WIT Studio’s “Great Pretender” Premiere Review

On the first day of Anime Expo, Wit Studio launched a big surprise with the announcement of an original anime series called Great Pretender. Immediately, it was noted that it would be different from the fantasy series that Wit Studio is famous for producing, such as Attack on Titan or Kanbaneri of the Iron Fortress. Instead, Great Pretender will take place in the real world revolving around larger-than-life yet realistic characters. I had the unique opportunity to watch the first episode and was given a chance to interview four of the production team members regarding this anime. As always, I am avoiding any major spoilers.

Great Pretender is essentially a story about professional con men. They make their rounds all around the world and explore many countries, all the while having dangerous but fun adventures and learning things about themselves. It’s an adventurous story, and just the first few minutes of the episode completely sold me on the atmosphere and the dedication the anime team put into this series. Hint: it involves Hollywood.

Another thing that stood out to me was the art style. Great Pretender sports a stylized character design and animation that reminds me a bit of Studio Ghibli films. The colors, however, are brighter and blend in a way that reminds me of watercolor paintings. It was a style that Wit Studio has never utilized before, and I think it fits well with the atmosphere of comedic con men successfully tricking dangerous and rich people.

Junichi Suwabe, starring as the more experienced con man, was one of the best casting decisions I had ever seen. His incredibly smooth voice tinted with a devilish tone matched perfectly with the very idea of the story, and I found myself fascinated by the fact that I had never thought his voice would be perfect for a confident, con man now that I’ve heard it.

The only truly disruptive thing of the first episode that did more harm than good was the inclusion of English in the beginning. I understand the decision to include English. One of the characters is clearly Caucasian, and another one conned foreign tourists by using his English to trick his victims into giving him what he wants. However, it is also glaringly clear that English was not any of the seiyuu’s strong points, and it distracted me from the episode more than it engaged, especially when it lasted for a good five or six minutes. There was a funny interlude where a narration card explains that from henceforth, all dialogue would be spoken in Japanese, that does eventually come in. However, by the time that funny narration card came in, I had already cringed for far too long from the bad spoken English that was advertised as being “fluent”. I definitely think the switch into Japanese could’ve happened a lot earlier in the episode.

But for a first episode, I could only critique on that one thing. The adventure that everyone aimed for really shone through the art style, voice acting, and the overall design of the series. I definitely think the entire production team should be proud of their work for the very first episode.

Great Pretender unfortunately will not be out until 2020, so for now, I eagerly await after having a taste of that sweet, sweet candy.

In the meantime, while we wait for the official release, please enjoy what the guests had said during the panel regarding this project that we have transcribed below! Among our esteemed guests, the president of Wit Studio came and introduced himself with the rest of the cast.

Guests’ Introductions

From Left to Right: George Wada, Ryota Kosawa, Hiro Kaburagi, and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Wada (W): So today, especially for you, we’re bringing in the first episode of the newest project by  Wit Studio. We are actually going to be showing it to you before we’re going to present it in Japan. [It’s called] Great Pretender; you can see it on the flyer that was placed on your seats. So we’re going to introduce all the staff members of this project. I would like you to welcome them one by one when they’re on stage because they’re a little anxious and nervous to meet you. 

Hiro Kaburagi (K): I am a director, Hiro Kaburagi. We are going to be presenting the new US project, just like Mr. Wada said, and I really want you to enjoy it. We are having a lot more magnificent staff members coming out, so please give them a hand. 

Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (S): I am the character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. I’ve never worked with Wit Studio before, so the project we’re premiering here, director, and producer was just new for me. Thank you very much for having me.

Ryota Kosawa (K): I’m the script writer, Ryota Kosawa. Usually I write scripts for TV dramas, and I’m pretty famous in Japan as a script writer. In the animation world, I don’t think I’m known that well yet. I got this opportunity for this new project with Wit Studio from George, and I had a  really exciting experience with them. Thank you.

Yutaka Yamada (Y): Hi, I’m Yutaka Yamada, composer for Tokyo Ghoul. I’m totally excited to come and see you guys here. I actually moved to LA. Two years ago I visited LA, and people were calm and great. Ok, thank you.

Maiko Okada (O): Hi, I am Okada. I am the producer of animations. I just came from Japan. I hope you enjoy the premiere of Great Pretender that we created with this amazing staff member. I am a little bit nervous today, so I’m going to have some candy.

After Premiere of The Great Pretender, Host asked Guests to talk about the project

The Two Protagonists

S: I feel like this is a story that’s closer to reality than the ones that I’ve worked in before. I had to design the characters and consider a lot about each ethnicity of the characters because this is really an international story. I really thought this was going to be a long run series, I wanted the audience to love each character, so I really considered all that while designing each character. And of course, I incorporated a lot of the designer, script writer, and music composer’s input, and I made it the best I could. So we’re currently developing 23 episodes, so I’d like you all to watch it. Thank you so much.

K: Thank you so much for coming today. So I wanted to create a story about con men because in today’s world, we have a lot of information running around us and it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s false. These characters are making the false information more true and it’s going to be more interesting for everyone in the world. And the main character, he’s going to be running around as a con man in Los Angeles, and he’s going to be exploring the true meaning of his wife as well. So their adventure is not going to be in the US but also worldwide. They’re going to have lots of different adventures. But Los Angeles is my favorite.

Y: I felt like this project was quite challenging, not only for me but also for Wit Studio as well. I wanted to create jazz fusion music for this project, and I’m recording in New York and Los Angeles.The recording will take place mid-July this month and I want to make it as lively as possible.

O: I hope you enjoyed the premiere. Wit Studio has had Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress that are kind of like zombie stories. We’re now challenged for this more modern, original story. Not only are these staff members [involved] but many more that are working, as we speak, at the desk to create this project. So we are currently creating this, developing this story, and making the animation. We’re going to be making 23 episodes, and we hope you’ll enjoy and watch the episodes as they come out.

K: So, just as you saw, I actually had never been to LA when we started creating the project, so I relied on Google and now I’m trying to compare if I’m right or close to right. So if you find something that’s not quite right about the Los Angeles in Great Pretender, please know it’s animation and please enjoy. We’re going to be incorporating some jokes and some films from our previous projects too, so please watch through all 23 episodes next year.

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