Arcane Is the Best Thing on Netflix Right Now

If you don’t know what League of Legends is don’t worry — Netflix’s new animated series Arcane can be enjoyed whether you play the game it’s based on or not.

Look Out For Yourself

League of Legends is, er, legendary in the gaming community for many, many reasons. It’s one of the biggest games on the market, has a massive e-sports following, and its Worlds competition series racked in almost 46 million concurrent viewers in 2020. It’s a big deal. But if you’re not in the gaming community even on a casual level, it’d be an easy phenomenon to miss.

Arcane aims to change that.

The series debuted on Netflix just two weeks ago on November 6 and it’s being released in three-part increments each containing 3 episodes. Act 2 followed on November 13th and the third Act is set to hit the platform on November 20th.

Arcane is a story of siblings Violet (Vi for short) and Powder. They lose their parents in a fight with armed guards from Piltover, a prosperous city that resides over the more sordid underground city of Zaun, the latter being where Powder and Vi are from. They’re adopted by a brusque but kind man named Vander and grow up on the slick undercity streets knowing only the vast disparity of the two cities and resenting it. Their relationship is pivotal to the show.

Without spoiling the first and second Acts, just know that Vi and Powder a both products of their respective tragedies, and those circumstances and their navigation through them form the concrete pillar that holds the show up.

The secondary plot revolves around researchers Jayce and Viktor, who form a partnership after an accident reveals the dangers of developing magical technology. The two men work together to better both Piltover and Zaun, in hopes of healing some of the bad blood between the two, but things get complicated, as they tend to.

Corruption and political strife are abundant in both Zaun and Piltover, resulting in fascinating if cliche dealings between shady undercity residents fueled by topside greed. But to call Arcane cliche is a deservice. The beats of the story are a familiar one — teens in a poor sector of town attempt acts of rebellion against the more powerful and far richer upper city — but the world itself is so lush and the characters so expressive that it’s difficult to see the cliche in all of the originality.

Because Arcane is beautiful. Period.

Riot Games creative team was careful to curate their own design experience, keeping it away from well-known animation giants such as Disney, in a purposeful move that would allow them more creative freedom. And it pays off in spades. Arcane looks like nothing else on Netflix. It feels a lot like Into the Spiderverse, being that it’s a massive undertaking by many animators to capture an evocative and detailed world.

Because setting really is as important as character. Piltover and Zaun are lovely, gritty cities filled with art deco and art nouveau inspired architecture that mixes well with the various steam- and cyber-punk elements. A mashup of so many visual inspirations can come off as being a bit “everything but the kitchen sink”, but Arcane succeeds in not only making the setting itself breathe, but lending life to the characters that occupy it.

Aside from stellar animation and a kick-ass soundtrack, Arcane offers a fascinating story and great characters. The direction of its art was largely inspired by the music videos League has put out over the years (see the immensely popular K/DA collaborations) and took some time to really find a voice. Arcane is a joy because, unless you know League already, it feels like a wholly original story coming at a time when we’re used to having a maddening familiarity with everything being released.

Fans of League will obviously come at this from a different angle, already knowing the characters featured, but if the discussions by fans are anything to go off of, League’s lore hasn’t ever been depicted with such episodically artistic veneration. Snippets of lore are all over the place in the various music videos and cutscenes released, but League’s core draw is the rule of cool characters that you’re allowed to play. Fleshing them out like this offers a wealth of storytelling potential, because character design, while compelling in itself, is much more enticing when we understand character. I know Arcane is meant to be lure to the game, but it has almost nothing to do with the gameplay itself. I’m not necessarily finding myself tempted to play more than I’m desperate for all the lore. Setting this up as a potential cinematic universe doesn’t seem out of the question, and I think we’d all benefit from seeing Arcane become to start of a lore-rich animated compendium due to the potential it has for story-telling.

So whether you’re a fan of the games or not, I’d highly, highly recommend you check out Arcane. Even if for the animation and music alone.

Because rule of cool still totally matters.




in my head or one of the Final Fantasy games, most of the time / /

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in my head or one of the Final Fantasy games, most of the time / /

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