The hugely popular multiplayer game League of Legends never really has much of a story. The (several) attempts by developer Riot Games to summarize the world of Runeterra and its characters into a larger narrative have always failed; the game had some charismatic characters and cities and almost nothing beyond that that linked them together. But in this narrative vacuum, Riot and Netflix are new League of Legends Cartoon, Arcane, finds plenty of space to expand the world players already know while welcoming new fans.
Arcane focuses its story on two of league‘s main locales: Piltover and Zaun. These two occupy the same area of the world and are a kind of sister cities that lie on top of each other. Pilotover is the idealistic and scientifically minded metropolis that has also called itself the “City of Progress” with the criminal, unregulated technological dystopia of Zaun (although it was only known as the “Lower City” in its earlier days). under.
The stories of the two cities are known to most league Fans. But while the version of the game is mostly good (Piltover) versus evil (Fence), Arcane paints a more complicated picture. As it turned out, Piltover held the lower town for years, forcing its leaders into detrimental and unpopular safeguards, and using immense police force like a club to keep the poorer population at bay. The decades of mistreatment have helped push the disgruntled citizens of the Undercity to the mysterious Silco, who promised to transform the Undercity into the city of Zaun and will do whatever it takes to gain power over Piltover.
If this all sounds a bit like youth literature, that’s because it is. Arcane is definitely not a children’s show, there is cursing, blood, a very dark tone, disturbing scenes and a lot of violence. But none of that goes above a PG-13 level, and the show keeps most of its well-developed themes and characters pretty simple and understandable. It’s a rare sweet spot that’s darker than a Marvel movie but never crosses the line to grim or adult fantasy.
This balance enables Arcane‘s characters to do the show – that is how it should be for something on which it is based League of Legends. Outside of gameplay, what made players keep coming back? league in the 12 years since it was first released, its characters are. league Devotees have likely played their favorite characters for at least tens or hundreds of hours, and whether you like them for their in-game skills or personality, most players have strong bonds with the champions they love to play most.
But as popular as the characters are, their in-game versions largely consist of extraordinary art and a few clever lines of dialogue that communicate a little about who they are and their personalities. Aside from a few brief blurbs hidden on the game’s official website, League of Legends‘Characters don’t have a specific backstory, and that’s exactly what it is Arcane solves.
Instead of trying to work on dozens of characters from the game, Arcane cleverly focuses its focus on a few key champions and a few new characters. Her arcs are divided into three separate three-episode acts that take place several years apart. These work almost like short films, with their own narrative arcs, giving the show time to deal with each of its characters throughout its life and journey.
In the first four episodes that Riot made available to critics, the show focuses on two separate duos in Piltover and Zaun: sisters Vi and Jinx and scientific partners Jayce and Viktor. All four are League of Legends Champions (of varying popularity) and their stories each reflect the cities they inhabit.
The sisters grow up as orphans in the Undercity, but after their childhood they go other ways that lead to an end, that league Players will be very familiar but may surprise some newcomers. This ability to create two separate but satisfying experiences for the show is one of Arcane‘s more impressive performances and a testament to how good each of the characters feels.
Jinx and Vi have been the emotional center of the show so far and don’t shy away from being surprisingly tragic. This is especially true for Jinx, whose story covers most of the narrative ground and is especially effective in the early episodes as she strives to find her place in her sister’s shadow.
But it’s Jayce and Viktor who are emblematic to some of the more Arcane‘s bigger issues. Both characters are scientific geniuses who throw the city of Piltover into the future with their inventions. But even though they were partners in their early days, it’s clear that the two of them are still divided over how much they’re willing to risk public safety in the name of science. And since their opinions differ Arcane uses the two as voices to explain the ideologies behind Piltover and Zaun themselves, hopefully allowing the show to delve deeper into the philosophies that drive two of them league‘s most interesting cities.
Between these pairings are smaller stories of recognizable faces from Runeterra like Caitlyn, Ekko, and Heimerdinger, as well as new faces like Vander, Mel, Mylo, and the aforementioned villain Silco. While these new characters seem interesting, Arcane editions
Those little teases – which may or may not ever come to fruition – are another of Arcane‘s clever tricks. Because that League of Legends Universe only existed in the game in loose sketches and broad lines, Arcane does not rely on prior knowledge of Runeterra. The dozen of tiny Easter eggs and moments of premonition provide long-time fans with special attention, but the story itself is just as easy to follow and effective for new viewers as it is for League of Legends Veterans.
However, for a show set in a fantastic world like Runeterra, its characters and location are only as good as the art they represent, and that’s it Arcane is most impressive. The series, animated by Riot and Fortiche Production, is absolutely great – especially on Netflix shows, which often feature simpler, less expressive character designs. It has a color-like style that is particularly noticeable in wide open landscapes, taking shots of the massive towers and sprawling buildings of Zaun and Piltover.
Arcane‘s characters look great too, striking a balance between a style that feels consistent League of Legends“, But also feels a bit more natural for narrative animation. The characters’ faces are expressive and emotions translate well, even if not all physical comedies end up. The show’s combat sequences are superb too, mixing in slow motion, unique angles and a great use of multiple perspectives during an explosion to keep the on-screen action clear and readable as well as kinetic and exciting.
There is a version of a League of Legends Animated series that Riot would have posted on its own website, aimed solely at fans of the game, and spending much less money. This version would have been safe and the fans would probably have loved it. Instead, Riot and Fortiche went for something that could reach a wider audience and managed to create a beautiful and fun show that have both contributed to the world for so long League of Legends Fans love without leaving newbies too far behind.
The first two episodes of ArcaneThe nine-part first season is now airing on Netflix.