January 28, 2023

Series Review: Arcane Premiere

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The first three episodes of the series “Arcane” premiered Friday on Netflix and Twitch.tv to smashing praise.

The series, a debut into TV-style animation by the video games developer Riot Games will be released in three acts of three episodes each. The nine episodes are each about 40 minutes in length.

Arcanetells the backstories of many characters from “League of Legends,” the game that spawned the universe of lore both shows are based upon. The rivalry between two cities is the backdrop of  Arcane, as is the successful Piltover built on the surface, and of the shadowy under-city of Zaun that lies beneath.

Act One revolves around the central conflict between Piltover and Zaun, whose citizens resent being left behind by the city above.

At the beginning, viewers are introduced to two young girls who have just lost their parents. They walk through the fiery wreckage of a skirmish between factions of the two cities and come upon a kindhearted man who adopts them, and serves as their surrogate father.

Time passes, and the two girls, named Violet and Powder, grow up to become named Vi and Jinx, characters from League of Legends.

Viewers get  introduced to Violet’s gang as they go to rob a Piltover inventor. The gang inadvertently causes an explosion. The ensuing chase sequence transitions viewers from Piltover to Zaun, where more of the story’s core conflict is introduced as well as a firsthand glimpse at the contrast between the two cities.

Vander, a man who is taking care of the children, yells at the reckless gang. He covers for the girls and their gang till the heat from their robbery blows over. He confides in a friend, who has a young boy named Ekko working for him. Ekko, a character from League of Legends, serves as an informant to Violet’s gang throughout the rest of Act One.

Towards the end of the episode, the villain Silco is introduced. He is an entirely new character, with a background independent of anything established in pre-existing lore.

The League of Legends lore has expanded to products such as “Legends of Runeterra” and  multiple short stories on their Universe website. This is the first time they’ve ever expanded to television.

The show’s debut is a milestone for Riot Games. Historically, video game movies and series have met with equal amounts of skepticism and criticism, but Arcane exceeds the high expectations set for the show. Partnered with the animation company Fortiche, Riot has created beautiful visuals and an engaging story.

Viewers do not need to be familiar with League of Legends to enjoy Arcane, which stands alone with excellent writing and world building. Its characters are sympathetic from the moment they enter the screen; they’re all relatable in one way or another. Arcane touches upon the universal themes of family protection, making the world a better place, and feeling alone and misunderstood. Arcane has it all.

Long time fans and newcomers will enjoy the series alike. Veteran viewers of  League of Legendswill like Arcane’s references to familiar characters, or events happening in the lore. Bits and pieces of the lore, that have been hinted at throughout the game’s history, finally come together in Arcane, and it’s beautiful.

The musical score features artists such as “Im Imagine Dragons, “J.I.D.”, and “Woodkid.” Everything is brilliant and comes together in a satisfying conclusion to Act One that leaves the viewer hungry for more. 

Arcane has ranked as high as No. 1 on Netflix, gets top marks from critics, a 98  rating from Rotten Tomatoes audiences, and 4.9 stars on Google reviews.

The second act of three more episodes will be released Sunday at 9 p.m. Act Three, including the ninth episode finale drops a week later on November 21.

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