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Scott Pilgrim is a complete dick.
Let’s get that out of the way first. Certainly, he is, indeed, our protagonist, and he is also more than likable, but the titular character of this series of books is kind of... well, kind of a douche. Scott Pilgrim spends six books alienating friends, taking advantage of people, and treating his girlfriends badly. Some of this isn’t apparent to the reader at first, but we can possibly attribute this to one of the big reveals of the final book. (which I’ll go into later).
That’s not to say the book (well, six books. Namely: “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness,” “Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe,” and lastly “Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour”) is a downer. Most people will describe Scott Pilgrim to you as a Canadian manga that reads like a love-letter to video games. Scott falls in love with Amazon.ca delivery girl Ramona Flowers and, in order to secure her love, must defeat her seven evil exes. It’s a video game premise right from the start, but when you peel away the pixels it becomes all too realistic.
Scott’s a slacker. He has no job, he mooches off his gay roommate (Wallace Wells who, incidentally, is the best supporting character maybe ever), he plays in a terrible band, and he really sees nothing wrong with any of that. He’s okay living in his own head; it’s comfortable. The journey to defeat the evil exes coincides with Scott’s journey from manchildhood to some sort of manadolescence.
The fights are fun and furious. The evil exes all bring something different to the table and die in explosions of coins and 1-Ups. The jokes keep rolling, even throughout the serious or tender moments. This is a funny book. You can even learn a thing or too (including the various guitar chords given for songs in the book, or Stephen Stills’ vegan recipe)!
By the end of the story, we find that Scott is a classic unreliable narrator. We see events from his point of view throughout the entire series, beginning from his initial introduction (which cites his status as “Awesome). We all like to think we’re the main character in the world, especially in our teen years which Scott hasn’t managed to leave behind. In the book, Scott is flawless and can do no wrong. He is the best fighter in the province. By the end, Scott’s denial of his flaws is palpable, embodied in the Negascott. We end on a happy note, comfortable knowing that Scott was a bad person, but is willing to get better.
I hesitate to drag that one point away from the books, but only do so do to book 4. The plot seems to drag a bit there, despite it still being an important part of the story. You get a mix of the two main plots (the “League of Evil Exes” and “Scott Pilgrim Grows Up”), plus tons of fun side plots. I still don’t fully understand Young Neil’s whole side-story, but it’s there and it matters.
The book shines via its cast. Scott is obviously a deep enough character, but his group of friends is endearing to the end. The members of Sex Bob-Omb, Kim Pine and Stephen Stills, make up his core support group, along with Wallace, Ramona, Young Neil, Julie Powers, Stacey Pilgrim, and even the slightly deranged Knives Chau. They evolve over the course of the series. Everyone has a journey to make. The evil exes are also fantastically done, especially the final boss, Gideon Graves, who is like a version of Scott who doesn’t recognize his flaws.
I wanted to throw out a quick mention of my favorite part of O’Malley’s work: the dialogue. These characters talk like real people. It’s not stunted like reading from a script. I can hear their voices in my head and they sound like you and I.
Brian Lee O’Malley’s manga-inspired artwork may not be for everyone. If you’re into manga you’ll love it, if you’re not, like me, you still might really like it. The mannerisms of the various characters and countless background gags add to the comic feel of the book. My main criticism of the art is that a few of the characters (Scott/Young Neil, and Ramona/Kim/Lisa) look a lot alike in this black and white book. Lisa and Ramona literally look exactly the same and it’s only the fact that Lisa plays such a small role in the story that it’s passable.
All Together 5/5
Scott Pilgrim is a series of books about a douchebag realizing he’s a douchebag and trying to overcome said douchebag status. Does he deserve love? Does he deserve to be happy after kicking his friends around? That’s for the reader and, ultimately, for Scott himself to decide.
Final Thoughts 4.5/5
The series is about anime fights, video game references, slacker comedy, and oblique Canada jokes. But it’s also a story about growing up in spite of yourself. It’s something we can relate to and I think that makes the story even more enjoyable. The book, I feel, more than lives up to the hype. It’s over 1000 pages of an intriguing and fun story that people have been following for six years now. It is a chapter in the life of a guy who could very well be you. Just as long as you follow his lead, though, and get it together, everything’ll turn out alright.
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