July 19, 2009

'Scott Pilgrim' for the Win

"I'm doing manga set in Toronto. That's what it is." — Bryan Lee O'Malley
I would like to recommend something absolutely fantastic to read. The highly-acclaimed Scott Pilgrim independent graphic novel series is an incredibly entertaining set of manga-style comic book fiction, written and drawn by Toronto-native, Bryan Lee O'Malley and published by Oni Press.

The Scott Pilgrim series is painfully cute and sweet in a very tolerable, highly enjoyable, honest, direct way. Lee O'Malley is able to sum up the positive and negative experiences of being in your twenties with insatiable humour and heart. I can only describe the experience of reading Scott Pilgrim as watching a great independent film, an amazing live concert, playing Super Mario, making out with a hot girl/guy, and partying all night, all at the same time. It is so satisfying on so many different levels.

Scott Pilgrim really speaks to the young person in everyone and frankly, it is just plain good fun. Please, I implore you, do not be put off or fooled by the bright covers and girly packaging, no matter what your particular taste or preference for art. Scott Pilgrim is for boys and girls of all ages, colours, creeds, interests, and sensibilities, but particularly disaffected, self-aware twenty-somethings of this generation. This is just the kind of thing those with zero interest in comic books would enjoy most.

Scott Pilgrim currently has five volumes out (Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, vs. the World, & the Infinite Sadness, Gets It Together, and vs. the Universe) with a sixth and final book on its way.
The series is printed in the style of a Japanese manga comic in black-and-white with a digest-sized, easily readable format. The story style is hyper realistic with a succession of rapid-fire dialogue, fantasy sequences, pop culture references, hipster comedy, subspace portals, and video game battles and interludes. These books are unabashedly Canadian with many references to our culture, music, with the story taking place in downtown Toronto around many well-known locales and landmarks. The story unfolds in a charming way with witty banter and retro modern style.

The plot is simple enough. The titular unemployed slacker/lover/fighter/rock star/hero, Scott falls in love with the mysterious, new American girl in town, Ramona V. Flowers. He must fight and defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to date her, all while he starts dating an Asian high school girl named Knives Chau who falls in love with him and swears revenge on Ramona.

With the help of his disinterested band mates and gay roommate, Scott goes on a journey of wild misadventures and experiences, while learning absolutely nothing in the process. Each book serves as a game level with power ups and a end-level bosses (ex-boyfriends) to defeat before leveling up. Scott plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb while his his enemies and ex-girlfriend play in the ├╝ber-sucessful Canadian rock band, The Clash at Demonhead.

I heard about the series during the development of the film adaptation and feverishly devoured all five available books in a few short days. They are highly addictive and highly satisfying reads. Lee O'Malley has transcended the medium of comics and achieved a truly mainstream entertainment. This series has amazing mainstream and crossover appeal. Anyone can read this and enjoy it. Scott Pilgrim is for those who have ever dated a boy or girl, ever been a boy or girl, laughed, enjoy laughing, ever played a 16-bit video game, likes music, is Canadian, likes Canadians, likes Canadian music, likes stuff, likes people, likes fun, well you get the idea.

All the characters generally suffer from the post-college malaise as they are in their early to mid-twenties. These books are for everyone and again, I must stress, do not be fooled or put off by the sparkly appearance. You will enjoy Scott Pilgrim when you read it. Take a minute to read a few pages and you will be hooked for sure. What the series does is play off all the incredibly trivial, over dramatic, ridiculous, fun, stupid, frustrating experiences of young adulthood, throws in popular culture, hobbies, vices, adventure, and dials up the action and humour to 11.

I cannot recommend these books highly enough and am looking forward to the film version. These are great books for everyone. Go read them now.

Note: You can read an updated version of this article over at The Weekly Crisis and my review of the feature film here.

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