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Review: ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ Knocks It Out Of The Park

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It’s been years since Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World came our way and even longer since the start of the comic, but at long last the drought has ended! Netflix’s new series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a fresh new take on the world of Scott and Ramona Flowers in anime form. It has the classic anime OP and everything. As an anime, this take on Scott Pilgrim manages to be both very similar and incredibly different from both its predecessors. Is it worth checking out? Let’s find out!

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.]

Returning cast from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

If you were worried about this version of Scott Pilgrim missing out on the series’ signature charm, you can put your mind at ease. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off in many ways is a stylistic merger of the comic and the movie. Many of the actors you know and love from the film are back, voicing the comic’s equally adored character designs. 

It was a good call to bring back the original actors. Generally, I take issue when projects choose celebrity voice acting over professional voice actors, but for this show it was the right move. Scott Pilgrim in the minds of many IS Michael Cera. Ramona Flowers IS Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Hearing any other voice from the character’s mouth wouldn’t have felt right.

It’s not just the leads either, it seems like every cast member has returned. Brie Larson is back as Envy, Aubrey Plaza is back as Julie, and even Chris Evans is back as Lucas Lee. It’s an all-star cast all around, and it would be difficult to pick a favorite if Kieran Culkin wasn’t there as Wallace stealing every scene he was in. It’s not one-to-one with their voices from the movie, they’ve changed their delivery just enough to work for animation, but it’s just similar enough to add to the show’s sense of nostalgia. It might soothe the initial shock some fans might feel from the major changes that come later.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is as stylish as you could hope

Then there’s the art, which knocks it out of the park and into several parks over. This animated series takes the style of the comics to a whole new level. Studio Science Saru transforms the beloved art of Bryan Lee O’Malley into a cinematic event. The animation perfectly encapsulates the story’s tone of whimsy, magical realism, and just a genuinely outlandish good time.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)
Image from Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)

It’s just plain good. I had a litmus test for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, entries to the Scott Pilgrim Universe always have to feel like the people behind the scenes were having fun. The people who made this were having fun and plenty of it. Every aspect of the visuals is creative and entertaining to look at. Fight scenes turn into video game scrawlers. Rollerblading sequences become inter-dimensional dream sequences. Even the way items are blurred out of focus is delightfully stylized. O’Malley, Co-developer BenDavid Grabinski, and animation director Abel Góngora have created a wonderfully wacky world.

And of course, this extends to the plot. The anime has plenty of the franchise’s signature weirdness. If you’re in this for magical sub-mind highways, the awesome power of being vegan, and some pure video game fun you will not be disappointed. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is just as fantastical as you could hope for. The fight scenes are bizarre. The best of which is in episode 3, titled “Ramona Rents a Video,” when two characters fight their way through different movie genres. Spacetime travel is just sort of an accepted fact of life. There are just enough references to the original work to make you happy. What more could you ask for?

Acting choices and stylized story combined, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off becomes a valid successor to the line of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life.

Plenty of plot changes in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Despite much of the style we know and love being retained, this is very much a different storyline. That much becomes clear in episode one when… well when Scott Pilgrim takes off. He’s pretty much K.O.-ed from the story from the very beginning, after a very tongue-in-cheek conversation about two different Sonic cartoons, where an actor “plays the same guy in both shows.” What’s left is a goofy but fairly introspective journey for Ramona as she searches for who’s behind Scott’s plight.

I was pretty dubious of this plot change at first. Well, that’s a lie, I texted several people in all caps about how Scott Pilgrim died, paced around my room a bit in a fit of insanity, and then settled in to see what happened next. If they were going for shock value, they certainly got it. For some fans, I think this could feel cheap. Killing off your main character in the first episode is hard to sell. However, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off pulls it off. The creators of the series didn’t want to give us the same story, and what better way of switching up the story than 86-ing your protagonist? The major changes are more than justified by just how much it frees up the rest of the cast to get into their own adventures. When Scott leaves, everyone else has room to shine.

A new look at the characters

This new narrative allows for side characters to get the spotlight like never before. We get to see the seven evil exes in delightful new scenarios as their entire hierarchy crumbles. Gideon Graves loses everything and becomes somewhat of a pathetic wet dog of a man. Matthew Patel isn’t just the first defeated evil exe, he rises to power as a billionaire with a Broadway dream. Roxie at long last gets her emotional dues and kisses more girls (Her character changes specifically are thankfully a vast improvement for the franchise’s LGBT representation). It cannot be understated enough just how fun it is to watch these new sides of our beloved antagonists. Nothing feels out of character and everything feels new.

That’s saying nothing of the rest of the cast. Knives gets to skip over most of the whole Scott debacle and finds herself becoming a musical genius. Julie Powers gets to embrace her evil dreams. Then there’s Wallace Wells. Wallace Wells is the best character. Wallace Wells, across adaptations, has always been the best character and that will never change. He’s a riot and a half. He is the moment. In this version, he thinks he should get to be a movie star, and I couldn’t agree more. There wasn’t a moment with him on screen that wasn’t a joy to watch.

Every single new path for a character feels like a natural extension of who they are. It doesn’t feel like a betrayal of the source material. If anything, it honors the source material even more by showing just how many possibilities there are for these beloved characters. As a fan of the source material, it’s honestly much more entertaining to watch than a perfect remake of the comics would have been. After all this time we have something new!

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)
Image from Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)

Inside the mind of Ramona Flowers

Of course, the centerpiece of it all is Ramona. It’s a running gag in the fandom that Scott Pilgrim is a bit of a litmus test for reading comprehension. If you think that Scott is a great guy you’re meant to unconditionally root for, you might need to rethink the story a little bit. It’s pretty refreshing to knock him out of the way and dig into the mind of Ramona instead. As she searches for answers to what happened to Scott, she has to search through her past.

Ramona gets to confront each of her exes and herself. Why does she have so many evil exes? What’s she running from? This take on the story dives into those questions. There’s this great sequence they show at the beginning of every episode post-Scott-removal where she re-dyes her hair and takes a hard look at herself in the mirror. The repetition of it, the same animation with different hair colors, encapsulates the core themes of the show. The anime is not just wacky hijinks, it’s an exploration of who Ramona is, and her path to self-acceptance, wrapped up in a surreal whodunit. It’s endless fun with an introspective edge.

You can now watch Scott Pilgrim Takes Off on Netflix

At the end of the day, this is a story about self-acceptance. It’s about confronting all your past and possible future mistakes and deciding to forgive yourself. Despite all the over-the-top silliness, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off has a real heart to it. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you think, and I cannot recommend it enough.

You can check out all episodes of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off now on Netflix . Will you be checking it out? What do you think about the changes? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or on The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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