“Arcane: League of Legends” Review

Photo courtesy of imdb.com

Photo courtesy of imdb.com

Going into this show, I knew next to nothing about “League of Legends.” I knew that the game was a multiplayer online battle arena and that there was a character named Jinx, but that was about it. So when I say that I didn’t know what to expect out of this show, I really mean I had no idea what I was getting into. Thankfully, “Arcane” was incredible. This was by far one of the most unique and engrossing shows that I’ve seen in a while. From the story and characters, to the animation and direction, everything in this show oozes personality. 

First off, the animation in this show is beautiful. It combines 2D and 3D styles of animation, and as a result, the show looks incredible while also looking distinct from any other animated show or movie. The art design is also great as it seems to combine some generic fantasy elements with steampunk which surprisingly meshes in the best way possible. It kind of reminds me of the 2012 game “Dishonored,” but even more colorful and stylized. The character designs are also great with each major character having a distinctly memorable design. The particular standouts are the show’s two main leads Vi and Powder/Jinx.

Action scenes are also incredible and are when this show’s visual style shines the most. Each scene exemplifies everything great about this show’s style. Every hit looks like it has a kinetic weight to it where everyone looks like it has an impact. Furthermore, a lot of these scenes are incredibly unique, especially when Jinx is at play, because of her wide variety of gadgets and explosives. 

The music could be hit or miss for some people because it’s pretty much all contemporary style music, but I personally really like it. Imagine Dragons delivers a surprisingly good main theme, “Enemy,” but the rest of the music is just fine. It complements the story and atmosphere well, but I wouldn’t say I would listen to most of it outside of the show. Another good song is “Playground” by Bea Miller. If this were more traditional generic fantasy such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Elder Scrolls” I would have more of a problem with the contemporary music, but this show carves its own path and identity enough where the music fits right in with the tone and setting.

None of this would mean much though without good writing and this show excels in this department. The best way to describe this show is to compare it to “Game of Thrones.” The story doesn’t follow one single plotline, but rather it has numerous different plotlines that intersect to form a larger cohesive narrative. The central plot revolves around the relationship between Vi and her sister, Powder/Jinx, and the conflict between the upper and lower city, but the show features numerous B plots such as Jayce’s inner conflict of what the purpose of his new technology should be and Silco maintaining his grip as the kingpin of the underworld while also planning a rebellion. Each of these paths from the show’s ensemble cast cross and interact with each other and eventually converge in the climax.

The way these different storylines are interwoven is masterful because each one feels integral for another, so each one adds to a more complete narrative. While they may be their own subplots, each one shares events that accomplish different purposes. So you could see the same event happening but that event can have different purposes for different characters. This makes the world feel so much more alive because actions do have consequences and you see how events affect and change numerous different characters.

Unlike other video game adaptations, the new characters they introduce here are great, specifically Silco. He is such an interesting character and while he is classified as a villain the show delves a lot into his psyche and mentality. By the end, I was thoroughly invested in him, not just as a villain, but as a regular character like the rest of the cast. The show doesn’t necessarily justify his actions or ideas, but you see why he thinks the way he does and how the cracks in his ideology start to show.

I would say the weakest plotline would be that of Jayce, Viktor, and Mel. By no means is it bad though, in fact, it’s still great. It just falls a bit short compared to the numerous other stories, because the others feel a bit more impactful and emotional. When these characters came on screen I wasn’t like “oh here comes the boring part” I just felt like I lacked the same emotional connection to them as I had for the other characters on the show.

The best part of this show is the relationship between Vi and Powder/Jinx. This is the most fleshed-out and well-realized part of the show because they spend a copious amount of time fostering a deep connection between these sisters in the first few episodes so. This means that their eventual falling out and downfall feel all the more tragic. While Silco may be the puppet master behind much of what happens in the story, Jinx is the primary antagonist because she acts as the driving force and catalyst for the events that occur in the last two acts of the show. Silco is still a prominent character,but Jinx drives the motivations of most of the show’s major characters. Even when she isn’t on screen, her presence is felt enormously and she also doesn’t have all that much screen time in the last two acts. The show knew exactly how much to use her to keep her character from getting stale or overdone. Conversely, Vi is the primary protagonist of the show, and while she leaves a bit less of an impact on the surrounding events of the story, she is just as engaging if not a little more than Jinx. The show nails Vi as a caring, big sister to Jinx, while also defining her as a distinct and separate character.

While this show is animated and has a colorful style, it is still very mature. This is not something to watch with the whole family; It’s not like a wholesome Pixar movie. The show is violent, gritty, and bloody. Nevertheless, Arcane is incredible with great character development and a unique style of animation and editing that make it a treat to watch.


Score 9/10