“What the hell? No fights? No kissing? This finale sucks!” exclaims Scott Pilgrim at some point towards the end of the 2023 animated series. But rest assured, the finale doesn’t suck. Although, to fully enjoy this re-imagination of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, you have to have read the books or seen the 2010 film. I say “re-imagination”, because it’s not a simple-direct adaptation and while the first episode lulls you into believing this series is a copy-paste job in animated format, the rest of the seven episodes are very different from the original comics. But the show retains the exaggerated fantasy-action and comedy elements. Although fair warning – the first episode is surprisingly slow and gets challenging to watch, however things get pretty fun after that.
Directed by Abel Gongora and written by Bryan Lee O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski, “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” comprises of eight episodes and features the voices of all the actors who starred in the 2010 movie “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”. So Michael Cera voiced the animated Scott, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is his dream girl Ramona Flowers, Kieran Culkin the cool gay roommate Wallace Wells, while Brie Larson is the ex-girlfriend Envy Adams. The plot starts off just like Scott Pilgrim Volume 1, where protagonist Scott, an unemployed 23-year-old (who also plays in an Indie band), falls in love with a girl named Ramona Flowers. Right after their first date, a random guy challenges Scott to a fight to the death, claiming to be part of a league consisting of Ramona’s seven evil exes. Scott must defeat all of them to continue dating Ramona.
The animation style is faithful to the original artwork by Bryan Lee O’Malley in the illustrated books. Just like the comics, the animation styles change intermittently, incorporating a lot of retro gaming graphics and there are also some brief Japanese anime-like scenes in episode six. The music incorporated into the series is quite amusing, even though there aren’t a lot of scenes featuring Scott’s Indie band – Sex Bob-omb – which includes his ex-girlfriend Kim Pine (Alison Pill) and tired friend Stephen Stills (Mark Webber). Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and Wallace continue to be the most entertaining characters in the Scott Pilgrim universe, and the show also presents all seven evil exes in a whole new light. There are several new hilarious subplots, such as one involving Scott’s friend Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) writing a screenplay based on Scott’s life. The screenplay is then turned into a high-budget movie where one of Ramona’s evil exes plays Scott, while Ramona herself ends up working as a stunt double for an actor portraying her.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” focuses a lot more on Ramona Flowers and but I am not going to say anything about the massive changes in the plot to avoid spoilers. Let’s just say, it unfolds more like a comedic-mystery story, instead of the plain “fight, fight, fight until you win” plot. Except for the slightly slow pace in the first two episodes, this animated series is highly entertaining, featuring numerous fights that unfold in a Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat fashion. Ramona and Scott do a lot more introspection into their relationship and romance is taken slightly more seriously in this tweaked version. Overall, it’s a fun watch for the weekend.
Stream the series on Netflix.