Scott Pilgrim Takes Off Spoiler-Free Review
I will be upfront: I was never into Scott Pilgrim when it came out. I have never read graphic novels, and I have never watched movies (until now). My only frame of reference was a parody done by that MAD cartoon on Cartoon Network from ten years ago. However, after I saw the trailer for the anime series coming out on Netflix, I found myself interested. I tried to watch the movie to prepare myself for the anime, but it wasn’t as interesting as I thought. However, that did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the anime, and after one binge session, I had only one thing to ask myself:
Why did I sleep on this for all these years?
Full disclosure: this is one of two reviews for the series. The other one will dive into full-on spoiler territory.
Scott Pilgrim Breaks Canon
After a banger opening set to the song “Bloom” by Japanese band Necry Talkie, the anime starts much like how things go in the film and graphic novels. Scott’s still a slacker dating a high-schooler who then meets Ramona Flowers, the girl whose literally from his dreams, and is instantly smitten. However, he also learns that if he wants to date Ramona, he has to fight her seven evil exes. For the first episode or so, the story follows the source material to a tee…and then goes completely off the rails.
In what has to be one of the biggest anime twists of the year, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off isn’t a straight adaptation of the movie or the graphic novels. The best comparison I can make is that it follows in the vein of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek film from 2009. It changes one canon event in an unexpected way that makes the story as we knew it impossible to tell. From there, things go in a direction so unexpected that some might call it high-quality fanfiction. The basic premise is still there, and the characters retain their major personalities, but now they get to interact in new and unexpected ways.
As someone who’s come to appreciate the creativity of fanfiction, this premise rules.
The Cast of the Movie Makes a Seamless Return
A major part of the appeal of the anime is that most of the film’s cast returned to reprise their roles. And with the extra thirteen years of acting experience to work with, they seem to be better than ever at their roles.
While several of the stars of the Scott Pilgrim film had already found success in showbusiness before the film, it wasn’t until after it came out that many of them became household names. Michael Cera has continued to find success on-camera and in the booth, getting roles in films like The LEGO Batman Movie, Sausage Party, and the recent Barbie film. Mae Whitman, who played Roxie Richter, has continued to find success as a voice actor with roles like Amity Blight from The Owl House (Which I’m a huge fan of!) And Chris Evans and Brie Larson’s careers have blown up thanks to their roles as Captain America and Captain Marvel in the MCU franchise. Jason Schwartzman helped do the impossible and make The Spot scary in the new Spider-Verse movie! In other words, most of the cast has blown up in the last thirteen years.
The extra decade seems to have upped everyone’s game, as they’re better than ever at their roles in Scott Pilgrim. The bottom line is that they’re good!
Like the Graphic Novels Came to Life
I’ve never seen or read the graphic novels beyond some images that I’ve seen online, but the anime adapts the art style almost seamlessly. As zany and whacky as the live-action film was, there’s only so much live-action can do with the source material. Animation, on the other hand, has no such restraints, and can go all-out and tell the story that wasn’t possible before.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is an anime, plain and simple. It was produced by a Japanese animation studio, Science Saru. It includes many of the exaggerated facial expressions that anime are known for. A Japanese metal band sings the opening! Even though it’s based on a piece of Western media, it’s an anime and one of the best-looking ones of 2023.
Scott Pilgrim is a Must-Watch for 2023
As I said before, I never got into Scott Pilgrim when the novels or film came out. Having seen what the anime is like, though, I now understand why so many people love it the way they do. It is amazing! The cast is in top form, the animation is flawless, and the surprising direction that the anime takes is mind-blowing. It’s like a high-quality fanfiction that was lucky enough to be canonized.
If you have a Netflix account, then I cannot stress this enough. Stop what you’re doing, and take the time over the holidays to sit down and watch this show. It’s short at only eight episodes, but the ending will leave you wanting way more. I don’t know if we’ll get a second season, but if we do, I’ll be there to watch it.