Whether or not you’ve ever dabbled in the gaming world, Netflix’s new “League of Legends” animated show “Arcane” is unexpectedly addicting. Riot Games’ multiplayer game is brought to life, and though it’s a strange concept to get behind, the series does a great job of bringing the world of Runeterra to gamers and non-gamers alike.
“Arcane” follows the story of two important places in “League of Legends”: Piltover and Zaun. The former is known as “city of progress” because it’s the scientifically advanced and wealthier counterpart, whereas the latter is a poverty-stricken and lawless underground city. Naturally, it’s no surprise that the two “sister cities” do not coexist peacefully.
On the surface, Zaun is seemingly ridden with evil, dangerous citizens in comparison to Piltover. However, “Arcane” shows this city and its people in a different light: one where they are disadvantaged and mistreated. The show focuses on the story of two orphaned sisters, Vi (Hailee Steinfeld, “Dickinson”) and Powder (Mia Sinclair Jenness, “Fancy Nancy”), who later goes by the nickname Jinx (Ella Purnell, “Sweetbitter”) in the later episodes. They, along with their crew of teen misfits, fight to survive the conditions of Zaun.
In the pilot, the audience gets a glimpse into the relationship dynamic of their crew of four. It becomes clear that Vi is the pack’s leader. If it weren’t for this, her little sister Powder would not be included in the group’s dangerous missions, as the other members don’t think she has what it takes. Nevertheless, from the first episode, it’s obvious that the connection between the two sisters cannot be broken.
“League of Legends” may be a video game, but the animated “Arcane” is far from a children’s cartoon show. In fact, between the violence, cursing and complicated plot lines, the series appeals more to an audience of young adults. We have a front-row seat to the struggles Vi faces in order to take on a parental role for her younger sister and the pressures Powder feels while living in the shadow of her older sister.
Additionally, the animation is remarkable. Unlike a typical animated series, the characters’ faces convey so much emotion, making them more realistic and easily understandable. Yet, they still share a resemblance to the characters of a video game, which is important for viewers who are familiar with or fans of “League of Legends.”
Upon first watching the show, my expectations were undeniably low. It’s hard to imagine turning a fictional world from a video game into an entire TV series with complex storylines and well-developed characters. And so, it was rather shocking to discover that “Arcane” manages to do exactly that. Not only does it successfully build an entire story around “League of Legends,” but it does so in a way that is entertaining for those with and without prior knowledge of the game and its characters.
By the end of the first episode, there are simply so many aspects left to still be discovered, including why Powder goes by the name Jinx later in the season. While the audience may not want to admit it, they will have a difficult time stopping themselves from watching the entire three-part series. Who knows — “Arcane” could be your next guilty pleasure.
Daily Arts Writer Molly Hirsch can be reached at email@example.com.