Arcane Review - League of Legends Comes to Anime on Netflix

Video games are notorious for having very bad or, at best - mediocre adaptations to the medium of animation with the likes of Devil May Cry (2007), Halo Legends (2010), and most recently, this year’s flat, falling DOTA: Dragon’s Blood which failed to wow casual viewers with its over-complicated lore explanations. However, the same can not be said for League of Legends foray into the animation world, with developer Riot Games working alongside Netflix and French animation studio Fortiche to bring the universe of one of the world’s top e-sports franchises to life.

Arcane has joined the ranks of Steins;Gate and the Fate series in making the jump to animation for a video games series with resounding success. In addition, Netflix has seen two record-breaking series come out in the last three months, with the Korean series Squid Game topping charts only to be dethroned as November rolled around with Arcane. Likewise, the League of Legends series has made a huge splash, and we’re here to help break down why it has resonated with hardcore fans and casual viewers alike. Read on to find out what we think of Arcane in our review!

Two Stories Across Two Cities Blending Struggle With Progress

The plot of Arcane is friendly to newcomers to the League of Legends franchise as it acts as a prequel for many of the Champions that are playable in the game. Two stories run in parallel throughout the series across the two cities of Piltover, a utopia for the wealthy and powerful elite, and the underground Zaun, which is run by gangs and faces constant raids by the police of Piltover. Topside, we follow Viktor and Jayce, two scientists who cultivate Hextech, a means for anyone to use magic. The two are the apprentices of Heimerdinger, a well-known champion from the League of Legends franchise with a background given to tonnes of other Champions from the series being peppered throughout Arcane.

On the flip side, we follow sisters Vi and Powder, the latter becoming Jinx later in the series after the two are separated for years due to a tragic event in their childhood. Vi and Jinx are two of the most popular and played Champions in the League of Legends franchise giving the series a massive draw from the current fanbase and rewarding fans with a look into the tragic backstories of the characters. The blending of stories between a gang war in the undercity over a new drug called shimmer that is turning people into super strong monsters, and a utopian city struggling with the rapid advancements of technology with the universalisation of magic, is set with the backdrop of a simmering rebellion from the undercity that creates the central conflict of Arcane. This blend of two stories is not hard to follow despite all the moving pieces and different characters’ relationships. Arcane focuses on the two main stories with side parts of worldbuilding to keep the series from distracting viewers with over explanations or info-dumps.

A Visual Treat With Hand and Computer Animation Blending Perfectly and an OST To Match

Usually, in a 3D production, all aspects of a scene are modelled in three dimensions. However, arcane takes a different route, with the backgrounds being digitally painted and the detail on the characters being digitally drawn to match their surroundings. The special effects are crafted with 2D animation to give them a painted feel in the 3D action scenes, blending better with the backgrounds and character styles. Fortiche and Riot Games brought together the perfect balance of 3D and 2D animation to render the reactions of these beloved characters with minute detail, adding to the excellent voice acting of the cast. The costuming of the characters is extremely detailed, playing true to the already established lore for League of Legends whilst paying attention to the backstories that Riot Games wanted to tell throughout Arcane. This is best illustrated through Powder/Jinx’s inner turmoil, which gets animated with the contrast of bright neon colours distorted over the grey and bleak setting of Zaun, using the mixture of 2D and 3D to outstanding effect.

The visuals are stunning throughout Arcane, but the soundtrack stands out as the perfect mood setter to match the excellent artwork. In episode one, the stand out example is the cyber punk-inspired beat of Playground by Bea Miller, illustrating the destructive nature of the Piltover Police’s raids on the undercity of Zaun as the young Vi and Powder move through the carnage around them, setting the scene immediately for Arcane’s conflict between the two cities. In stark contrast, just in the second episode, the upbeat and warm tones of Our Love by Curtis Harding and Jazmine Sullivan is set against the backdrop of Powder/Jinx being comforted by her adoptive father figure Vander as the Politver police move in on Zaun after a heist by Vi and Powder has gone wrong, setting the scene for the conflict to come, illustrating that soundtrack plays an important role in creating an atmosphere for the story.


Final Thoughts

Arcane has stormed to the top of the charts everywhere, breaking records for Netflix, a platform that has been increasing its stake in the anime and animation industries over the last five years. Even those not into the League of Legends franchise are singing Arcane’s praises, lauding the series for its stellar visuals and captivating storyline. Have you watched Arcane yet? What did you think of Riot Games’ first move into animation? Let us know in the comments!

by Lewis Williamson



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