Arcane: A Netflix Must-See


(Lily Lunn)

By Julian Goodman

When talking about the hit Netflix shows of 2021, most people expect popular answers like “Squid Game” or “Tiger King 2″; however not a lot of people expected a show adaptation of a video game to become one of the most-watched shows of 2021.

“Arcane” is an animated fantasy taking place in the fictional world of Runeterra, which shares that same universe as the hit game series “League of Legends.” What the show borrows from the game is the main characters, the show only serves as an origin story for them. The show’s characters and world stems from the game, however the show evolved itself and now stands alone as one of the best pieces of animated fiction. You do not need to know anything about “League of  Legends” to enjoy “Arcane.”

“Arcane,” follows the story of two sisters, Vi and Jinx, and is set in a three-act structure with each act consisting of three episodes for a total of nine episodes. The story follows them through the growing conflict between Piltover, the city of progress, and Zaun, the undercity. The two cities are a clear metaphor for class struggle between differing economic classes. Examples of this, trying to be as spoiler free is the Council, one of the show’s driving forces of wealthy individuals controlling the city of Piltover, their response to the people of Zaun. The show makes a point at how their decisions are very similar to decisions made by real life politicians, while clearly being portrayed as the wrong move. The side plot follows Jaycle Talis, a disgraced inventor from Piltover who partners with an inventor from the Undercity named Viktor, who together change the world and create Hextech. Now the two have to navigate the politics that come with changing the world. Both of these stories are interwoven and all spring from the same event in the first episode where Vi and Jinx steal something very important from Jayce.

There are many things the show has to offer. To start, the animation of the show is brilliant, for example the scenes with Jinx and the artistic choices of the background and hand drawn doodles that accompany her. The show offers some of the best animation in a western animated TV show. Each frame carefully demonstrates what the character feels, setting the tone, to hiding easter eggs for eagle-eyed viewers; every frame and artistic detail has a purpose. On top of the fantastic character designs for characters like Vi, Jinx, Silco, and more, the show brings about a new type of adult animation, one that is not just another of the countless low-effort animated adult comedy ripoffs.

Along with the animation, the music from “Playground,” by Bea Miller or “What Could Have Been,” by Sting is incredible, each song making you feel for what’s going on in the scene and doing nothing but heightening the viewer’s experience was truly impactful. My favorite instance where the show combines both art and music is the scene between Ekko and Jinx, where the song “Dynasties and Dystopias,” by Denzel Curry, Gizzle, and Bren Joy, is playing in the background. It is easily my favorite work of art from 2021.

Another great aspect of the show is the writing. Each character’s relationship to each other and to their lines all convey accurately what they feel and why. All of the dialogue feels natural in the situation, given the personality of the characters. My favorite example of the show’s writing is how it deals with secrets. Not to spoil the plot, but the show has a lot of secrets that the viewer knows that are unknown to the characters it matters most to; the show delivers those secrets to those characters in unique and subverting ways, where it doesn’t subvert the audience’s expectations just for shock value, but adds tension and changes the story for the better.

A final piece of praise I’ll give is the use of symbolism and themes; using Viktor’s growth and change as an example. The symbolism of the boat that follows him throughout his flashbacks up until one of his most important moments was downright stunning; seeing his growth culminating in the fantastic scene of him running alongside the boats was stunning. Also revealing are the symbolism and metaphors mirror Vi’s and Vander’s relationship with Jinx’s and Silco’s relationship.

The only issue I found with the show involves a spoiler, but around the third act, the show fridges (the act of killing a minor character to motivate a main character) a character. In my opinion, killing a character off should only be done if it gives more potential to the other characters and the world of the show, which this death fails to do so.

“Arcane” does what many fail to do: adapt its source material faithfully while being an amazing stand-alone product. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who can watch it.