Review: “Arcane” sets a high score for video game adaptations

“Arcane” debuted on Netflix with nine stunning episodes based on the popular video game “League of Legends.” (Riot Games)

Connor Stewart

Video game film adaptations are often looked down upon, understandably so. Wave after wave of disappointing renditions of gaming classics have made it to the big screen, but they never earn critic nor fan praise. 

Hollywood just couldn’t get it right…until now.

“Arcane” swings big in every aspect and succeeds every time. From the pulse-pounding action to the painting-like animation style to the tender emotional moments, this Netflix series is a must-watch. 

The series is based on the popular, online multiplayer game, “League of Legends.” In the game, two groups of players choose from over 140 different characters and try to destroy the other team’s base. The creators of the game, Riot Games, craft each champion with unique abilities and a backstory set in the fictional world of Runeterra. 

League of Legends' TV show 'Arcane' has been pushed back to 2021 | Engadget

With 140 fleshed-out characters and an expansive setting, “Arcane” could simply pick and choose from a menagerie of story-telling opportunities. The series plunges headfirst into the rich lore that inhabits the world, fully immersing the viewers, but never leaving the less familiar audience members in the dust. 

As someone who has played the game but never paid much attention to the story, I went into this series really only knowing character names. After watching, I walked out feeling like I understood every concept without feeling like someone was reading me a history book on Runeterra. 

That is a testament to the writing. The team behind the story expertly wove nuggets of helpful information throughout the show, never dumping an obscene amount of exposition on the watcher. It kept the plot moving forward while also catching new fans upon this extensive world.

With such a wide-ranging realm, the writers make the smart choice of focusing on two areas: the prosperous and scientifically driven city of Piltover, and the grimy undercity of Zaun. 

At the center of the Zaun setting is Vi and Jinx’s story, where two sisters desperately fight to survive in an unforgiving environment. Their relationship feels genuine and packs the emotional core of the story. 

The standout of the two sisters has to be Jinx. She embodies the role of a tragic character gone crazy. There are many comparing her to Harley Quinn from the DC Universe, but I found Jinx to have a more realistic and gut-wrenching story. 

Over on the side of Piltover is Jayce and Victor’s quest to harness magic known as hextech to better benefit society. Their story is equally tragic as their journey begins to divide the two scientists.

Up against these characters is the cunning and maniacal Silco. This is one of those villains that are just so much fun to watch. For what he lacks in strength, he makes up for in brains. At a point, I really understood why he was doing the things he was, and I found myself wanting to root for him, despite all he had done. 

Vi Punch - Arcane - TV Fanatic

Do not let the fact that this is an animated show steer you into thinking it is just for kids. It is most certainly for adults. It is brutal, tragic and full of great, nuanced characters.

Plus, the animation is just plain sick. Certain frames are works of art that I want framed on my wall immediately. Even then, those don’t even compare to the breathtaking action scenes that feel like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. 

“Arcane” reaches heights that some video adaptations only dream of. It succeeds on all fronts, making this series require viewing for anyone that wants to see Hollywood absolutely nail a video game adaptation. 

Roo Rating: 5/5 Roos

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