TV Show Review: “Arcane”


Credit: Riot Games

With an endless amount of characters to choose from, and a vast lore already built, “Arcane” still pieced together the perfect plot without forcing too much information. Great for casual viewers and perfect for players, so what more could you ask for?

I’m an “Arcane” simp. There’s no better way to put it. Riot Games and Fortiche have worked closely for years, and the cohesiveness of the two studios shows. From the unique animation style, amazing voice acting, nuanced characters, incredible worldbuilding, banger soundtrack and much much more, there’s literally no way that I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the series. Especially since I’ve already been invested in the vast world and lore for many years. I mean, the game has been out for over a decade now, and the regions have each been developed in accordance with the character stories themselves, each one, by the way, was written incredibly. Out of all the possible regions, “Arcane” definitely started with the right one for both the animation style and perfect tragic plot- Piltover and Zaun. It’s a sort of steampunk, progress driven overcity with tensions brewing in the trashy, neglected undercity.

“Arcane” follows the lives of a few League of Legends characters, sisters Jinx and Vi, Caitlyn, Jayce, Viktor, Singed and Heimerdinger. However, even with these iconic characters from the game, there is literally no background knowledge needed to appreciate the show. Not only that, but there’s zero exposition dumps. Even with the entire world of Runeterra to explore, the show does an incredible job of localizing it exclusively into Piltover and Zaun. In the barest of summaries, “Arcane” is an origin story about two sisters, Jinx and Vi. Born in the undercity, they have to learn how to navigate the growing tensions between the two cities as well as in their relationship when they’re put to the test again and again. Let me tell you, the show is dark done right (looking at you DC, notice how the brightness isn’t down to zero and shading set to max) with no end to tragedy, drugs (it’s called shimmer, it makes you all purple, buff and gross. Also, it’s super addictive), and death. There is way too much to say, but I’ll try to keep it to the big points and not the subtles within the story, dialogue and easter eggs, that just make the show so much better.

First things first, the animation. I considered it a miss from the trailers, but I was wrong. The animation is absolutely gorgeous- a perfect blend of 3D CGI and 2D VFXs and backdrops. It looked somewhat realistic, but also not deriving too far from its cartoonish origins, which, thank god for, don’t make it a sort of cringey imitation and attempt at real life. The small details on characters, not actually in the game, like the small shine of gold on Piltover elites or the basic outfits of the Zaunites only help to develop the mood, atmosphere and setting of the world. It’s a very distinct line where the characters are from. The digitally painted backdrops are breathtaking as well. Even if something isn’t in motion, or meant to take the spotlight of the scene, doesn’t mean that Fortiche cut corners. Also, in one of the more iconic scenes, the animation style changed completely into a more painting style, with the strokes being very distinct as well as incredible usage of negative space (for the cultured, it’s like the Mori Jin vs Han Daewi fight in God of Highschool).

Along with the iconic scene, Denzel Curry drops a banger of a song “Dynasties and Dystopia”, and it’s not the only one. Each song in the show was written specifically for Arcane, and every single song creates such an emotional attachment to the scene it belongs to. Not only that, but the soundtrack covers a variety of genres from rap, nightclub rave, rock, alternative, pop and whatever the hell “When Everything Went Wrong” is (I have literally ZERO clue, but the artist, Fantastic Negrito, usually writes rap, hip-hop and rock). The intro song, “Enemy,” by Imagine Dragons, is incredibly fitting and will forever remind me of the traumatic experiences of Jinx and Vi or the hostile thoughts that Zaun has of Piltover. When first introduced to the city of Zaun, “Playground,” by Bea Miller plays. This isn’t an album review, so I won’t go through every single song and scene it goes with, but just know when “Guns for Hire” by Woodkid, “Goodbye” by Ramsey and “What Could Have Been” by Sting start playing, the chills will start running. Similar to when “Playground” first presented Zaun in all its glory, “Dirty Little Animals” by British, UK plays to present the once classy bar, turned into a trashy nightclub filled to the brim with drugs and criminals. To know how The Last Drop got this way, you would have to watch the show.

The reason that the scenes and music carry so much weight is because of how well-written the characters are. Even the main antagonist, Silco, is absolutely human with his own motives and beliefs. There isn’t a single character that is “evil just for the sake of being evil.” When first introduced to characters, they all follow a cliché. Vi is the hardheaded older sister, Jinx, the mess up, Jayce, the ambitious and charismatic young inventor, Silco, the typical villain – walking out of dark places all with that raspy voice, etc. But none of them are defined by said trope. It’s incredible the change these characters go through, and they catalyzed so well with the voice acting and pure emotion in the animation.

Honestly, I have literally nothing to complain about besides the pacing in Act 2 and how in some frames, they did Caitlyn so, so dirty. At times, the animation feels a bit off and unsettling because of what looks like incorrect anatomy, but those moments are so few and far between that it could not matter less. Got one, Jayce. Just Jayce.

“Arcane” is a masterpiece. Of course, I’m completely biased, but even when comparing it to other shows released this year, it definitely tops my list. It’s a show that really sticks with you, and it’s not another generic animation that will go forgotten. It 100% has redefined and overturned the failures of video game adaptations. If you’re looking for a show with unique animation, lovable characters, gorgeous backdrops, an incredibly vast world, small details that only make the show better, all wrapped up in an intriguing and mind-numbingly good plot, then there is absolutely no doubt that you won’t finish itching for another season of “Arcane.”