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Arcane: League of Legends Review

ngogia@adrizer.com'

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2021 | TV-14 | 6 hrs 40 mins
This show might have slipped under your radar if you aren’t a League head like I am, but trust me when I say this: it’s probably the best animated show to come out in the past few years. Riot has put out numerous jaw-dropping cinematics that uncover some of the lore behind their characters, but Arcane is the first TV series by the video game developer. As you might have guessed, the story of Arcane centers on some of League’s most popular characters, but by no means is the newcomer unwelcome. You can jump into Arcane headfirst with little to no knowledge or understanding of the game. The visuals are done in the same art style that’s become synonymous with Riot, and are one of the best things about the show. They add so much flavor and depth to Arcane and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Let’s talk a bit about the story. It starts when Vi and Powder lose their parents in the civil war between the city of Piltover and the underground slums of Zaun. The orphans are taken in by Vander, the leader of the civil rebellion that unfortunately didn’t pan out like he was hoping it would. Fast forward a few years later and Vi and her group of troublemaker friends find themselves raiding a lab in Piltover to steal some equipment and pawn it off for cash later. Little do they know this seemingly harmless act starts a series of events that has irreversible ramifications for both cities and the larger world of Runeterra. There’s also the story of Joyce and Victor that unfurls parallel to Vi and Powder’s. Both are scientists who cross paths trying to revolutionize technology by using magic in conjunction with science. There are a lot of moving parts and subplots to consider here, and while you might think that Arcane commits the same sin many video game adaptations do by flooding their audiences with pointless game lore, the show finds its success by staying grounded in its characters and the two storylines.

Arcane boasts some of the most polished and nuanced characters to come out of this medium. Of course, the writing is great, but it’s also where Riot’s mastery of craft comes in. The characters feature a range of emotions and gestures that make them feel really life-like, on top of the design and clothing choices that tell a little story about their wearer. The amazing voice acting further adds an additional layer of depth to the characters, and some of the featured cast is ridiculously impressive. Hailee Steinfeld, who’s quickly becoming a sought-after talent in the industry, steals the show with her layered portrayal of Vi, a character housing a world of trauma and pain underneath an unbreakable shell. Ella Purnell, who voices Jinx, really drives home the character’s duality – one that pivots between loneliness and vulnerability and unhinged madness. Jason Spisak is also worth mentioning here, and stands out as Silco who quickly became one of my absolute favorites.

The same top-tier animation that makes the characters stand out adds to the world-building aspect as well. Piltover is a glistening and golden city that extends to the skies, in stark contrast to the debilitated slums of Zaun below it, littered with pipes and toxic fumes. The first time we enter Zaun and Bea Miller’s “Welcome to the Underground” comes on is an amazing sequence. From underhanded deals that occur in the safety of the undercity’s shadows, to alluring pink neon lights that beckon you towards a world of pleasure, everything adds to Zaun’s aesthetic.

The show is made up of three arcs that each have a conclusive beginning and end to them. Each is equally as heartbreaking as they are action-filled. One of the great things about Arcane is that its appeal is universal, to fans and newcomers alike. Even if you are aware where some of the characters end up, it doesn’t make it any easier or less gut-wrenching to see them walk down those paths. It’s amazing how Arcane approaches these character arcs in a way that doesn’t feel like they’re checking a couple of boxes. Each “becoming” feels natural and powerful. You can’t help but feel goosebumps when the first time Powder is referred to as Jinx when she messes up a mission, or the first time Vi picks up piston-powered mechanical arms in a bid to protect her friends and family. These moments foreshadow the future for the fans, while also making the inevitable end of the path these characters reach all the more convincing.

I have no doubt that Arcane’s quality will continue to be a benchmark for animated movies and tv series in the years to come. Characters aside, it has set the standard for storyboarding, environments, layouts, and camerawork in the industry. Riot clearly decided not to hold back on the budget when they were making the soundtrack for the show as it’s another one of the innumerable things that set the show apart. Imagine Dragons sang the opening for the show and it’s such a treat to listen to. I am guilty of never skipping through it. There are multiple endings sung by different artists, each according to the mood the episode ends with, each more pleasing to the ears than the last.

Summing it up, Arcane’s writing, characters, visuals, plot, and music are trendsetters for an animated show and make for an amazing experience for fans and non-fans alike. If you’ve missed out on the show because you think it’s exclusively made for League of Legends fans, I’m here to tell you you’re mistaken.

Rating the Film:

Visuals: 5/5

Plot: 5/5

Characters: 5/5

Music: 4/5

Originality: 4/5

Seater Score: 4.6/5