Scott Pilgrim and Shonen Manga

Photo: Shannon Cottrell/LA Weekly from the release party for Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour in Los Angeles There's a recent interview with Bryan Lee O'Malley over at Manga where the Scott Pilgrim creator talks about the influence of shonen (boy's) manga on his comic series.

I guess the concept of fighting the ex-boyfriends, and the structure of this story, one of the things that inspired this was the book, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga (by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma). Me and Chris (Butcher, manager of The Beguiling), we both LOVED that book. I was just getting started as a cartoonist. I read the chapter about shonen manga in that book, and thought, 'Wow, this is great.' It wasn't like I had read a whole lot of shonen manga before then. (Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga) described the structure of shonen manga plots kind of like it's a shish-kebab, where there's meatball, meatball, meatball on a stick, with each meatball representing a fight; that's how it explained what shonen manga really is. (laughs) So that just kind of stuck in my head. "
I like that O'Malley took something that's a parody of the conventions of a genre and turned it into a distinct work. Friday night, I went to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and wondered if it would pick up on the shonen manga/anime elements. It did. I'm not going to say anything that might spoil the film, just pay careful attention to the battle scenes, then watch a few of the big action-oriented animes, like Bleach or Dragon Ball Z, and you'll notice the similarities. What I noticed is that even the way the actors project their voices during the evil ex battles is similar to the voiceovers in English-language dubs. Link: Interview with Bryan Lee O'Malley


  1. As far as I can tell, the film isn’t being marketed well. In the one television spot I’ve seen, some leather jacketed thug beats the hell out of the hero with no comic overtones, or hints of satire or manga goodness. It made me think, I don’t want to relive the worst of my high school days in the movie theater, I think I’ll pass.

    1. Manga is the worst //what// ever? Breakfast food? Coffee varietal? Street drug? Torch song? Enema?

      Vague troll is vague.

  2. Saw the film last night. It was fantastic and fun.

    I do wish the trialers and ads on TV were a bit more clear about how cool the movie is. It’s like they were totally willing to be edgy and risky in making the movie, and succeeded pretty well. But when it came to making the ads, they got scared.

    1. Inventorjack, I agree with you on the TV spots. They don’t quite do the film justice. The movie is a lot more clever than it would appear in the ads.

  3. Just saw it last night with the Serial Diners: it is truly an awesome epic of awesome epicness! The Citizen Kane of video game movies and a wonderful tribute to the Punk/Alternative music scene in Toronto. It really shot me back to my misspent youth. Also, the city of Toronto’s greatest role: itself! (Although some of the teleportation the characters seemed to do when walking around corners was disorienting for locals.)

    Fun factoid: the producers had to spend a lot of money CGIing out the greenery and putting a lot more snow in. It doesn’t necessarily snow now in Toronto except lightly in a couple of months and Canada is no longer a particularly cold country. A nice touch however as that kind of winter is indelibly linked with most people’s memories of their youth in the city. See the (also canonical) Toronto movie Outrageous for what the climate used to be like here.

    1. “It doesn’t necessarily snow now in Toronto except lightly in a couple of months and Canada is no longer a particularly cold country.”

      Um, what? No longer particularly cold? I mean, aside from, say, even the big urban centres like Ottawa or Montreal, and places like Calgary or Winnipeg (ASS cold), there’s, you know, all that stuff north.

      And “lightly in a couple of months”? Are you SERIOUS? It was a mild winter last year, but it doesn’t mean it hardly snows anymore and “isn’t particularly cold.”

      You know why it didn’t snow in Toronto during filming? Because they started in March and ended in August. Snow season in this city typically starts Nov/Dec and ends Feb/Mar.

  4. Oh, come on Nadreck, don’t act like one of those “Tronno is the centre of the universe (Canada at least)” people! Maybe you don’t get that much show, but there’s still plenty of cold in Canada – been to Oddawa lately, f’instance?

    Anyway, saw the movie this afternoon with the family, and thought it was a complete hoot! (I read the first book, my son has read two so far.) Figured we shouldn’t get to the theatre too late, opening weekend and all – got tickets 20 minutes to starting time, and found we were the first in the auditorium – not a hopeful sign! (and btw, if you’re going by the advertising slogan, that’s “epic of epic epicness” – just sayin)

  5. I was seriously considering seeing this movie until I got to the phrase “…is similar to the voiceovers in English-language dubs.”

    Ugh. No. Thank. You.

    Maybe I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD in japan and watch the Japanese dub. Watching English language dubs of Japanese is like watching Fantasia in black and white. All the most important stuff is still there, but it pretty much looses its raison d’être.

    1. Yes, yes, because “Oh my god! The tentacles are both pleasuring and revolting!” is so much more insightful in Japanese.

      Seriously. It’s a damn cartoon that doesn’t even have the mouths synced with the voices in the One True Dub.

  6. I thought the movie did great justice to the source material. I feel like I can’t even be bothered to explain to people why they should care about Scott Pilgrim. For me, it perfectly encapsualates the whole 90’s Gen X/slacker/stoner/gamer/loser/dishpig/geek vibe. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. The rest of us however, are very happy right now.

  7. I was a bit disappointed to see so many epic battlegrounds from the books left out – The Reference Library, Honest Ed’s, even Sneaky Dee’s – but I get that they have to cram six books into two hours.

  8. I also saw the movie on Friday- overall quite good. They left out a couple of my favorite characters (Joseph) and dropped some of the Akira references that I enjoyed in the comic, but otherwise I found it captured the spirit of the book excellently. The girl who plays Julie Powers is especially good.

    I love the fact that O’Malley was inspired by Even a Monkey Can Draw Manag. Thinking back, Scott Pilgrim perfectly fits the whole “fight kebab” formula they use to define Shonen Manga- it is just the space between the fights is filled with really well drawn characters believable observations.

    Another good example of a book that turns the Shonen Manga formula on it’s head is Cromartie High School. It uses a more traditional scenario (high school gangs) and takes it to ridiculous and surreal extremes (think Freddy Mercury and a gorilla).

    For those who hate Manga out of hand, I will admit that Manga, like many things, follows the adage that “90% of everything is crap.” However, Scott Pilgrim definitely falls into the other 10%. But then again, Haters goin’ to hate. If someone’s hatin’ on you, you’re probably doing something right.

  9. Ok guys let this child explain.

    There are many many terrible manga and animes out there. Most of which are shounen. Shounen means boy so it appeals to boys. And boys are stupid, and their hormones are going crazy which makes them desperate for girls. Since shounen is made for boys, the creators don’t take it seriously and just use gimmicks. Even though I am a boy, I’ve been watching anime for years and I know better.

  10. Really, really liked the movie, and I’m starting to read the books. I can’t think of a theatrically released, non-documentary film that is nearly as massively Boing Boing-centric: video games! comics! music! Canada! cool random shit!

    I came into it as a big fan of Edgar Wright – particularly the “Spaced” TV series (which is up on Hulu, amazingly! Start at the first episode, and by the time you’re dancing along to a techno version of the A-Team Theme song, your mind will be blown and your abs will be sore with laughter!) I’ve only just started reading the books, but I saw a lot of “Spaced” in this – done at a faster pace and with a much bigger budget. I would say that the really well done visual effects make it worth seeing in a theater, as opposed to on a TV.

    Where did this dubbing thing come in? Just to clear things up – there are no audio sync issues with Scott Pilgrim – no jokey re-dubbing!

    Anyway: Scott Pilgrim is not Citizen Cane. It’s a fun movie that should leave a huge smile on your face…

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