In November of 2021, Netflix released a nine-episode show based on League of Legends. Now, this MMORPG created by Riot Games has garnered quite a reputation in the 12 years since its debut, with much praise towards its character designs, accessibility, and animated cinematics that highlight new champions, music videos, and snippets of lore. From the quality of animation put into these cinematics, fans of the game have long called for the developers to create movies or shows based on the somewhat underrated worldbuilding that accompanies the game. Finally, after years of waiting, Riot Games gave the fans what they wanted and more.
Many video game adaptations often fall short of expectations; very few rank higher than a 7 out of 10 on IMDB or above a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Characters are changed, stories are retconned or ignored, and often the production companies behind the adaptations just don’t know enough or seem to care about the existing lore and why fans love it so much. Yet, Arcane sits at an unprecedented 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 9/10 on IMDB, with its lowest-rated episode at an impressive 8.8. Critics both familiar and not with League of Legends might have wondered just how and why a show based on a handful of champions from Piltover and Zaun erupted onto the scene, skyrocketing it to Netflix’s #1 upon its debut. And the answer lies in the love for the medium.
It’s not just the animation, as beautiful and fluid as it is, combining 2D and 3D in a fest for the eyes. It’s not just the music, with each episode creating its own mini music video to set the tone for chaotic and devastating scenes alike. It’s not even just the characters themselves, each one unique in body language, facial expressions, and beyond impressive voice-acting. What pulls each aspect of this show together is the narrative itself, which serves as a prequel and origin story for many popular LoL champions, including Jinx, Vi, Ekko, Caitlyn, Viktor, and Singed. Easter eggs are littered throughout each episode for hardcore fans, but even someone completely unfamiliar with the game will find themselves hooked from the very beginning. The art style blends fantasy and magic with steampunk and sci-fi aesthetics, perfectly capturing the polished city of Piltover and its reliance on magically-enhanced technology against the gritty undercity of Zaun and its chemically-powered machines. Yet, at its core, Arcane’s success lies entirely in its heart.
The story is simple: one of love and loss, families torn apart and reunited, revenge and forgiveness. We are given a story of tragedy, of an uncontrollable collision of fates on a trajectory that serves as the foundation for what comes next. We watch the future champions take shape over the course of the first season, molded by circumstance and fate. It’s a marvel for the eyes and ears, and absolutely worthy of multiple viewings. Fans and newcomers alike will be blown away, and season two will be eagerly anticipated.