Return to the faraway land of Toronto, Canada, and revisit the world of Scott Pilgrim. Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is an anime-inspired reimagining of a cult favorite. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack (including original songs) and amazing animation from Science SARU, it reunites the entire original cast of the 2008 film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and gives fans a totally new story. Yet it manages to retain the charm of the original.
I’ll admit that when I first heard about an animated Scott Pilgrim series, I sort of assumed that it would just be a reboot of sorts – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but a cartoon. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is very much not that, although watching the first episode, you wouldn’t be blamed for assuming that it was. The first episode, barring some updated references (although I’m not sure how ‘updated’ it is that Ramona now delivers DVDs for Netflix, considering they literally just ended DVD service), is very similar to the first twenty or so minutes of the film.
Then we get to the fight between Scott and Matthew Patel, Ramona’s first evil ex-boyfriend, and you realize that this series is not going to be what you expect.
The following review contains spoilers for all 8 episodes of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off season 1.
I love the concept of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. It’s basically a total reimagining of the series; what would happen if Scott lost the fight versus Matthew and dies? It’s a Scott Pilgrim series without its titular character, and it may be all the better for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But it’s very much a Scott-centered story, and the other characters can be very one-dimensional. This series spends way more time with not only Ramona and Scott’s friends, but all of the exes. They don’t exist to just fight Scott, and Ramona as a character has so much more agency with her arc.
As Ramona investigates Scott’s “death” (turns out, he wasn’t really dead, just pulled into the future through a vegan portal created by a robot), each ex gets their own story. But they also tie into Ramona’s story. She suspects that one of her exes (or one of Scott’s) is responsible for his disappearance, so she tracks them down one by one to confront them. As she does this, she confronts her treatment of them in the past. She makes amends with all of her exes, in some cases even helping them out (like helping Lucas Lee escape from the paparazzi ninjas). And in the end, she ends up choosing herself.
Of course, that’s after the whole thing with Scott from the future being the one to abduct Scott from the present in an effort to prevent him from dating Ramona. That entire reveal was wild, although I did love how they laid the groundwork by having everyone notice the robot following them everywhere. I think what I liked about the Old Scott plotline was that it showed that Scott’s growth at the end of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World didn’t last, which makes a lot of sense. He avoided Knives rather than breaking up with her, so it makes total sense that at the first sign of issues in his marriage with Ramona, he would just panic and go completely off the rails.
In a way, I think that Old Scott’s ridiculous plan (coupled with Even Older Scott’s even more ridiculous plan) probably does more to strengthen Regular Scott and Ramona’s relationship than anything else. Ramona’s dogged pursuit of finding Scott is way more effort than she put into their relationship in the film, even though when Scott disappears, they have only been on one date. (But, you know… SPARKS!) And Scott gets to watch everything that she goes through, and he and Ramona team up to defeat the ultimate boss. Even though it’s Ramona squared who ends up victorious.
Of the exes, my favorite subplot has got to be Todd’s. Aside from the fact that the documentary episode is probably my favorite just based on cameos alone (Weird Al! Simon Pegg! Nick Frost!), I have always loved the idea that Wallace is just that irresistible. It’s a joke in the movie that he just, like, collects boyfriends, so I love that they carried that into the series. But I think it’s even funnier that Wallace basically seduces Todd just so that he and Envy will stop making out and they can actually film the movie.
You can’t discount Lucas’s and Roxy’s plots, though. Roxy especially deserved her happy-ish ending, with Ramona acknowledging that it was cruel of her to leave the way that she did. Ramona in the film brushes off her and Roxy’s relationship as college experimentation, but through flashbacks we see that it was much more than that, and Roxy was genuinely hurt when things ended. I’m so glad that they have Ramona realize that and apologize to Roxy. I also love that they end up becoming friends.
Actually, pretty much all the ladies end up friends, which is fantastic. Kim basically becoming Knives’s biggest fan is great. (Also, you have to love Knives being instantly amazing at every instrument.) And I appreciate that they showed more of Ramona’s friendship with Julie, as in the film they rarely interact.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off fully takes advantage of its medium. Animation is the perfect format for a series that is essentially meant to be a video game, and the show utilizes that to its fullest potential. It allows for creative and colorful transitions, not to mention fantastically amazing fight scenes. I love the different combinations for the fight scenes; Gideon versus Matthew, Lucas Lee versus the paparazzi, and everyone versus Even Older Scott are just some of the action sequences we’re graced with in season 1.
The film became a cult favorite because of its characters, and the series only reinforces why it was right to care about them in the first place. Through 8 episodes, we get to see everyone grow and change and become better versions of themselves. Matthew gained confidence and took over Gideon’s empire. Lucas realized he could no longer skate (ha!) through life and needed to actually work. Knives stopped being a fangirl and became her own person. Wallace just gets more awesome.
Every character gets the chance to shine, and in the end, the film’s ultimate message (“Scott has gained the power of self-respect”) still comes through. Ramona saves the day by deciding to put herself first. The other characters all get their own happy endings by taking a look at their lives and changing what they don’t like or what makes them unhappy.
And, of course, the last minutes of the last episode perfectly set up a potential second series.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off will delight existing fans of the franchise without alienating new fans. You can watch the series without having seen the film, because they put the film in the series for comparison (super meta!). And then when you’re done with the series, you can watch the film on your own (also streaming on Netflix). This series was just a really fun time; it’s funny and entertaining and I loved every second of it.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off comes from award-winning animation house Science SARU (Devilman Crybaby, Japan Sinks, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken) and UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, produce for Netflix.
The series is currently streaming only on Netflix.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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