Premiering on Netflix November 17th, anime series ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ is the latest adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cult graphic novel series, published between August 2004 and July 2010 by Oni Press.
It was first brought to big screens by director Edgar Wright, whose ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ was released in 2010. It didn’t do well at the box office, but became a cult favorite, and is still seen as a successful translation of the source material to screens.
Which means that ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ has even more to prove, following both the original books and the movie. Yet, as it turns out, this animated TV version is more than up to the challenge.
Does Scott Pilgrim successfully cross over into anime?
If you’re a fan of the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ graphic novels, you’ll probably have been anticipating this one, not least because it boasts the movie’s cast on voice duties.
It is a relief, then, to report that ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ is a roaring success, which is both faithful to the original story but finds fascinating new paths to take –– about which we wish we could say more, but to do so would spoil the fun.
Suffice to say, the initial episode of the show follows almost entirely faithfully along the story of the first book, introducing us once more to Scott’s frosty Toronto existence. He’s a nervy slacker who plays in a bad rock band and is (sort of) dating a highschooler.
And yet Scott is also, apparently, one of the best fighters in the area, since the ‘Pilgrim’ world is one where spontaneous, video game-style battles break out when people are fighting for reasons including winning over someone they have a crush on.
That’s Scott’s challenge when he meets the beautiful, mysterious Ramona Flowers, an American transplant still smarting from a bad breakup with some serious baggage. He becomes somewhat obsessed with her, partly because she rollerblades through his dreams (turns out his subconscious mind is a hyperspace portal that knocks miles off Ramona’s route as a DVD delivery worker… yes, you really do need to key into the story’s specific oddness).
So, when one of Ramona’s ex-boyfriends show up to challenge him to a fight, Scott is only to ready to leap into action.
It’s there that O’Malley and TV co-writer BenDavid Grabinski (‘Happily’) really get to show off the imaginative drive of the show, as they find truly interesting new ways to tell the story.
Related Article: The Movie Cast of ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ is Back in the Trailer For New Anime Series
The writers, who clearly knew that another completely faithful adaptation would be viewed as unnecessary, make some real leaps here, getting a lot of mileage out of experimenting with the basic story engine. It allows for characters who in the book and movie are mostly side players to get their moments to shine –– and truly expands upon the story.
This could well be considered a multiverse variant of ‘Scott Pilgrim’, one that enriches the experience without forgetting what makes it work. The characters feel authentic, and the emotions are still real, even with all the craziness going on around them.
And while Wright was able to pull off some impressive action in his movie version (employing some nifty effects and a creative stunt team), the anime nature of the show means it can go far further in its depiction of the different battles.
Director Abel Gongora brings audacious visual panache to the whole series, whether it is two characters fighting in a plane as it crashes, or paparazzi photographers portrayed as a pack of ninjas.
The anime style fits with the book’s illustration, then brings them to life in vivid and various ways. And the music, meanwhile, is a perfect blend of entirely new material and songs that cropped up in the film. This is the perfect mix of the source and its original adaptation.
‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’: Performances
The voice cast of ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Anime Series.
Gathering the movie’s cast back (albeit in isolated recording booths, since the actors have gone on to much bigger, busier careers in the years since release) proves to be another winning aspect of the new production.
Michael Cera, of course, is still great as a low-key Scott, while Kieran Culkin still steals scenes as his unwitting roommate Wallace Wells, who has even more snark to deliver here. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Ramona gets to be more than a love interest, while the likes of Satya Bhabha’s Matthew Patel and Johnny Simmons’ Young Neil are expanded far beyond their minor roles in the story.
In a year where the comic book genre has taken something of a beating, this off-beat blend of video games, romance, rock and comedy is the ideal antidote. It’ll please fans of both the book and movie and looks unlike anything out there on TV at the moment.
‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ ranks among the best of genre on small screens this year. As the o omnipresent video game announcer might declare, “Winner!”
‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ receives 9 out of 10 stars.
Adapted by Bryan Lee O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski, ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ follows the title character (voiced by Michael Cera) as he falls in love with New Yorker Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
But in order to date her, he must defeat all seven of her evil exes. Then things get even more complicated.
Who else is in ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’?
Thanks to the intervention of Edgar Wright, the entire movie cast is back alongside Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.