A geeky 20-something boy, who’s part of an underground rock band, sets his sights on an introverted and quirky new girl who’s just moved into his quiet neighborhood. Suddenly, he gets thrown into the calamity of her love life, forced to face her many exes who are out to win her love again. Throw in some fun Sega references, epic video-game-inspired fights, and very iconic songs and you get Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
However, while BenDavid Grabinski‘s Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is influenced by Edgar Wright’s famous live-action film, it infuses Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s original story with its own unique examination of broken relationships while paying a sincere homage to its overlapping predecessors. In doing so, this show breaks the wall (literally) and brings what is perhaps the most special and awesome Scott Pilgrim adaptation to date.
Bringing the stellar live action cast of Scott Pilgrim back to voice their characters in this adaptation has certainly paid off. Michael Cera’s Scott Pilgrim still maintains the nerdy charisma he’s had in the movie even if some of the youthfulness has worn off. In addition, Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings a fascinating mature performance as Ramona Flowers and hearing her back in action is a big treat for fans. Together, Cera and Winstead are very fun to watch, but separately, that’s where they shine brightly.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off also contains some pretty standout performances including Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Ellen Wong, and Mae Whitman, who put an incredible amount of energy and effort into their characters. They comedically exaggerate themselves, from Evans’ brooding tone to Wong’s carefree innocence, but they never try to overdo it. These types of performances are key to the retro magic of Scott Pilgrim even if the editing can make some conversations somewhat robotic.
In addition, Science SARU pulls off all the stops when it comes to this show’s articulate animation style as it amazingly brings O’Malley’s art designs to life. Science SARU has definitely taken advantage here like overemphasizing the onomatopoeia elements in these large action-packed sequences while also inserting life into the smallest of scenes, especially with Ramona’s hair-dying in each episode. The entire world of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is beautifully put together by Science SARU, embracing the magnitude of O’Malley’s work.
While it’s impossible to get into the ‘nitty gritty’ of Scott Pilgrim‘s specific differences, the show’s overall ability to dynamically expand its characters allows it to boldly stand out from its predecessors. O’Malley’s original comic and Wright’s film mainly focused on the formation of Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers’ blossoming relationship. However, this show’s approach happily diverges from the norm. In this show, its narrative distancing to emphasize its side characters proves to be its greatest asset.
Surprisingly, the best character arcs come from Ramona’s ‘evil’ exes, who are given enough screen time to naturally expand their personalities and backstories. Each of them leaves a residual empathetic impact on Ramona that tears open the emotional wounds while perfectly meshing maturity and comedy together. This could also be said for the hardcore lead members of “Sex Bomb-Omb”, though they mostly retain their characteristics as the show gets them more involved in ways that are quite dramatic.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a remarkably refreshing take on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s fun comics, evolving in a way that’s emotionally captivating while retaining the enthusiastic teenage spark that makes this entire franchise special. From some fantastic cast performances in the transition to TV to the amazing animation developed by Science SARU, this adaptation successfully improves on the original story.
For everyone who was thinking this show might have been a risky move, no need to fear: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off knocks it out of the park.
Rating – 9/10
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off premieres on Netflix on November 17. The series 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.