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Legendary Impostor

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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 
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Amiba is a narcissistic martial artist who attempted to learn Hokuto Shinken (the style of Kenshiro and his brothers, the powerful warlord Raoh and the saintly healer Toki), but was dismissed and humiliated by Toki. After Toki was imprisoned, Amiba decided to get his revenge by posing as the legendary healer and trashing Toki's reputation by performing cruel medical experiments on desperate people who came searching for the famous healer. The ruse is only exposed when Kenshiro goes to investigate the disturbing rumors Toki has turned evil.
  • Initial D: Early on in Fifth Stage, Takumi runs into a pair of clowns impersonating himself and Keisuke Takahashi in public, trying to leech off of Project D's fame.
  • 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.
  • 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 (despite not even remotely looking like them), 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 (despite the dumber ones being easily fooled), and have to face the full wrath of the Marine forces.
  • Team Rocket occasionally tries this in Pokémon: The Series. 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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 first chapter of Trigun Maximum, a man who looks exactly like Vash appears, terrorizing a small town. Cue Oh, Crap! reaction when the real Vash, living in obscurity under an alias comes after Fake Vash. The fake Vash, holding his adopted sister, demands that Real Vash drop his gun, and goes into a monologue (that leaves Wolfwood rolling on the ground laughing.) about how he can put a hole through them before either of them can draw, and tells Vash to drop his gun. He does... then picks it up before it hits the ground, a second after it leaves his hand, and empties the entire cylinder into the fake without hitting the hostage, over the course of a couple seconds.
  • In Vagabond, after a samurai who was kind to him is killed in front of Matahachi's eyes, he finds a scroll on the samurai's body and comes to believe the man was the famous swordsman Sasaki Kojiro. Feeling indebted to the samurai, he decides to take the scroll to the man's family to be a keepsake, but being Matahachi, he soon finds it more convenient to pretend to be Kojiro and to live large off the other man's reputation. Only later does Matahachi learn, to his chagrin, that the samurai who died was not Kojiro, but a childhood friend of Kojiro's who was intent on delivering the scroll to Kojiro. Inevitably Matahachi does run into the real Kojiro, and Hilarity Ensues, mostly at Matahachi's expense.
  • Vinland Saga: the prosperous farmer Ketil from the second arc was once known as "Iron Fist" Ketil, a legendary warrior capable of shattering shields and the handles of his own weapons with his bare hands. In truth, Ketil is not and never was "Iron Fist" Ketil; that title belongs to a different man named Ketil, and the two are similar enough in age and build for it to be believable they're the same person. Ketil doesn't boldly go around announcing this fake reputation to anyone, but he also hasn't done anything to quell the rumors because he believes being mistaken for "Iron Fist" Ketil keeps his farm safe. In a departure from this trope, no-one ever publicly calls him out on it, nor does the real "Iron Fist" ever make an appearance. Snake once fought alongside the real "Iron Fist" and considered him a mentor, so while he knows perfectly well that Ketil isn't the man he trained under, he only reveals it to a few people when it looks like they're all headed towards certain death anyway, because he owes Ketil for sheltering him and giving him a household position even though he's an Outlaw.

