Created by Christian Linke and Alex Yee, Arcane follows the lives of two sisters, Powder and Vi, across multiple years in the well-established city of Piltover and the downtrodden undercity of Zaun.
Arcane is one of the best video-game adaptations in pop-culture media. And it’s also one of the greatest animated series of all time. Period. You can take that with you and stop reading right here. Just making those two very bold statements with absolute confidence makes me feel over-joyed. There is so much to appreciate in Arcane, it amazes me it is as good as it is. Where do I even begin?
The hero we deserved
Arcane is delightfully grounded despite being set in such a high-fantasy world. There is a deliberate emphasis on character over magic and fantasy tropes. Writers that don’t take their audiences for granted are rare and that is exactly what makes this show special. It is through science that we uncover magic as a concept so that everyone can relate to it more. In just 9 episodes, Arcane successfully builds a world that not only feels realized but relatable. It establishes nearly 10 well-written characters and I was deeply invested in all of them. Characters with such well-distinguished unique personalities I never knew were possible to write in such a short span of time. Huge credit goes to the phenomenal cast all of whom give incredible performances.
Too good to be true
Arcane is probably the biggest breakthrough in animation since Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse. It blends 2D and 3D animation effortlessly, making it seem almost too easy. It’s a show dripping with so much style that I was in gasping in awe in nearly every episode. The quality of animation isn’t restricted to just the stylistic choices but also the creative ones. The show has moments embracing both the over-the-top close-ups and very cinematic wide angles. Fights are crafted well with both elaborate cuts and long takes. The animation also plays a huge part in the personalities of both cities. Zaun was particularly has a lot of detail in every shot and was a delight to watch.
But the highlight by far is the writing. Above all else, it’s a story about society and the struggles between classes of people. And what a story it is. The 9 episodes are split into three arcs and they function very well as self-contained storylines. Character arcs go to some very unexpected but interesting places, some of which had my jaw dropped. The dialogue is so well thought out and fitting to characters that it feels too good for a video-game adaptation. Maybe that itself is a testament to how low the bar was. There are themes of family, sisterhood, abusive relationships, governance, betrayal, war and so much more. It is a bafflingly dense show for a mere 9 episodes.
Arcane is filled with visually striking ground-breaking animation, impeccable world-building, extraordinary characters, and an absorbing story filled with powerful themes that could easily establish it as a masterpiece that will stand the test of time.