The big twist in Netflix's 'Scott Pilgrim' anime breathes new life into a familiar story

The big twist in Netflix's 'Scott Pilgrim' anime breathes new life into a familiar story
  • "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" is an anime adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels.

  • While it pays homage to the books and Edgar Wright's 2010 movie adaptation, the anime tells a new story.

  • Warning: Major spoilers ahead for "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off."

"Scott Pilgrim," the story that began as a series of graphic novels from author Bryan Lee O'Malley, may have reached its final form in the anime series "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off."

The eight-episode show, which Netflix released on Friday, is an adaptation of O'Malley's original story: Toronto-based Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), an unemployed 23-year-old who plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb, becomes infatuated with American transplant Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whose new delivery gig in town necessitates traveling through a subspace highway running through Scott's brain. In order to be with Ramona, Scott has to fight his way through a league of her evil exes.

In O'Malley's graphic novels, and Edgar Wright's cult classic 2010 movie adaptation "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," Scott is put through the wringer, eventually defeating all of Ramona's exes. And while "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" pays clear homage to its roots — the English voice cast of the series features the movie cast reprising their roles — things progress a bit differently in the show.

Netflix's version is a masterclass on how to breathe new life into already excellent story material.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off."

scott pilgrim in the anime, surrounded by his friends, and ramona's assorted exes in the background in the middle of a crater
Scott Pilgrim, his friends, and his antagonists, in "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off."Netflix

The title of "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" is quite literal. The show's first episode hews close to both O'Malley's first graphic novel and the movie, with Japanese animation studio Science Saru ("Devilman Crybaby") recreating familiar story beats in delightful detail. But at the end of the episode, the show blows up its entire premise: Scott doesn't win his fight with Ramona's first evil ex, Matthew Patel. Instead, he gets his ass handed to him, and then disappears.

Scott's apparent death throws the story into blissful chaos, and it's Ramona who benefits the most. While "Scott Pilgrim" has always been about unpacking Ramona's past, no matter how much she tries to shy away from it, it's always been through the lens of Scott's own journey. In "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off," Ramona's the one fighting for Scott. Convinced that his death was a hoax, she reconnects with her exes to try and figure out which of them may have kidnapped the guy who hasn't even really become her boyfriend yet.

roxie richter and ramona flowers in the scott pilgrim anime, lying on the floor of a DVD rental store with cases scattered around them as rain falls
Roxie and Ramona in "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off."Netflix

That new structure does lead to some kick-ass fights — Ramona's battle with her sole female ex, Roxie Richter (Mae Whitman), in episode three is a particular highlight — but also catharsis for Ramona herself. It also plays out like a spot of extremely good fanfiction, where characters who barely interacted in previous iterations of the "Scott Pilgrim" story end up becoming best friends, or engaging in sordid movie-set affairs. The series shows no fear of going off the rails, engaging in some very meta movie-within-the-show shenanigans, and an eleventh hour twist that brings Scott Pilgrim himself back to the screen.

As a longtime "Scott Pilgrim" fan who also happens to like Science Saru's work, I frankly would have eaten up anything that "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" served, beat-for-beat recreation included. But while "Scott Pilgrim" certainly bears the wit and humor of its predecessors that make it recognizable, it still manages to feel completely novel. Bringing the focus to Ramona allows not only for the show to explore her character in a new way, but for other members of the cast to shine like never before.

Ultimately, it's a good lesson — sometimes, not being too precious about remaining faithful to a story can bring about glorious results. In order to bring "Scott Pilgrim" back to life, O'Malley and co-writer BenDavid Grabinski had to kill him — and "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" was all the better for it.

Read the original article on Insider