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Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (L to R) Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim and Satya Bhabha as Matthew Patel in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
Photo: Netflix

Television

‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ season 1 review: Retains the zippiness that defines the franchise from the humor to the action

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular comic series receives an animated television adaptation with Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.

We have had nearly twenty years of Scott Pilgrim. Starting with a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley that began publication in 2004, the Canadian author’s creation has been widely discussed as an example of transmedia storytelling. From Edgar Wright’s 2010 live-action film adaptation to its side-scrolling beat ’em up game, all of which have put their spin in the world of Toronto, Canada where the fight for love is in the style of Street Fighter matches. Manga and anime have always been an influence towards Scott Pilgrim, and so it would make sense that the franchise would finally get its anime adaptation that you can watch now on Netflix

Along with O’Malley, who co-developed the show with BenDavid Grabinski, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off reunites Edgar Wright who returns as an executive producer, as well as most of the original cast from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, reprising their respected roles. In case if you haven’t read the comics, watched the original film, or even played the video game, you might be asking, “Who is Scott Pilgrim?”.  

Voiced by Michael Cera, Scott is a slacker living in Toronto with his sarcastic gay roommate Wallace Wells and is the bass player in the band Sex Bob-omb. As Scott is “dating” a Chinese-Canadian high-school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who is only 17, every one of his friends, including his older sister, sees this as scandalous and Scott’s attempt to get over an ex. One night, Scott dreams about a girl on rollerblades that he’s never met before whom he later glimpses in real life, and as he and the girl named Romana Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) meet up and begin to date, their romance attracts the attention of Ramona’s seven evil exes. 

Netflix

From the first episode, this is familiar territory for those who know their Scott Pilgrim, only for it to end on an unexpected diversion. This paves the way for the rest of the show, which is not a simple retelling of the source material. Considering the involvement of O’Malley and most of the cast and crew from the film adaptation, they made a conscious choice of not retreading familiar territory and show these characters in a different light. In a controversial move, similar to what happened in another Netflix show, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the main character is sidelined, which allows us to spend more time with the supporting cast. 

The cult fanbase of Scott Pilgrim is a passionate one, and no doubt some fans will initially be put off by the diversions the show takes. In anime terms, the show is reminiscent of Rebuild of Evangelion, in that it initially sets up the premise we all know, only for the characters to go off on a different direction, whilst being a meta commentary on the franchise, especially in its role as a piece of transmedia storytelling. In that sense, newbies probably will not understand the context of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

As fun as it is seeing the original cast reprising their roles — from Ellen Wong voicing Knives Chau who steals every scene to Mary Elizabeth Winstead being the heart and soul of the show as Ramona Flowers — the detours they take are a clever update from the source material. Despite the video game-visualized fight sequences, the story has always been slice-of-life and about relationships, with many of the characters having gone through a breakup and how they are trying to recover from the experience.

We see this not only through Scott and Ramona, but also the League of Evil Exes, whose backstory has been expanded within the show. While the likes of Brandon Routh and Mae Whitman retain their heightened vocals when it comes to voicing anime, there is a sadness towards their roles and how they must become independent. 

Despite the changes going on, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off retains the zippiness that has defined the franchise from the humor to the action. While series director Abel Góngora and the staff at Science SARU perfectly recreate the look of O’Malley’s comics, so much of the show’s flights of fancy remind you of the surreal nature that you would expect the studio that made Ping Pong The Animation and Devilman Crybaby.

The third episode, “Ramona Rents a Video,” is the standout from an animation standpoint, showing how a fight can be emotional whilst bending reality at the same time. It also helps that Joseph Trapanese and Anamanaguchi (the latter providing music for the aforementioned video game) deliver a multi-layered score that sounds like 8-bit gaming music that is nicely contrasted with the variety of needle drops throughout.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (L to R) Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim and Satya Bhabha as Matthew Patel in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ season 1 review: Retains the zippiness that defines the franchise from the humor to the action
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
Not the adaptation that the fans expected, but a welcoming reinvention of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s creation that retains the style but tells a new narrative about forging your own future.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Bringing back the film's original cast was a stroke of genius.
The animation by Science SARU perfectly captures the aesthetic of the comics, whilst felling quintessentially SARU.
Being a clever meta commentary on the franchise itself, whilst giving a new perspective on these familiar characters...
...even though the fans might be initially puzzled by its refusal to do a straightforward adaptation.
For something called Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, the titular character is very much sidelined.
8.5
Great

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