Arts & Entertainment

SERIES REVIEW: ‘Scott Pilgrim Takes Off’ is a refreshing twist on the classic comic series

Netflix’s newest comic book-inspired adaptation series teaches us important lessons on self-reflection, emotional growth, and companionship, all while still sharing the same charm with its original source material.

Note: This article contains spoilers for “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.” 

A new piece of media has made such an impression on me that I thought I’d change the format of my reviews so I can share it with you all. This week, I will be talking about the Netflix animated adaptation series of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.” 

As a long-time fan of the franchise (nine years to be exact), it was no surprise that I’d jump on the opportunity to cover this series right after watching it. It dropped seemingly out of nowhere and caught us fans completely off-guard. No one could have expected such a niche comic book series to have its own series nearly 20 years later after its original release. Yet, here we are.   

Other than the comics, which were first serialized in 2004, there was also a movie adaptation done for Scott Pilgrim in 2010. Going by the same name, the movie followed the plotline of the comics in a much more summarized version. It was considered a fun, campy movie with a killer soundtrack. It only grew in popularity as the years went by, drawing in a larger audience to the original comics. 

Most fans assumed “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” would be a near-exact adaptation of both the comics and the movie, perhaps a bit more in-depth than the movie considering the series would have eight episodes ranging from 30 to 40 minutes each. Beginning with the opening sequence, it was evident that the creators of this show took much inspiration from modern anime.  

The theme song, performed by the Japanese rock-band Necrie Talkie, is up-beat, catchy and colorful. This opening also shows us the talent exhibited by the animators of this series. The animation is dynamic and unique as the characters’ designs closely match their comic counterparts. A solid beginning, I was immediately hooked and knew the quality of the soundtrack would rival its movie counterpart.   

“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” opening sequence features Scott, Ramona and friends. | Opening sequence from Netflix via YouTube

Plot-wise, there were many changes made. It was clear that the writers of this series took more freedom in writing this story for long-time fans, while also drawing in a new fanbase. The comics and movie focused solely on how Scott had to defeat The League of Evil Exes to get to his dream girl, Ramona Flowers.  

The plot was written and illustrated to resemble ones that you’d see in video games, including fight sequences, using superpowers, having multiple lives and defeated foes dropping coins after their supposed deaths. Defeat the bad guys, get the girl. Very Super Mario Bros. meets Street Fighter, and fairly straightforward.  

There was occasional backstory whenever characters were introduced. Some, like Envy Addams, had their stories unraveled in later volumes for the sake of making it a big reveal. But most of the Evil Exes had very brief introductions and defeats, usually lasting for a volume or two and then disappearing.  

This series did an excellent job in making these Evil Exes into more fleshed-out characters. They gave them equal importance in the plot and kept them in the entirety of the series. We have characters like Roxy and Todd, who explore their queerness openly. Each Evil Ex has their own redemption arc, as well as closure with Ramona.  

This also ties into our second prominent factor that the series and comic do not share: Scott does not fight the Evil Exes in this story. He actually isn’t around for most of the series at all, which might sound like a negative point, since this series is named after him and he is supposed to be the main character. But truthfully, this worked in the series favor.  

Scott is not a good guy. He’s actually quite flawed and makes quite a few mistakes, the most obvious being that he was dating Knives Chau, a 17-year-old high schooler. So as early as the first episode, Scott is presumed dead after what was supposed to be his first fight and win against Evil Ex number 7, Matthew Patel.  

Ramona – though – is convinced that Scott wasn’t killed, but was instead kidnapped. For the rest of the series, Ramona is our main character. She goes on to track down each of her Evil Exes and uncover clues to Scott’s disappearance. But rather than just defeating them all like Scott would have, she faces her past and her own mistakes. Each ex represents a phase of her life and reminds her of how she always seemed to run away when things got too real.  

Ramona and Scott at Julie’s party, during episode one. | Image via Netflix

She finds that none of her exes are behind Scott’s disappearance, and that Scott himself had been the perpetrator she had been after. Old Scott – as the series calls him – time traveled and sequestered his past self right in the moment where he would have won. It was all done in order to deviate from his eventual future together with Ramona.  

Yes, Scott was supposed to get the girl. More than that, he was supposed to marry her. But after it’s revealed that their relationship is a short-lived one, Future Scott spends his days lamenting ever having gone through all that trouble with Ramona. Rather than growing and maturing, he becomes more jaded and miserable, even going as far as having a time-machine built so he could undo the future he would have to endure after his and Ramona’s breakup. 

What made this series so much more enjoyable was how unexpected this was. Scott was the so-called bad guy all along, and the final boss fight is against an “Even Older Scott” that spent years training to be able to travel to the past and destroy the entire world. It’s also a clever play on the original title of the comics, as the last episode is called “The World Vs. Scott Pilgrim.”  

Official Netflix poster for “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.” | Image by Netflix via IMDB

The entire League of (no longer evil) Exes, Scott’s friends, Ramona and present Scott face off against this freakishly swole Even Older Scott. It’s an extremely entertaining battle that ends with both present and future Ramona morphing together to create “Super Ramona,” who ends up choosing herself over either Scott. 

I think the fact that the series focused so much on the characters and their relationships really elevated this story for me. It might be a bit controversial to say this, but I enjoyed the plot in this series much more than the comic book or movie version. I felt like the series grew with its fanbase and addressed many problematic character traits that were never resolved or dealt with. The comic pointed them out plain as day, but there was never much growth. The series – though – let each character shine, even Scott, who was in a whole other timeline.  

Overall, this series was such a joy to experience. Everything about it was just so impeccably curated, from the soundtrack produced by Anamanaguchi and Joseph Trapanese to the animation. Often times when an adaptation deviates extremely from the original source material, it tends to be horrible. But I can safely say this was not the case for “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.” I highly recommend everyone watch this series. It’s highly bingeable, and it will probably be in my rotation for a while. So, if you’d like to check it out, “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” is currently out on Netflix. The full original soundtrack is also out on Spotify and YouTube.