Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Manga Meets Hollywood


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you must know that the highly anticipated* film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is coming out in theaters next week. If you could care less and hate nice things in life like bunnies and hugs, then please return to the aforementioned rock and never let me see your face again.

Scott Pilgrim follows the adventures of a deadbeat (and somewhat dumb) twenty-something boy who falls in love with a mysterious girl, Ramona Flowers. In order to date her, Scott must defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends while also somehow keep up with his band and his friends. Throw in a mid-twenties crisis and you’ve pretty much summed up the angsty yet hilarious love story.

With names like Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Chris Evans starring in the film, it seems far-fetched to be writing about this film on 8Asians. At the same time, it’s hard to miss the Asian pop culture influence on the Edgar Wright film and the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. As a fan, I believe movies like Scott Pilgrim represent how far aspects of Asian cultures like manga, anime and retro video games have come to mainstream Hollywood. Oh, and it’s Canadian, too!

Of course, it helps that O’Malley–the creator and artist of Scott Pilgrim–is half Korean, which can explain the influences on his drawing styles and characters. The six volume series features a Canadian take on Japanese manga, whether it’s through his characters’ large eyes, the detailed clothing that border on kawaii, the elaborate fight scenes or the panel layout. I’m a secret fan of manga: I don’t read it religiously (I did once “read” Marmalade Boy front to back) but after spending enough summers and school years in Japan, I learned to appreciate the aesthetic. It may not be as classic, realistic or gruesome as the typical North American superhero comic (i.e. Alan Moore’s Watchmen), but drawing manga still requires immense artistic skill. O’Malley’s work pays a proper homage to the undeniable influence of Asian comics on contemporary pop culture, without trying too hard to fit in with the genre.

The best part is O’Malley’s inclusion of Asian Canadians–which Edgar Wright kept faithfully in his film. Yeah, that’s right. I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan. There are actually well-developed Asian characters in Scott Pilgrim who aren’t limited to martial arts fighting–wait, I take that back. Chinese-Canadian Knives Chau (played by newcomer Ellen Wong) does pull some ninja moves but that’s only because ninjas rule. Regardless, O’Malley both includes and pokes fun at being Asian, like his pair of Japanese twins who fight Scott through mecha robots or evil ex-boyfriend Matthew Patel’s (Satya Bhabha) mystical Indian powers. His characters eat ramen and sushi, Ramona Flowers often wears Gothic Lolita-esque dresses, the characters battle with samurai swords, Scott wins his fights with points reminiscent of old school Nintendo games and once, Knives’ traditional Chinese father makes a remark about dating white boys. I love it.

I haven’t caught any screenings of the film yet, but with last month’s release of the final volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, I’m ready to embrace what director Edgar Wright brings in his live action version of the series. Who’s coming with me?

*Possibly applicable only within the Moye universe.

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About Moye

I am a Japanese-American girl who was born, raised and is most probably stuck in traffic right this second in Los Angeles. I'm currently one of the co-editors of 8Asians and like to distract myself with good food, reading long books, playing video games, catching up on celebrity news, choosing my new new haircut and then writing all about it on Hello Moye and sometimes here on Twitter if I can get it in under 140 words or less. You can reach me at moye[at]8asians.com.
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