Scott Pilgrim Takes Off review: A subversion of the surreal

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
scott pilgrim and Wallace in scott pilgrim takes offNetflix

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a new anime adaptation of the cult classic, and we can certainly expect this series to take off in the best way.

If you were a nerd back in the 2010s, chances are you know of Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Directed by Edgar Wright, and based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs The World followed a directionless bass player as he attempted to win the heart of a new girl in town while battling all of her evil exes.

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Now, that same cast is back for the anime series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, which has landed on Netflix today, directed by BenDavid Grabinski along with writer and original creator O’Malley.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a cult classic movie with a hardcore fanbase, therefore this anime has a lot to live up to. And we’d say it does, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Let’s get into it, and don’t worry, we’ll try to avoid spoilers…except for one major twist…

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Scott Pilgrim remains a passion project

One factor that made Scott Pilgrim Vs the World such a cult classic was the fact that everyone who worked on it so clearly wanted to be there. This same passion can be found in the series, with every original actor reprising their roles via voice work, and the creators allowing their animators to be as creative as their hearts desired. Although, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some issues.

The animation is fluid, colorful, and action-packed, it definitely gives a treat for the eyes, and leans in to the potential of anime Super Saiyan battles. However, the specific style and constant use of anime animation tropes may be irritating to a first-time viewer, even if you do get used to it somewhat quickly. Plus the added video game animations don’t feel as novel when they’re in an animated setting, as opposed to live-action, which was a major part of the movie’s charm.

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As for the voice cast, while they shine in emotional moments, for the comedy, well, they work far better in live-action. The original performances often don’t mesh with the pacing of this show’s humor, making it less adorkable, and more just awkward. This does cool off though when the anime starts making its own jokes; Episode 5 is particularly hilarious in its entire concept – which we won’t spoil here.

We do also give the anime props for diving into other characters besides Scott. For example, the League of Evil Exes themselves are easily the standouts of the show. The anime style only heightens these characters, as the show allows them to fully commit to the Saturday cartoon-esque villains vibe, with side-splitting results. We also get a closer look into the politics and feelings of the League, which again shows how this anime wants to make full use of its time to explore other characters.

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Scott vs Screentime

However, this focus on other cast members does lead to one major change in the series.

Now, EPISODE 1 SPOILER WARNING for what we’re about to say, but it must be mentioned: The fact that Scott gets side-lined in his own show when he is taken out in his first fight with an Evil Ex. It’s a shocking revelation, to say the least, and it’ll definitely help justify the series’ existence when viewers ask what was the point of retelling this story. By thoroughly subverting what we know about this franchise, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is able to hook us in, whether we’ve seen the movie or not.

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And while shocking, it’s surprising how it actually isn’t that much of a problem. Michael Cera will always be a great Scott Pilgrim, but because he is unable to fully perform his… Michael Cera-isms, in animated form, it probably is for the best that the character was taken out. This choice may anger some fans, but arguably each new adaptation should explore other aspects of a franchise, and that’s what this anime does.

Plus, this choice is handled with care, as you feel the impact across the rest of the series. Not only in exploring other characters, but the relationship between Ramona and Scott strangely feels stronger in Scott’s absence. The anime does a much better job at creating chemistry between the pair, and while we won’t spoil the ending, this show prioritizes their feelings toward one another rather than just Scott’s, far more than the movie did. Again, this choice may not be for everyone, but in our eyes, it betters the story as a whole, especially in building up Ramona’s character beyond a Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype. Why else are we fighting all of those Evil Exes?

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Scott Pilgrim Takes Off review score: 4/5

It’s hard to say whether or not people will like Scott Pilgrim Takes Off more or less than the movie, or even the original graphic novels, but it certainly stands on its own as a good time, even if one of the things it does best is riff on the movie in a very meta way.

The show is its own thing, but it also doesn’t ignore the history that came before. And ultimately, the effort and love poured into this series is obvious, and contagious, so we’d be more than willing to give this anime a +1 Life.

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Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is now available to stream on Netflix. Check out our other Scott Pilgrim coverage below:

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About The Author

Lucy-Jo is a Movies and TV Writer at Dexerto, and has previously written for Screen Rant and Girls on Tops. After earning a Master's Degree in Film and Literature, Lucy-Jo now loves covering films, TV shows, and anime, especially if it's something by Mike Flanagan, or anything drenched in camp. You can contact her at lucyjo.finnighan@dexerto.com