When I started Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it was a strange feeling; everything was different, but the same. Shinier, prettier perhaps, with some shots being a one-for-one of the original. There was something familiar about it, which was obviously the point. I’ve had that feeling again recently, with Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, an anime take on the classic comic series. I’ve watched the live action film more times than I can count (I’m bad at maths), so the first episode required a bit of an adjustment period. And then, much like with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, something new happened.
Spoilers ahead for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.
Comic creator and co-writer on the anime Bryan Lee O’Malley had said in interviews leading up to the release of the anime that some changes had been made. After all, both the comic and film are dated in places, so it would make sense to modernise those elements. Except it turned out O’Malley lied. It wasn’t just a few things that changed, a discovery I made at the end of the first episode where Matthew Patel, the first evil ex Scott has to face off against… wins?
Hang on, that can’t be right, Scott won that fight in the comic? And in the film? So what’s happening here? Then comes along the second episode which differs even further, fully attempting to convince the viewer that Scott is, in fact, dead. More than that, with this third adaptation of the comic, Scott’s love interest Ramona Flowers takes centre stage.
I think by this point you can see where the Final Fantasy 7 Remake comparison comes into things. In fact, you can make an equally strong comparison with the Rebuild of Evangelion films, themselves remakes of the 90s anime that strays from the canon at a certain point and never looks back. The Evangelion similarities aren’t lost on the crew either, there’s more than one reference to be found in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, including the casting of Fumihiko Tachiki, the voice of Shinji Ikari’s father Gendo in Eva, in a role for the Japanese dub that I won’t spoil.
With this change, O’Malley and co then have the opportunity to present the comic’s characters in a new light, which is exactly what it does. We get time inside Ramona’s head as she tries to figure herself out, and even the seven evil exes get fleshed out – maybe they aren’t so evil after all? It’s a lot harder to call Ramona a manic pixie dream girl this time too, a bit of criticism that kind of missed the point of her character in previous iterations anyway.
It’s self-reflective in a way that can only happen through changing the canon, and asks you to look at the story in a new way. Consider alternate perspectives, maybe even reconsider your relationship to the original comic. Scott Pilgrim’s first volume released way back in 2004, there’s just no way that you’re the same person as you were then, and the same could be said about characters like Scott, Ramona, and the rest.
That isn’t to say all of these characters have suddenly grown to be better people for a modern audience. Everyone is still kind of terrible in their own, special ways, Scott is obviously still dating a high-schooler, and yes everyone still thinks it’s weird – but this was, and still is, the point.
Media like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the Evangelion films, and now Scott Pilgrim Takes Off frequently have me thinking about what creatives owe to their characters, and in turn their audience. We’re still yet to see the conclusion of 7 Remake, and the Eva films outright refused to live in the misery the series steeped itself in. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, too, refuses to stay the same, why would we want to see the same thing again anyway? It’s so much more exciting to experience something new that’s built from something old, and Scott Pilgrim Takes Off has spades of freshness.