Not so long ago… (okay, close to 20 years ago) in the mysterious land of Toronto, Canada, Scott Pilgrim was introduced to the world. In the years since Bryan Lee O’Malley’s sophomoric graphic novel series was first published, as well as Edgar Wright’s much beloved film adaptation, the devoted cult following continues to garner new fans with every screening, cast reunion, or theatrical re-release. Given the persistent popularity of the property, its no surprise that Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, the new anime series now streaming on Netflix, is the next level of where Scott and Ramona’s journey should…take off, so to say.
Puns aside, if you’re already familiar with Scott Pilgrim, you know the story. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is dating a high-schooler (more on that later), he’s in a band called Sex Bob-Omb, he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and must fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends. The framework may look the same on the surface, but this series isn’t intended to be an adaptation of O’Malley’s books or Wright’s film, and that’s a good thing. Audiences should put those expectations aside immediately and brace themselves for a narrative that is thematically and emotionally richer, while never failing to be downright hilarious at every turn.
O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski (Happily), the 8-episode series’ showrunners, are instantly unafraid to trust their creative gut and avoid excessive fan service. By challenging themselves to reflect on 20 years of discourse surrounding the characters and relationships within the world of Scott Pilgrim, they’ve gained a level of insight that is echoed back into the perspective of characters who are given more of a chance to shine than they have in previous iterations. It’s the confidence in these creative swings and trust in their collaboration that makes O’Malley’s direct involvement with this series such a delight to see on-screen.
In a way, lighting struck twice with Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. Not too long after an enthusiastic 10th anniversary table read reunion, the film’s legendary ensemble cast jumped at the chance to reprise their roles. Call it a testament to their well-documented, deep admiration for the material, originally fostered by Wright, who shares an executive producer credit on the series with O’Malley and Grabinski. Listening to their line reads almost feels like they never missed a day on set.
Adapting the story into an anime was a logical trajectory, as the genre reflects the source material’s hyper-energenic, expressive, and comedic tone. The colourful animation from studio Science SARU (DEVILMAN crybaby, Inu-Oh) emulates O’Malley’s manga-inspired renderings, along with some great Toronto landmark deep cuts. Their work is a perfect balance of amazingly manic humour and levity along with emotionally tender scenes of reconciliation.
Animanaguchi, the chip-tune rock band that created the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim‘s beat-em-up video game, as well as Grabinski’s composing collaborator, Joseph Trapanese, work in tandem to express differing soundscapes. Whether it’s during fight scenes – and there are plenty throughout – or the new Sex Bob-Omb songs – all bangers – the infectious energy from both departments never compromises.
It’s hard to talk about Scott Pilgrim Takes Off without getting into spoiler territory but, if anything, that’s an imperatively respectful way of how this review should inform you. If you’ve read the books, seen the film, played the game, or even cosplayed as a character, you owe it to yourself to watch this series as open-minded as possible. Expect one of the best three-plus hour binge-watches of the year.
All eight episodes of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off are now streaming exclusively on Netflix.