirection as Makota Edamura, self-proclaimed Japan’s greatest swindler, tries to scam a tourist out of his money. Little did he know the tourist was Laurent Thierry, someone of incredible skill who tricked Makota. In frustration and curiosity, Makota traveled with Laurent to the United States where they began working together to do bigger and better scams on very disreputable people.
Where the story excels in this anime is not in its complexity but rather the extravagance in its execution. The season is divided into three cases and each case highlights the group’s methods of scamming a particular person. You wind up seeing very grandiose schemes from tricking a resourceful Hollywood producer to fooling an expert art critic. All of the people they trick turn out to be these horrible individuals that manipulate and destroy people for their own personal gain and with the teamwork of Laurent, Makota and the rest of their group, which I’m being vague on to avoid spoilers, they work to give these malicious people a taste of their own medicine.
All of the ideas for the schemes seem like larger than life plans that always wind up with some sort of set back so you get to see the gears turning on how the plan is forced back into motion. It’s really incredible to see how these well-calculated ideas form because the audience is almost as in the dark as the people they are trying to scam so you get a lot of moments where you are surprised with the turn of events and that makes this season captivating. Furthermore, the endings to each case are very cheerful and after intense scheming that you don’t know how it would end to watch an ending where people are happy and carefree is a nice way to slowly wind down after the excitement of the previous episodes.
Character development is also something to praise. As the season progresses you get to learn about each character, except Laurent who remains an enigma. The story sets up each character and how they have suffered in their youth and then explains how someone involved with the person they are trying to scam has a connection to that suffering. You see a lot of character development as they work around these issues in order to accomplish their goals. Then you have Makota himself who keeps acting like he’s tough but he’s actually quite generous and kind. Often times Laurent plans out the scam in order to lead to them taking money from their target; however, Makota oftentimes adds his own twist to the plan by trying to create a peaceful resolution to someone harmed by the person they are trying to scam. You see a lot of characters with individual desires and aspirations coming together for a common purpose and often times those differences cause major deviations to the plan. This also adds to the storytelling as it makes the entire season unpredictable. Will things go as planned, will so and so act and change the situation, will the person figure out what’s going on?
Makota just goes through a lot this season and the voice actor Alan Lee does a great job conveying all the changes in Makota’s emotional state. All of the acting in this show is top quality but Makota really steals the show with how excitable he gets during the intense moments but then how calm and careful he is when he’s trying to help someone.
Overall what makes this show great is how a simple story of scamming horrible people is elevated with great characters, great execution, and great acting. The only real flaw I can find to this show is that I don’t see much replayability in it. The show takes advantage of what little the audience knows about what’s going on so the numerous surprises have a huge impact on your overall entertainment. After you see the show you know how everything is going to end so a second watch is missing one of the show’s greatest elements. However, the first watch in the show is amazing. I just went from start to finish without pausing and it’s rare I do that with any show. If you like stories of deception and scamming then this is a must-watch for you.