Premiering on Netflix on November 6, 2021, Arcane: League of Legends (often shortened to Arcane), is one of the most successful video game adaptations of all time. The series is a prequel to the titular video game, League of Legends, and was released to celebrate the game’s tenth anniversary. Riot Games worked with French animation studio Fortiche Production for six years before the series’ debut, with the show being released in three separate acts consisting of three episodes each. Plenty of audience members were unfamiliar with League of Legends but fell in love with the show regardless, myself included. After extremely positive critical reception, with the series currently displaying 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Arcane has been renewed for a second season that will premiere post-2022.
Compelling Complex Characters
Viewers have praised Riot Games and Fortiche Production for taking their time in producing the series, focusing on creating complex characters and storylines rather than sacrificing character development by speeding up the process. There are no true villains in the series, with every action appearing justifiable in some way. For example, my favorite character, Jinx, is mentally unstable and violent. However, her instability has been caused by the guilt of having accidentally killed her adoptive family; her sister, Vi, abandoning her after the incident; and being raised by Silco, a man with his own questionable history. Watching her start out as a hopeful young child and slowly dissolve into madness is simultaneously intriguing and tragic. Every character’s backstory is treated with the same care, delving into their environment and psyche. The series boasts a stellar cast, from Hailee Steinfeld (Hawkeye, Dickinson) as Vi to Katie Leung (Harry Potter) as Caitlyn, a high-class Enforcer and councillor’s daughter. Every character will have you perched on the edge of your seat cheering them on and utterly breaking your heart.
Every aspect of Arcane is beautifully rendered, from the sprawling landscapes to the characters themselves. The facial expressions are immaculate, with small nuances that will leave you finding new details every time you rewatch a scene. The fight scenes are masterfully choreographed and edited to perfection, specifically in sequences that pit Vi against Sevika and Ekko versus Jinx, with the animation style providing a refreshing take on often predictable battle sequences. The soundtrack is utilized exquisitely, blending perfectly with the animation to evoke only the strongest emotions. Imagine Dragons, Bea Miller, and Sting all appear on the soundtrack, with Sing and Ray Chen’s “What Could Have Been” packing an extremely powerful punch to close out the first season.
Some of Arcane’s success can be attributed to Riot Games’ marketing adaptability. The ubiquitous influence of social media and streaming platforms have forced companies to change their business models in order to survive. In addition to being released on Netflix, the show also allowed certain creators to stream the first three episodes on Twitch, with the show’s premiere receiving 1.8 million concurrent viewers on the platform. The series’ source material, League of Legends, also ran promotions to encourage viewership, running numerous in-game events as well as collaborations with other popular games like Fortnite and Among Us. It just goes to show how well-rounded the series is, from creative storytelling to innovative business models.