Here we go, reviewing the first act of Riot Games‘ and Fortiche Production‘s production of Arcane, an animated series based on League of Legends currently available on Netflix. I am going in completely blind, and have basically zero knowledge of League because I’m in the filthy Dota 2 camp. Still, I do enjoy tuning in to the competitive seasonal leagues if they’re on, but that’s besides the point. Let’s get to it.
I don’t believe Riot has ever “missed” with regards to their visuals, and Arcane meets that expectations. At a rough average of 35 minutes per episode, this 3-episode structure is a little longer than some may expect when it comes to an animated show. The time isn’t somehow a bad point, it’s just to inform you to prepare a time slot to enjoy the spectacle. The show’s art style is instantly recognizable as League‘s regular offerings, and details have not been spared during the dramatic slow-mo’s, ugly crying, spread of viscous liquids and bombastic explosions.
Sitting back for the ride featuring characters I barely know was an enjoyable one, as the colours washed over me, performances of the voice actors adding life and sound effects adding emphasis. One vague thought I had was if pop songs are canon in this universe, and also that I’ll probably be looping the opening. I don’t find any fault in the visuals, so even if you’re completely ignorant, you can still enjoy whatever’s happening on screen.
Bad stuff has happened at some point in the past, with bodies all around, children orphaned, you know the stuff. With the opening moments not being voiced, you’re left to process the carnage on your own.
The longer episodes work well in Arcane‘s favour, as there are several threads you can follow up on. I’m sure this will make much more sense to those more familiar with the game’s overarching lore, while I’m left vaguely recognizing the various characters who are or will be featuring in their own future works. The uptown of Piltover is blue, white and gold, and Science, as we follow four street urchins breaking into some dude’s lab. In trying to escape, we learn the explosive power of some pretty blue crystals and their problems only escalate from there. The bubblegum sisters – Vi and Powder – along with Mylo and Claggor don’t get to enjoy their spoils, as Powder flings the goods into the river when she gets cornered by a fellow “ne’er-do-well”. They pretty much slink back to their home in the Lanes, one bathed in a green glow in comparison to the bright topside.
As it turns out, the lab belongs to Jayce the magitek-wannabe guy. Since he’s studying how to harness magic, and the powers-that-be say no bueno, he at least manages not to get exiled and obtains depression instead. All things considered, the politics of the upper level almost seems less complicated than the Lanes beneath, with the mad scientist Silco up to his own shenanigans in his creepy little factory lab. I’m all for papa Vander trying to keep some semblance of stability before it all comes crashing down on them very soon.
I want to try avoid spoilers in this section since 3 episodes is relatively quick enough for you to go through on your own. What I can say is that it is quite a compelling watch because of how it looks alone. With regards to finding a storyline I’m interested enough to follow, I’m not so sure. I must stress the story isn’t bad. The characters’ actions and motivations are understandable, the pacing is fine. I’m simply not well versed enough to realize what I should look out and be excited for in this “setting up” arc besides making the proper exclamations at key moments. The “main story” isn’t apparent to me, but the stakes are introduced for me to ponder on until then.
Did I enjoy Arcane‘s opening act? Yes. Will I watch more? Sure. Maybe it’ll be better as a binge watch series for complete newbies, so that the plot threads remain fresh and recognizable. The cliffhanger and teaser for the time-skip does nothing for me, at least. The show is definitely a treat to watch, because nice art, colour palette and compelling performances.
Here’s to you fans going absolutely wild over the show.
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