Pablo Picasso famously said, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” However, we shouldn’t take what he said literally, but as a metaphor for something deeper. What he means is that you take inspiration from those who came before you. You study their work by copying it, and understand why it resonates with the audience. Then finally, you take what you have learned and try to make something of your own. In the end, it all comes down to paying homage, and while a lot of anime does that (but of course, that’s a different topic for a different time), Netflix’s present hit, Great Pretender, pays a lot of artistic homages in the world of visual art, cinema, music, and anime itself. So, what are some artistic influences present in this comedic heist? Let us give you some clear-cut examples!
Warhol, Afremov, and Art Nouveau
One notable homage in the Los Angeles arc of Great Pretender is how the town, most notably Hollywood, is colored in a psychedelic manner akin to what you can see in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. In Great Pretender, the colors are vibrant but display a much lighter tint. This is very much in the vein of pop art, which was popularized by Andy Warhol in the 1960s. He popularized his style through his paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and everyday products such as Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup as a critique of modern fame and consumer culture. In case you didn’t know, he also coined the term “fifteen minutes of fame.” Considering the nature of Hollywood, pop art is an appropriate choice to tell its story., showing the ritz, glamour, and the nitty-gritty, and this is what Warhol is trying to portray as does Great Pretender.
As Great Pretender transitions to the heist in Singapore, much of the coloring and background takes inspiration from Belorussian painter Leonid Afremov. Afremov’s vibrancy in his paintings offers a different flavor than Warhol’s as they portray different themes. Through Afremov’s work, you get a feel of the nightlife or the sunset. Much of the Singapore story arc takes place in the evening or around sunset, so Afremov’s influence is consistently portrayed. However, while Afremov tends to use traditional European settings, Great Pretender applies it to the skyline of Singapore.
Then when Edamura and his crew end up in Europe (mostly in France and England), the environments take influence from the softer style of Art Nouveau. In addition to giving the European households and towns a more authentic feel, it puts great emphasis that the gang is trying to steal a piece of European art.
Heist Movies and Anime
If there is one anime that Great Pretender obviously plays homage to, it’s one of anime’s greatest classics, Lupin III. As you take a look at the character design with the lanky proportions of the bodies of the men, and the voluptuous features of the women, you can tell that they’re influenced by Monkey Punch’s style. To top it off, Lupin III is the OG heist anime, and the way Edamura runs in a panic as he stoops is another nod to that classic.
In addition to Lupin III, Great Pretender also pays homage to classic comedic heist movies (NOT THE REMAKES) such as The Italian Job (originally starring Michael Caine) and Ocean’s 11 (starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr). Considering that Great Pretender has a large ensemble cast, it’s natural to conclude that it takes inspiration from these movies which also feature a large cast of characters who cooperate to take part in such an elaborate scheme.
As you already know, The Great Pretender by the legendary Freddie Mercury serves as the ending theme and the inspiration of the title. The song obviously tells the story of Edamura who is caught up in the world of swindling others, but deep down inside, feels like he’s losing control and can’t live a normal life. However, many of the musical influences go beyond this classic.
Much of the soundtrack uses jazz and blues, just like Cowboy Bebop and Lupin III to spice up the excitement. This also goes back to Quincy Jones’ soundtrack for the Italian Job which heavily emphasizes on blues. In the London arcs, a few pop songs are used to emphasize Cynthia’s emotional turmoil.
As 16-time world heavyweight champion Ric Flair famously said, “imitation, is the sincerest form of flattery,” and with Great Pretender’s unique combination of numerous artistic homages, it embodies that very saying. The captivating relationship dynamics between Edamura and the crew he works with offers something fresh, and with all the unique artistic techniques applied to the backgrounds, the animation to capture the excitement, the cinematic and anime references that make you think and its emotionally appealing soundtrack, you got one heck of an anime. In addition to what we shared, what are some other artistic homages that have caught your eye in Great Pretender? If you have any we may have missed, please share your thoughts in the comments!