The Heartbreaking Secret Behind Scott Pilgrim Anime’s Biggest Plot Twist

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Recently, the Netflix exclusive Scott Pilgrim Takes Off proved to be a hit with fans of the original comic and movie as well as new fans who enjoy anime with Western influences. The series deviated from the familiar story, eventually showing us a future in which Scott Pilgrim and his literal dreamgirl Ramona Flowers had broken up.

The show managed to end on a relatively hopeful note, but the heartbreaking secret behind having Scott and Ramona break in the future is clear: it seems to strongly mirror Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley’s failed romance with Hope Larson, the inspiration for manic pixie dream girl Ramona Flowers.

Ramona’s Connection To Hope Larson

Ramona Flowers is based on Hope Larson, and most fans don’t know how intimately she is connected to both that character and the overall Scott Pilgrim mythos. For example, there are some interesting surface-level similarities, including that Ramona attended college at The University of Carolina in the Sky, which seems to be a reference to the University of North Carolina in Asheville. The campus was once referred to as the “Castle in the Sky” when it was located in Seely Castle: that nickname is related to Asheville’s own nickname “the Land of the Sky,” and though Larson didn’t attend UNC, she is originally from Asheville.

A more specific connection between Hope Larson and Ramona Flowers involves Scott Pilgrim…sort of. As we see in the comic, movie, and now the anime, Scott and Ramona have their first (and somewhat disastrous) date at Toronto’s Hillcrest Park. You guessed it: in real life, that is exactly where franchise creator Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope had their first date.

The League Of Evil Exes

Of course, the most prominent way that Hope and Ramona are created is that Larson inadvertently inspired the League of Evil Exes that Scott Pilgrim must defeat. When O’Malley and Larson were first dating, he was surprised and fascinated to discover that she had three different ex-boyfriends named Matthew. He joked that it would be funny if he had to battle a League of Evil Matthews to win her hand, and this was the silly inspiration for the League that Scott Pilgrim must fight, and it’s no coincidence that the first evil ex that Scott fights is named Matthew. 

The Divorce

There are many aspects of Ramona Flowers that make her a unique character and not a copy of Hope Larson. Still, it’s difficult to ignore the Freudian implications of O’Malley putting aspects of himself into a character (Scott Pilgrim) who must win increasingly difficult battles to earn the love of another character (Ramona) who embodies O’Malley’s real-life love interest. Considering that O’Malley and Larson got married the same year the Scott Pilgrim comic first came out, many fans took solace in the fact that just as Scott got the girl on the printed page, his creator would enjoy his own happily ever after with the woman who inspired Ramona Flowers.

However, the O’Malley’s marriage wasn’t destined to last: he and Larson got divorced in 2014 after being married for 10 years. For most of the last decade, this served as little more than a bit of sad trivia for fans of Scott Pilgrim. Now, however, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off seems to address the failure of their relationship in the most heart-wrenching way. 

A Dark Glimpse Into Scott’s Future

In the show, present Scott Pilgrim gets kidnapped by a future version of himself who has some bad news: he and Ramona got married, but their relationship fell apart and they haven’t spoken in the last 10 years. The older Scott is very self-righteously angry, complaining that she tore his heart out and “rollerbladed all over it.” Later, we find out the depressing truth: as future Ramona puts it to future Scott, “We hit one rough patch, and you go completely insane,” to the point he wouldn’t return a single text in a decade of separation.

Once again, it’s tough not to think about how Freudian Scott Pilgrim’s adventures are in connection with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wife. He followed up on the happy ending he originally gave these characters with a dark glimpse of a future where Scott’s pettiness and selfishness doomed their amazing love story. More heartbreakingly, we discover that future Ramona wrote a screenplay about their life together so that her past self would know what she had missed out on.

A Reflection Of O’Malley’s Failures

Overall, it seems like Scott Pilgrim Takes Off has an arching center of real-life regret amid all its whimsy: to whatever degree Scott is still a stand-in for O’Malley, he has become a character defined by his inability to handle a committed relationship with a complex woman. We’d love to be wrong on this count, but it seems like O’Malley is effectively calling himself out with the series, using it to dramatize his own failed relationship and showcase how he was the primary reason things fell apart.

Fortunately, the series ends with the hope that Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers will make it work, reflecting that O’Malley hasn’t lost his hopefulness or optimism in the nearly two decades since Scott Pilgrim became a pop culture phenomenon.