Welcome to the Playground – | Review Score – 4/5
Some Mysteries are Better Left Unsolved – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Base Violence Necessary for Change – | Review Score – 5/5
Happy Progress Day! – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Everybody Wants to Be My Enemy – | Review Score – 4/5
When These Walls Come Tumbling Down – | Review Score – 4/5
The Boy Savior – | Review Score – 4/5
Oil and Water – | Review Score – 4/5
The Monster You Created – | Review Score –5/5
Videogame adaptations have, by and large, been pretty poor across the board. On the big screen in particular we’ve had tepid-to-passable Tomb Raider flicks, the monstrosity of Super Mario Bros and most recently the mediocre Resident Evil films. At times one could question whether it’s even possible to adapt a videogame into this medium. But boy, were we wrong.
Arcane is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s the perfect videogame adaptation, managing to take the characters from League of Legends and convert them to the small screen with all the nuances and traits fans have come to expect from LOL. However, even those unfamiliar with the games will find a lot to like in this show, which is both visually stunning and narratively impressive.
The story here takes place in a world on the verge of all-out war. Above-ground is the utopian Piltover. They’re prospering, with food left out nonchalantly on rooftops and endless rays of sunshine. In essence, these guys have wealth in abundance. Below ground however, it’s a very different story.
The underground city of Zaun (colloquially referred to as the Undercity) is struggling and their resentment for Piltover’s advancements looks rife for a rebellion. At the center of this big struggle lie two sisters, Powder and Vi. Their relationship is ultimately what drives this series forward, and the show does a great job showing their individual journeys toward becoming the iconic League of Legends champions.
The contrasting fates for these two sisters is one of triumph and tragedy; split across the 9 episodes to devastating effect. However, the two sisters are just one cog in this well-oiled machine, as we’re introduced to several other characters who form a larger whole.
The maniacal and villainous Silco intends to create his own army and force Zaun into rising up and becoming a power-house just like Piltover. In order to do that though, he encourages one of the sister’s to join him, while setting out on a mission to steal the Hex stone from Piltover. These orbs are powerful magical items that promise unimaginable power.
That power falls to the hands of Jayce and Victor, two budding scientists in Piltover who decide to use this to further the development of their city.
The political and social issues at work here are beautifully balanced with the drama and thriller elements, managing to both develop the worldbuilding for this fantasy land and also perfectly contrast our own capitalist world. There’s a rich/poor divide, substance abuse and even mental health disorders explored, combined into a heady cocktail that’s as thematically relevant at the end as it is at the start.
The pacing is outstanding here too, and it’s helped that Arcane has a pulsating score and soundtrack to boot. Every montage serves a greater purpose, and the show has the strength and clever wherewithal to cut out some of the exposition dumps to allow the show to visually portray what’s going on. And what a visual treat this show is.
Created by French studio Fortiche Production alongside Riot Games, the show uses a unique style of animation that’s not quite cell-shaded and not-quite CGI. The backgrounds are digitally hand-painted while all the effects are completely 2D. The show has a real matte painting feel to it, and it makes Arcane all the stronger and more unique because of it.
Thee open ending and a few niggling character issues aside, Arcane is easily one of the best videogame adaptations of all time. It’s a great example of how, with the right intentions, these videogames can be adapted and brought to life for both fans and newcomers alike. Arcane is an incredible series, easily one of 2021’s brightest prospects and without jinxing it, a great leap forward for the medium.
Verdict - 9.5/10