In the early 2000s, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim took the world by storm. A prime example of the nerd culture that became the popular fandom zeitgeist of the 2010s, this geeky love story that blended indie rock with manga aesthetics gained a surprising cult following, captivating the hearts and minds of the 2010s generation. 

A tale about one slacker’s obsession to meet the girl of his dreams, Scott Pilgrim was originally centered around his battles against Ramona’s Evil Exes to win her heart. This exhaustive manic pixie storyline plays out beat-by-beat in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off at first, along with a cascade of character introductions, including Scott, Wallace, The members of Sex Bob-omb, and Scott’s underage girlfriend, Knives. It’s a reintroduction of the same introduction leading to the meet-cute of Ramona Flowers. Though what happens after, well…

Warning: The following segment contains spoilers for the pilot episode.

Knives, Julie, and Ramona at a party in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

That’s what sets this animated Pilgrim series apart. Something that, thus far, has sparked some lively debates among fans. Because Scott Pilgrim meets an unexpected demise in the inaugural episode, a surprising yet strangely appropriate epic failure that abruptly shifts the narrative focus to Ramona, thus making her the central figure in this revamped storyline. Unlike the original, where Scott fought for Ramona’s love, this series delves into learning about the lives of the individuals with whom he originally clashed, portraying Ramona as a three-dimensional character and a self-described Colombo looking into how this all sort of happened. 

Along the journey, she has to learn and deal with her past relationships with the Evil Exs, adding depth and nuance to the storyline. This new approach grants a more humanized perspective on everyone’s motivations, which was somewhat lacking in the original series. Which originally focused on Scott Pilgrim’s struggle to get everything he ever wanted–mostly the girl.

Similar to Spider-Man: No Way Home, this exploration of the series villains delves into some surprisingly powerful themes, unraveling the reasons behind characters’ actions often rooted in tragic backstories or, more often than not, a look into Ramona and their heart-wrenching breakups. It’s here that Scott Pilgrim’s Takes Off becomes something different. 

Scott Pilgrim gets a Netflix DVD from Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

The series introduces a fresh perspective by placing Ramona in the role of an active heroine forced into confronting the baggage of her Ex-partners all by willfully presenting an adult take on love’s complexities. The throughline then becomes an almost detective-like story led by Ramona Flowers investigating these profound changes. The emotional stakes presented become higher subtext than what they seem. Something skillfully played around with in that playful Scott Pilgrim lighthearted tone that masks the serious with the fun. 

These characterizations of the exes take unexpected turns, exploring themes of aging, loss, redemption, and self-discovery. Some of your favorites will gain everything from Scott’s demise. Some, in turn, will lose just about everything you knew about them as a character. It’s in this rebuilding and figuring out who they are that the series delivers on a per-episode-basis, a surprising dose of sentimental catharsis, especially with Ramona regarding her toxicity in previous relationships.

Credit is due to the star-studded cast, including Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, Brie Larson, Kieran Culkin, Aubrey Plaza, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. However, the most surprising performance may be seeing Satya Bhabha as Matthew Patel, whose storyline goes in an entirely unexpected direction. The best performance, however, easily goes to actress Ellen Wong as Knives Chow. She becomes something of her leading actress in the series, often in fun B-plot-driven ways. 

Strangely, it’s Michael Cera who becomes the odd one out. His pilot episode’s voice acting felt off and seemed rather weak, especially as it was just a reenactment of the original movie. I will admit, though, that his performances get better once the series kicks off and does its own thing. I also think fans will love his counterparts’ cameos, played by Will Forte and Finn Wolfhard.

Stephen and Knives make a musical in Scott Pilgrim Take Off

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off appears ripe for future syndication, given its brief 30-minute episodes. The exceptional animation pays homage to the original comic with an anime-like rendering, surprising viewers with high-quality action choreography. Embracing an episode-of-the-week format, the series playfully nods to various genres from documentary filmmaking, a love of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and even a layer of meta-commentary of animated TV shows based on a movie adapted from an established comic series.

The animation quality is exceptional, seamlessly blending anime-like rendering with the original comic’s aesthetic. Action choreography takes center stage, surprising viewers with its high-quality execution. The brief 30-minute episodes make “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” ideal for future syndication. 

The series cleverly pays homage to the source material with its artistic choices, creating a visual experience that captivates both fans of the original comic and newcomers alike. Each episode, adopting an episode-of-the-week format, playfully nods to various genres, incorporating elements of documentary filmmaking, a love for Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Sonic The Hedgehog, and meta-commentary on the challenges of producing an animated TV series, based on a movie, that’s adapted from an established comic series.

Scott and Matthew battle with Scott defending and a giant PKOK emerging by their fists for comic book effect

Now, I think the original’s success is attributed to its emergence during a transitional period in history. An era in entertainment predating the dominance of social media outside of Facebook and Twitter. So much has changed since 2010. Garage bands and nostalgia for 80s video games have waned. Anamanaguchi‘s chiptune music, known for their Scott Pilgrim video game and for creating the original theme song to the Nerdist podcast, has become less special in an era where DJ special effects have become a bit of the norm.

So much has changed since 2010. This is why Scott Pilgrim Takes Off successfully reimagines itself by taking the original’s best elements and turning the story on its head, all while using a voice tailored for the current generation. The series navigates themes of love, loss, and self-discovery with each character, inviting viewers to revisit beloved favorites with a newfound depth. It’s an entirely mature take on relationships and the human experience, strangely, by embracing love and what it means to be there for another person.