Of all the predictions I could have made for 2024, a feature-length movie follow-up to 2020’s chaotic, vivid anime series Great Pretender certainly wasn’t one of them. The 23-episode heist comedy series, directed by Hiro Kaburagi (91 Days, Speed Grapher) and written by screenwriter Ryōta Kosawa, made a splash when it premiered on Netflix, earning its way onto best-of-the-year lists with its colorful characters and striking art direction. After nearly three years of silence, the series is returning with an all-new adventure playing in select American theaters only on Jan. 9 and 10, ahead of the Feb. 23 Japanese premiere.
[Ed. note: Minor spoilers ahead for Great Pretender’s final cliffhanger and Great Pretender: Razbliuto’s opening beat.]
The movie, Great Pretender: Razbliuto picks up shortly after the post-credits cliffhanger at the end of the original series, and centers on Dorothy, the former lover of series protagonist Laurent Thierry. A mysterious master conwoman and recovering amnesiac, previously thought to have been killed off the coast of Shanghai and now living under the name Xiang Xiang Li, Dorothy was rescued at sea and is now living as the adopted daughter of an elderly couple in Taipei City with no memory of her previous life.
When she crosses paths with Jay, the charismatic underboss of a local crime syndicate, his employers learn about her existence. They suspect Dorothy is the same woman who successfully conned them several years prior, and they want revenge. With nowhere else to go, Dorothy must rely on the aid of Jay and his partner Yang to elude her would-be captors, all while tracking down leads pertaining to her own mysterious past.
If you haven’t already watched Great Pretender — or you’re someone like me who hasn’t thought about or revisited the series since it premiered on Netflix in 2020 — you might be a bit lost watching Great Pretender: Razbliuto. The film is essentially a feature-length epilogue to the series, tying off the outstanding cliffhanger of Dorothy surviving her fateful encounter with Liu Xiao of the Shanghai Longhu-bang syndicate. The film certainly benefits from a recent viewing of the series, particularly in the ways it renders the emotional parallels between Dorothy and Jay and her past relationship with Laurent, as well as her general philosophy toward life before and after losing her memory.
Audiences looking for an explicit reprise of the original anime’s con job, with Dorothy in a role equivalent to Laurent’s, may be left frustrated. Split between roughly four episodic segments, Great Pretender: Razbliuto is more of a convoluted mystery adventure with slapstick elements than a story about a single elaborate heist. There is a con job at one point in the story, but its particulars are mostly peripheral to Dorothy’s quest of self-discovery and survival.
Several characters from Great Pretender do pop up in a handful of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them scenes, some subtler than others. Great Pretender: Razbliuto marks a pleasant, surprising return for these characters and this universe, and hopefully, it’s a sign of more possible adventures down the line. But it still ends up feeling like an awkwardly plotted side story, created to assure fans that Dorothy is still alive and well, and may or may not play a role in Team Confidence’s future escapades.
That said, the film is still gorgeous. Like the series that spawned it, Great Pretender: Razbliuto features some of the most striking background designs you’ll see in any mainstream anime of its ilk this year, with stunning cel-shaded compositions combined with striking color palettes. The series’ distinctive big-band jazz score is front and center as well, with composer Yutaka Yamada making his return after working on the original series. The film is stylish and stimulating, but still likely to lose anyone but the most attentive longtime fans at one point or another, as it careens wildly from one plot beat and location to the next.
Great Pretender: Razbliuto marks the return of the series’ characteristic blend of comedy and drama, with a small cast of eccentric criminals of shifting allegiances and motivations organically trying to one-up one another, while they all attempt to come out of a life-threatening situation intact — and possibly a little richer. The movie isn’t likely to pique the interest of anyone who hasn’t already watched the original anime, but Great Pretender fans should find it a satisfying continuation of a story that left them hanging.
Great Pretender: Razbliuto will play in American theaters on Jan. 9 and 10 only. See Crunchyroll’s announcement for a list of participating theaters. Polygon will update this review when a streaming date is set.