“Arcane” delivers flawless animation and an exciting plot


Courtesy of RiotX

Hailee Steinfeld as Vi in Netflix’s latest hit, “Arcane”

Daria Vucea, Arts Writer

Netflix is a sea of fictitious worlds, each with their unique characters and settings, it often becomes hard to distinguish one bland story from another. Amongst the hundreds to thousands of fantasy stories out there, each determined to bring into reality a new idea or theme that hasn’t been discovered before, standing out has never been more important to a story’s success and fame. And yet, their dramatic, animated series “Arcane,” released on Nov. 6, continues to amaze its target audience– many who just wanted a peek into its rich narrative.

“Arcane,” created by Christian Linke and Alex Yee, is based on League of Legends, a popular multiplayer online battle arena developed and published by Riot Games that has hooked the attention of the public throughout its journey. From its ridiculously popular music videos such as POP/STARS and Warriors to E-Sports gaming events, it is very apparent that one of the most notable reasons for its popularity is its excessive branding. 

Riot Games promoted the launch of “Arcane” in many other ways, such as collaborations with other Riot games and different franchises such as Legends of Runeterra, Teamfight Tactics, League of Legends: Wild Rift, Valorant, PUBG Mobile, Fortnite, and even Among Us. Not only that, but the creators made sure to build this series in such a way that its viewers wouldn’t need any prior knowledge of League of Legends, let alone video games, to understand and enjoy it. In the end, as well as releasing this show in a variety of languages all at once, it is without fail that Riot Games continues to stay on top with “Arcane” as it even surpassed “Squid Game” as Netflix’s top most watched TV show only two days after its release

The show is set in a fictitious fantasy city and follows the conflict between its two opposite sides: Piltover, the wealthy utopia of progress and innovation and its underground parallel Zaun, the poor society built in its shadow. The backstories of several League characters are explored but the main focus is on a girl named Vi, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld and her sister. Having grown up together in the undercity along with other orphans like themselves, the two were as close as they could be. But after a failed mission to steal scraps from a Piltover lab, conflicts between the two sides of this city worsened and their involvement in the theft caused the family of misfits to fall apart. Over the course of 9 episodes, a new layer of corruption in Piltover and Zaun unfolds and it becomes clear that the city is on the brink of a civil war.

One of the most evident aspects of “Arcane” that sets it apart from other video game based spin-offs, like “Super Mario Bros.” or “Sonic the Hedgehog,” is that it doesn’t try to be a lighthearted comedy. In fact, it does the exact opposite. The story of “Arcane” is filled to the brim with anxiety-building action, heart wrenching emotional scenes, and just enough mystery to keep the viewers hooked until the end. There are many components that make “Arcane” feel so immersive and addictive but there are a few that make it worth a watch.

The most eye-catching part of “Arcane” is its unique art style, which has led many to say that any screenshot from this show could easily be turned into a screensaver. The team behind the design is a Parisian animation studio called Fortiche Productions, also known for animating League of Legends music videos. What makes this world so captivating is the seamless blend of two dimensional backgrounds and effects with three dimensional objects and characters, one of Fortiche’s trademarks. With this artistic style, characters, buildings and action sequences all look like they are hand painted because most of them actually are.

In addition, this animation studio also did a phenomenal job at portraying strong emotions which define the main characters and give them a touch of realism. In other words, scenes become relatable as each main character has their own defining backstory that makes them unique from the others and that adds depth to the progression of the plot. These characters are memorable, have unique designs that fit each individual personality and don’t exist for the sole purpose to fill a trope.  

While it is often said that its origin game deserves a completely different review, it is with no doubt that the six years of hard work put into the production of “Arcane” is beyond impressive and this show deserves the hype it received. It raises the bar to fantasy shows with its breath-taking backgrounds, nuanced characters, and exciting plot. It proves that fantasy worlds can be done right while not confusing its audience and it proves that it can stand well alone despite being a spinoff. Most importantly, it also proves to be a labor of love to its players and fanbase.