Legendary Impostor

The protagonist has developed a reputation, and some con artist tries to use it to rip off people who have heard of, but never met, the protagonist. Fortunately, the real deal happens along in time to straighten things out.

Related to Costume Copycat, but not necessarily involving a costume. When the real deal meets the impostor, expect Confronting Your Imposter to occur. One Sub-Trope is the God Guise. See also Fake Ultimate Hero, Famed In-Story, Mistaken for Special Guest.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist episode "The Other Brothers Elric"
  • The Saiyuki episodes featuring the impostor Sanzo group (whose success is largely aided by how unlike expectations the real Sanzo band is).
  • The Trigun episodes "Peace Maker" and "Goodbye For Now"; somewhat of a variation as the villains are exploiting Vash's reputation as a ruthless homicidal maniac.
  • In the Black Cat manga, a Sweeper claims to be The Black Cat to get criminals to surrender without a fight and claim the rewards. He stops only when he discovers that some criminals instead want to show themselves the top gunman instead, and Train saves his life. (In the anime, it's Eve who saves him.)
  • One Piece: A bunch of pirates have decided to cash in on the Straw Hats' name by impersonating them, complete with the appropriate costumes for each character, and get themselves an incredibly powerful crew ripe for entering the New World. Their only problem? Their timing couldn't be worse with the Real Straw Hats arriving back on Sabaody Archipelago after a Two Year Time Skip, and have to face the full wrath of the Marine forces.
  • Happens at least twice, probably more than that, in Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin is famous and infamous, as both a ruthless manslayer from the days of the Meji Restoration, and as the unstoppable hero who brought down the government and ensured the success of the Restoration — after the war ended, he just disappeared, and nobody knew what happened to him. Thus, he's a perfect target for anyone who wants an instant rep as either a killer or a hero.
    • The very first episode has a villain claim to be him while killing people at random in order to ruin the reputation of a Kaoru's school when her father paralyzed his right hand. Fortunately, Kenshin just wandered into town, and sets him straight.
    • Much later, when the Kenshingumi is heading home after saving the country for the third time, they run across an old man in a small village who is claiming to be Kenshin and telling tales of his heroism to everyone willing to listen, convincing them to give him free food and even money. Kenshin's friends are outraged, but Kenshin himself notes that the man is using the goods and money to support a small orphanage, while scaring off local bullies with the threat of unleashing his killing blade, and decides to leave him alone — he's got no attachment to the name of 'Himura Battosai' anyway, after all. (Of course, inevitably, it doesn't work out that way. An evil swordsman hires on with a local gang, and decides that he wants to test the strength of the legendary manslayer... good thing the real deal was around to provide a demonstration.)
  • One of the Ninku OVAs has a band of circus performers who imitate the heroes to get a cushy job as protectors of a small village. It goes well for them until a band of thieves send word that they're planning to rob the village. The performers try to sneak away, but bump into the thieves just outside the village. They try to bluff the thieves into running away, but they turn out to be skilled martial artists who are eager to fight the real Ninku. Fortunately, the real Ninku step in to bail them out.
  • Happens in Death Note with the introduction of the second Kira, Misa Amane.
  • The first episode of Fairy Tail has someone pose as Salamander, offering to bring Lucy to the titular guild. He's actually a human trafficker, and is stopped with the help of the real Dragon Salamander, Natsu.
  • An interesting example occurs in Bokura no Kiseki when Hiroki claims to be the reincarnation of the Princess Veronica. (The true reincarnation of Veronica is the protagonist, Harusumi.) All the characters know Veronica, but because of the reincarnations, no one knows what she looks like in the present time. It turns out Hiroki is really the reincarnation of Bart, one of Veronica's squires, and that she was pretending to be Veronica in order to serve as a Body Double until the real Veronica chose to reveal herself.
  • Team Rocket occasionally tries this in Pokémon. They've impersonated Professor Oak and a radio personality; Norman, May, and Max; and Wallace at different times to sell autographs, advice, and things like that.

    Audio Drama 

  • In the 1971 film Support Your Local Gunfighter, a con man (James Garner) enters a frontier mining town and tries to pull a con, having a dimwitted associate (Jack Elam) pretend to be a famous and feared gunfighter, 'Swifty' Morgan. All goes well until the real 'Swifty' Morgan (Chuck Connors) shows up. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Joshamee Gibbs arrives to London when he hears that Jack Sparrow has a ship and is putting together a crew for a trip. This comes as a surprise to the real Captain Jack Sparrow who has neither a ship nor a crew. He finds out that Angelica has been impersonating him.

  • "The Oracle at Delphi" by Agatha Christie: An American tourist's son is kidnapped, but fortunately the famous problem-solver Parker Pyne is holidaying at the same hotel, and offers his assistance. Even more fortunately, the real Parker Pyne is also holidaying at the same hotel (under an assumed name to avoid people unloading their problems on him), and intervenes before the fake absconds with the ransom.
  • In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the con men pretend to be a recently deceased rich man's brother so they can get his money. Of course, the real guy shows up a few days later.
  • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, the protagonists are the impostors. Then the real Rat Piper shows up...
  • Angel had a tie-in novel with Angel dealing with an Angel impostor running around.
  • Backfires on the protagonist in Saki's "The Hounds of Fate" when he finds out just why the man he's impersonating left town. Nothing like being on the wrong side of a vendetta...
  • In the second Runescape novel, Return to Canifis, a thief cons people out of money in a tavern by impersonating one of the main protagonists, who had gained legendary status after the first book.
  • This is the twist at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Barty Crouch Jr. was impersonating Mad-Eye Moody the whole time.

    Live Action TV 
  • The A-Team, episode "Showdown!"
  • Star Trek: Voyager, episode "Live Fast and Prosper"
    • There's a showdown between one of the con artists named Mobar, who not only impersonates Tuvok but also has come to admire logic, and the real Tuvok:
    Mobar: Commander Tuvok... Logic would indicate that neither of us has the advantage.
    Tuvok: Your logic is flawed. (shines a flashlight into Mobar's eyes and stuns him)
  • The Thunderbirds episode "The Impostors".
  • Highlander episode "The Messenger". Someone was impersonating Methos and getting immortals killed telling them to lay down their swords. The real Methos found this amusing.
  • At the beginning of the second season of Earth: Final Conflict, a newly-born and rapidly maturing Half-Human Hybrid scans the information on the late William Boone and chooses to impersonate a man named Liam Kincaid who served with Boone during the Sino-Indian War. A number of episodes later, Liam and Augur are captured by a black ops group, whose commander is quite curious about Liam. Why? Because he's the real Liam Kincaid. At the end of the episode, he lets Liam keep the name but warns him to keep it clean.

    Video Games 

    Real Life 
  • In 2000, around ten thousand people in Hong Kong were duped by a group of musicians claiming to be the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. The impersonators apparently performed several concerts and were well-received, while their actual MPO counterparts were performing their own tour several thousand miles away in Europe. Neither the MPO's guest conductor nor the Hong Kong officials were pleased at the discovery - which seems to have occurred after the musicians took their money and skedaddled.
  • A confidence trickster once persuaded Dover Council that he was Status Quo guitarist Francis Rossi and would be happy to act as public image for the troubled run-down Kent town. The council, desperate for some good press and a way out of an economic downturn, were taken in. The conman took them for a ride for over a year before being busted.