The New Face of Pop-Culture ‘League of Legends: Arcane’ Reviewed
by Tito W. James
From its brilliant writing to its stunning animation Arcane surpasses all expectations. The Animated Event Series is a creative shock to the system that is sure to make waves for years to come.
It is a rare occurrence to witness a work of art and know instantly that it will radically change the world of pop-culture forever. American media has been graced with several groundbreaking phenomenons so that science fiction, fantasy, comics, and anime have become the touchstones of pop art. Arcane wears its influences on its sleeves and takes a titanic step into the future.
It’s worth noting that 90 percent of Western animation, whether it’s geared for children or adults, film or TV, high or low-concept, focuses on comedy at its core. That is why it’s so refreshing to see a show that takes its characters and world completely seriously. This commitment to narrative drama, coupled with the rich complexity of Arcane’s, characters, story, and visuals, make it a cut above most animated entertainment.
The story of Arcane is about that fraught relationship between the rich citizens of Piltover and the lower-class subjects of Zaun. At the heart of this strife is the story of two sisters trying to survive in a world destined to split them apart. It’s this core emotional drama that drives the narrative across nine epic episodes. Even those who have never played League of Legends or are casual fans of the K/DA music videos will find themselves invested in a fresh new cast of characters. Gamers will be pleased by the clever “superhero origin” take on League’s signature champions.
At first blush, the character of Jinx may appear to be a Harley Quinn pastiche or an embodiment of the “crazy anime girl” archetype that was popular during the 2010s. However, Jinx is far more complex, empathetic, and tragic than the zillion other characters of this mold. There were many moments where I was terrified for her, then terrified of her.
While Jinx and Vi are the lead characters, the supporting cast is sprawling. All the characters are three-dimensional and even bit part characters have brilliant iconic designs. The voice acting and nuanced animated character acting work in tandem to deliver emotional engrossing scenes. The narrative arcs for each of Arcane‘s characters are a thrill to follow and will leave you begging for more after the 9th episode.
The world of Arcane, both in aesthetic presentation and design, is unlike any sci-fi or fantasy world we’ve ever seen before. It’s alive with rich colors, blends of cultures, and a cross section between the ancient and futuristic. Studio Fortiche Production dazzles with painterly cell-shaded animation accented with punches of bold 2D atmospheric effects. Every stylistic choice, from the editing to the superb soundtrack, is cutting edge but also reinforces the emotional impact of the action playing out on screen.
On the subject of action, Arcane doesn’t pull any punches. The show writers make the most out of the TV-14 rating and push the envelope much farther than most mainstream franchises targeted toward wide audiences. Yet, unlike many R-rated animated counterparts, Arcane’s use of violence, sexual tension, and profanity all serve the underlying drama. It’s hard to find narratives that are this sensitive yet provocative.
I could extol all of Arcane’s great qualities, but I also don’t want to spoil the first time viewing experience. After finishing the first nine episodes of Arcane, I was filled with the kind of excitement I hadn’t felt since seeing The Matrix or Fate Zero for the first time. It’s a show that surpasses its animated and live-action contemporaries and will no doubt usher forth a bold new era for visual storytelling.