Arcane Review

December 19, 2021


Video games have been incredibly popular for over 40 years now, earning a spot in the mainstream audience. But even since the early days of video games, the TV and film industry has been trying to cash out on the popularity of the video game industry, however, even though there are some bright spots here and there, for the most part, this has been a constant mess.

It’s not easy to adapt a video game into a straightforward film or show, so those who have tried mostly ended up with a product that neither the video games fans nor the TV/movie fans can enjoy. When Riot Games announced they’d be doing an anime adaptation of League of Legends, one of the most popular games in the world, everybody got nervous and excited.

On one hand, you had the gamers knowing just how hard it is to adapt a video game, especially one of the League of Legends’ rich lore and history into a series, afraid of the show ruining one of their most beloved video games. And on the other hand, you had the series enthusiasts worried about seeing yet another terrible video game adaptation, even though we just had the horrible Monster Hunter live-action movie and Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City. But the final product turned out to be something completely different.

These days everyone’s been talking about Arcane, and it is all surprisingly positive, but how did they achieve this? Is it finally possible that we are in the presence of a great video game adaptation? Well, let’s talk about Arcane, what it’s all about, and what it has achieved. Be warned of spoilers ahead.

Solid bases

Arcane is based in the League of Legends universe, and the first season tells us the backstories of several champions in the League of Legends game. In this prequel, we focus mainly on the story of two sisters (Powder and Violet) and how the circumstances they grew up in and the challenges they’ve lived through that made them who they are, leading one of them to be completely rid of all innocence and kindness she once had as a child.

Of course, those who are familiarized with the universe and the main characters of Arcane will have that added extra element of enjoyment. But thanks to the way the story unfolds itself, and the way each plotline is presented leaves enough space for the characters to develop and for the viewers to process and understand their motivation. This was done well due to the pacing in which the story is shown, being much slower than you’d expect from an action-based story.

A technical feast 

Even with how well the story develops, and how the characters evolve, the biggest hook that Arcane has is just how technically amazing it is. The animations and the visual effects are probably the best we’ve seen in any adaptation. Not because they are hyper-realistic or something like that, but because of how well it translates the art of League of Legends and its visual style into a cinematographic-level show.

Transcending the visuals of the game, and going much more artistic, this show has the visuals you’d expect to see in an art book, showcasing some of the most beautiful art we’ve seen in an animated series. This is a miracle in animation that manages to capture the essence of emotion in the characters as well as having unparalleled action scenes.

The incredible artistic level of the character and world design doesn’t stop the animation from being as fluid as it gets, and everything seems to work out as if it were the best cinematics scenes of video games. It makes you wonder why more video game adaptations aren’t done this way instead of live-action.

But it’s not just about the visuals and the animations, the sound department is incredible too. With a top-level soundtrack and incredible sound effects, Arcane has nothing to envy from big-budget, triple-A films. The excellent voice acting does an incredible job at giving the characters the emotionality and life they need to drive the story to the next level.

Another aspect that is often forgotten when we see a video game adaptation, is the cinematography, but this is something they took seriously in Arcane, as it has a direction and scenes you’d expect in big-budget films. The beautiful art direction and design come in very handy in this aspect. They manage to achieve some incredible shots of the world, as well as some intense dramatic scenes.

But the spotlight of Arcane’s cinematography is the action scenes, and how well they are directed. Not falling for the clichés of the action genre, they innovate with some risky and unforgettable moments such as the beautifully choreographed fight between Ekko and Jinx on the bridge, or Jayce and Vi’s fight against the Chemtech enemies in a Shimmer factory.

The setting

As we already mentioned a little of what the story is all about, but without the context of where it takes place wouldn’t be as great. Arcane shows us the scaling enmity between Piltover and upraising nation of Zaun (the undercity of Piltover), presented as two opposite of the same worlds, each with their ups and downs. Peace, order, and prosperity reign in Piltover, but it is a classist and elitist society where hypocrisy and morality are often set aside. On the other hand, poverty, criminality, and violence are out of control in Zaun, but the people there dream of a better life, and they carry on using their ingenuity, tenacity, and the camaraderie that binds them together.

We just had to mention the setting because the show puts a lot of effort into showing us the story and reality of these two opposite worlds from their strengths, weaknesses, and also the dirty underbelly and political problems they have as if they are characters of the story as well, showing much more than what you’d usually expect from a show based on a video game. Exploring the ethical dilemmas present in the Piltover as they try to develop the Hextech technology. Whilst the criminals of Zaun exploit their citizens with a new drug called Shimmer, with the horrible effects it has on the inhabitants. The universe of Arcane is full of life, and it is in a constant state of evolution, never for one moment remaining static.

Wrapping up

Arcane is a masterclass on how to do things right when making a video game adaptation. It is the first time we’ve seen something like this done and of this quality, but we certainly hope it’s not the last.

Riot Games went out of its way to present the show in a different format as production companies, and TV studios usually would. While we are used to getting the entire season all at once, Arcane releases in a three-episode arc every Saturday for three weeks for a total of nine incredible episodes for the first season.

It is a show that anyone can enjoy, whether you’re a fan of LoL or not, with incredible storytelling and character developments. With art that’s completely on the next level, and incredible cinematic quality. Arcane is the best video game adaptation we’ve ever seen to date, and it’s an incredible product on its own. It doesn’t depend on knowledge of the character or the original game at all, so if you’re looking for something to binge-watch this week, Arcane is the way to go.

Review: 10/10

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