Video games never really translated into other mediums well. This is largely due to a misunderstanding of what makes a game unique; interactivity. Many games live and die by their gameplay (obviously), and when that aspect is removed, the narratives usually fall flat as they’re often tied to it. Sure, I’ve enjoyed the over-the-top action that the Resident Evil movies have brought us over the years, but I wouldn’t call them masterpieces and I think you’d struggle to find any who would. But out of all of the video games to get a series, League of Legends wouldn’t be the last on the list, but it certainly wouldn’t be high up either.
For the three of you unaware, League of Legends is the flagship game of Riot Games, who have branched out with different titles since. Teamfight Tactics is an auto-battler utilising the vast amount of cosmetics available for the champions, Legends of Runeterra is a card game set in the same universe. Then there’s VALORANT, a tactical shooter unconnected to League of Legends entirely (save for the odd reference). Wild Rift also exists, but it’s the mobile port of League of Legends with some slight differences. But now they’ve evolved to create Arcane.
The project has been in the works for a long time, and even before then, many players (including myself) wondered if we’d ever get a movie or series of our favourite characters. I even posted a list of stories from the lore on the site for what I’d like to see. The title of this piece gives it away; Arcane was more than worth the wait. I’ll break it down in my signature style.
Be warned. There are spoilers here. Watch the show first.
The story is, without question, one of the best ones told in animation. A schism between two sisters sends them on wildly different paths. Violet (Vi) and Powder (Jinx) are both from the slum city of Zaun, riddled with crime, disease, and at the mercy of the sinister Chem Barons - a collection of drug dealers akin to a crime syndicate lead by the mysterious and sinister Silco.
But it’s not just about that.
It’s also about Jayce and Viktor. Both are students in Piltover, a scientific city often dubbed “The City of Progress”. Jayce is the son of the Talis family, who made the hammers for the miners, while Viktor is a prodigy from Zaun who was discovered by the “father of Piltover '', Heimerdinger. They are both working on how to harness magic to make “hextech”, basically magically-powered machines that can be used for everything from tools to weaponry.
Also thrown into the mix is Caitlyn, a Piltover Enforcer (police officer) who is working to uncover the attacks on the city who stumbles into the path of Violet and employs her to help solve the case.
Other champions from the series make an appearance. Singed and Ekko both have big parts to play in the story but never get their own arc in the same way, and there are rumours surrounding Vander (Vi and Jinx’s adoptive father) becoming Warwick (we see the wolfy boy’s silhouette in Singed’s lab at the end), and I strongly theorise we will see him in the future. The relationship between the characters is wonderful here, as the stories between the pairs run parallel to each other. I am going to be talking about 2 distinct pairs here - Jayce and Viktor, and Caitlyn and Vi.
The show is unapologetically a political drama as much as it is a fantasy show. Jayce becomes a councillor while Viktor pursues hextech in the background. Both fall into corruption with power. Jayce begins to be corrupted by the shady business deals and the underhanded tactics of the council, almost seemingly manipulated by Mel Medarda, and.Viktor becomes obsessed and corrupted by the magic he is studying.
Caitlyn is a daughter of a councilwoman and is always putting herself in danger trying to solve cases and thus, ends up being helicoptered by her family. After she releases Vi from prison, both parties lose their social standing in their respective cities, but the bond that those 2 characters share is just as much the heart of the show as Vi and Jinx are. I was so rooting to see them get together as it’s hinted like a spear in the side. There’s a scene where it reveals to the audience that Caitlyn is attracted to women, which comes right after Vi flirts with her and it was so charming to see and it made all of the heart-wrenching drama harder to watch. This show does emotional depth better than most others on the platform.
The animation is stunning, unique, and something that deserves a Golden Globe on its own. It mixes the sketchbook style found in Jinx’s notebook with the “off-anime” visuals and it works so damn well. Fight scenes look incredible and have wonderful colours and movement. Everything feels deliberate, yet looks so free-flowing. Studios often put “animation flexes” in to prove how good they are - Fortiche made an entire series to do it. They deserve just as much credit as the writers do.
The villain of the show is undoubtedly Silco, and he is just the best. League of Legends has always had great villains in their arsenal. I’ve stated before that Viego is one of my favourite villains of all time (despite his event being so bad), but Silco is just on another level. He’s cold, methodical, calculating, but he also wants to “liberate” the people of Zaun and demand sovereignty from Piltover. He also deeply cares about Jinx. After the schism when Vi is imprisoned, it is Silco who raises her and nurtures her genius and penchant for guns and explosives. He manipulated her fragile mental state beyond forgiveness, but it’s hard to argue that he didn’t care about her. He could have traded Jinx into the authorities to achieve the peace in Zaun he strived to get but he couldn’t bring himself to.
There aren’t any glaring problems with Arcane, the only one being that there isn’t more of it. It’s hard to describe how much I wanted the Caitlyn and Vi romance to blossom, or how much I would have loved to see Viktor start to replace himself with mechanical parts, or what I wanted to see happen when Warwick finally clawed his way through the criminals of Zaun. But alas, we got something perfect from Riot, and I just can’t wait for more.
We need to stop looking at Riot as merely game developers. Sure that’s what they do and how they made their name, but I think they should enter a new category; “Worldmakers”. Throw them in there with comic book giants Marvel and DC, because they aren’t known exclusively for comics anymore. Riot will forever be tied to the magical experience of Arcane, and I hope that they continue to make amazing series going forward.
This show had me laughing, crying, smiling, and it was great to see characters from a game I’ve sunk over a decade into displayed on a TV screen in a meaningful and passionate way that didn’t feel like a cash grab. Arcane just feels like it was made with love, and I think that’s why me and most of the internet rate it so highly. If there’s one Netflix animated show you see, please let it be this one.
Enjoying our work. Give us a follow everywhere and tell a friend.
PlAY, OBEY, CONSUME.