This review is spoiler-free.
Amid the stark discord of twin cities Piltover and Zaun, two sisters fight on rival sides of a war between magic technologies and clashing convictions.
Having never played League of Legends, but very much aware of what it is, I went into Arcane pretty confident that I wouldn’t need any existing understanding of the video game – this theory was proven correct! The accessibility of this show is on such a level that you can go in blind with no prior knowledge and still have a great time! I’m sure for those fans of the game, there is that next-tier reaction because you have that connection with some of the characters and world of the show. But it is by no means a necessity for enjoyment!
As a story, I think it delivers on multiple fronts, as it is jam-packed with action, drama, emotion and plot twists that make the series very easy to consume and something that keeps your attention week to week. It quickly establishes a lot of bold and complex ideas that are essential to understanding the world Arcane is set in and how these aspects impact and shape the characters within. The show manages to balance a lot of lore dumps and an exciting and progressive story perfectly – this was just a masterstroke in storytelling!
As exciting, emotional and engaging as the story was, I think the method in which Netflix has released the episodes is just as important in the success of this series! I rather enjoyed the series being split into three batches of three episodes, released weekly. Essentially, each batch tells its own narrative, almost like a mini-movie, but obviously, there is still that main story arc connecting them all together and you feel the story progression and momentum. I’d be more than happy to consume more Netflix releases like this because sometimes you just want to prolong a good show rather than just binging it! By releasing multiple episodes each week, I think this is a nice sweet spot for everyone!
In terms of the animation style, you instantly get that Telltale vibe and I think for story and characters, this type of animation really works well! Visually, Arcane is a stunning experience and one that deserves to be consumed on a large screen – so while it might be tempting to watch an episode or two on your commute, I highly recommend you hold off until you can view it on your TV! You can have a good story and great animation, but if your voice actors can’t deliver the goods, then everything else is irrelevant! Thankfully, the cast of Arcane is just as every bit as good as the other components of the show. Hailee Steinfield (Vi) and Ella Purnell (Powder) do an exceptional job in the co-lead roles and their emotional and combative performances really set the benchmark for the rest of the cast – which, I’m happy to say they all manage to reach! Kevin Alejandro (Jayce) and the excellent Katie Leung (Caitlyn) are just as good as the two co-leads and I think from top to bottom, the overall cast performances are brilliant! The levels of emotional complexity so many of these characters reach is mind-blowing. These are perfectly constructed characters who all have their own past demons and trauma to live with or try to overcome, all with different degrees of success. To say there are only nine episodes, you care about these characters very quickly and this leads to many payoffs in the final few episodes of the show.
And finally, the music! The musical score and contemporary tracks are expertly layered throughout the show and used to really boost the action and emotional scenes to great effect. This is going to be a very popular playlist on Spotify for sure!
With so many outstanding elements – story, animation and performances – Arcane is destined for greatness and has very quickly established itself as a major player on the animated landscape! Arcane is a show that more than deserves your attention and I feel strongly that you won’t be left disappointed!