    Audio Plays 

    Fan Works 
  • It's not quite a scam, but the Team in With This Ring makes use of Teth Adom's reputation to avoid a fight, with Miss Martian transforming into a passable impression of him to scare Bialyan forces away from the Logan Animal Sanctuary. Since Adom is a good friend of the protagonist and no friend to Bialya, he doesn't mind the deception when he later learns about it.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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 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...
  • 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.
  • In one Parker Pyne Investigates short story, "The Oracle at Delphi", 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.
  • 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • The A-Team, episode "Showdown!" Kyle Mason hires three men to impersonate the A-Team and make Winnetka think these legendary figures are going to go after him until he sells. Naturally, the real A-Team cannot tolerate this and arrive to clear their names and take out their outlaw impersonators.
  • 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.
  • In the Highlander episode "The Messenger", an immortal who wanted to persuade other immortals to give up their frequent dueling and live peacefully decided to increase his perceived wisdom and gravitas by assuming the identity of Methos, the legendary Oldest Immortal, known for being over five thousand years old and having a legendary reputation. The real Methos regarded this with vague amusement, at least until an encounter with the impostor put a friend of his in danger.
  • Star Trek: Voyager, episode "Live Fast and Prosper" is based on this; with some con artists pretending to be the Voyager crew. 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 Murder, She Wrote episode "Who Killed J.B. Fletcher?" has Jessica trying to get to the bottom of a news report that she was arrested in a town she's never been to, and discovering a whole fanclub of slightly dotty old ladies, who thought it was a good idea to all get fake J.B. Fletcher IDs printed for when they're playing detective. And when the one who was arrested gets killed, Jessica has to stop the news that she's dead from spreading and solve the case at the same time.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Quest IV, princess Alena and her companions encounter con artists pretending to be them, and the heroes end up having to rescue their impostors.
  • Fallout 4 has a random encounter where you meet a man claiming to be Preston Garvey, a notable member of the Minutemen, who has been ordered by the General to collect money for the cause. Your character not only knows Preston well since he's one of your companions, but Preston himself appointed you as General of the Minuteman. If you tell the imposter that you know the real Preston, or that you actually are the General, his first reaction is skeptical; this is quickly followed by an "Oh, shit!" when he realizes you are the real deal before he runs like hell.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2: After being (mistakenly) accused of an attempt on a noble's life, Vaan and Penelo gain no small amount of notoriety, and one storyline mission has you dealing with a pair of (really bad) impersonators and their lackeys, just before the real deal shows up.
  • In one chapter of Fire Emblem: Awakening, a thief named Ruger has impersonated Chrom and is terrorizing local villages. By "impersonate," we of course mean "basically just says his name is Chrom" despite looking absolutely nothing like him (he doesn't even have blue hair!). It's effective enough that, upon the real Chrom showing up in the village, everyone runs in terror; and unbelievably, Cynthia, admirer of, and potentially daughter of Chrom has fallen for it and is working for him during the chapter.
  • In the "Answers to All Questions" case of Hidden City, the player meets the legendary Architect, a revered member of the Order of the Five who had single-handedly rebuilt the City from a devastating earthquake several years ago, who confronts them for breaking into her gardens to disable a malfunctioning device that's threatening to burn the City. When questioned by the Security Service, the woman was evasive in her answers, and she demonstrates a lack of any architectural knowledge. It's quickly revealed that she's an impostor, although she does have good reasons for taking up the mantle of the missing legend.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the leader of the terrorists is impersonating Solid Snake, to take advantage of his fame.
  • Phantasy Star Zero has a quest in which three unknowns impersonate Kai, Sarisa, and Ogi, commit various indecencies towards the townspeople, and take your own quest ahead of you. Their disguises each have minor cosmetic flaws, but biggest flaw is that they did not impersonate you yourself.
  • Phantom Brave contains a werewolf claiming to be the legendary swordsman Raphael. The second time you meet him, the real Raphael comes to straighten him out.
  • In the third case of Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, Phoenix's reputation is tarnished when Furio Tigre impersonates him and purposefully throws the case, in order to make sure the woman he framed gets convicted. Phoenix is understandably annoyed that no one recognizes the hardly identical stranger as an impostor because he has spiky hair and a defense attorney's badge (made of cardboard).
  • Skies of Arcadia featured an Optional Boss consisting of a bunch of actors impersonating the heroes and using their reputation to rob people. When you eventually fight them, each one has approximately three times the stats of the person they're supposed to impersonate in order to provide a challenging boss fight... Which raises the question of why they simply didn't enter the hero business and made a name for themselves on their own merits.
  • In Suikoden II, you can run into Hoi (and recruit him) who impersonating the main character to get free meals from innkeepers
  • Tales of Symphonia has impostors of the main characters trying to con the gullible townspeople. You only have to encounter them once, but you can run into them more later on if you want.
  • A substory in Yakuza 2 has a pair of thugs impersonating Kiryu and deceased friend Shinji to shake people down. Naturally, they're no match for the genuine Dragon of Dojima.

    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.

Alternative Title(s): Legendary Imposter