If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a little game called League of Legends that’s pretty popular. Its free, there’s an esport for it. It’s even spun off in the past couple of years into a couple of new games as well. Now, Riot Games’ cash cow of a game also touts over 100 unique characters, and fans love to read about their history. Arcane is the IP’s first foray into and its first act is getting rave reviews. So much so that it currently stands as the highest rated show in Netflix history on IMDb.
Arcane focuses on two fan favorite characters of League, sisters Jinx and Vi. Their story is set in the twin cities of Piltover and Zaun. Piltover stands as a shining city on a hill, the most technologically advanced region in the world and a pillar of prosperity. Zaun (called “the undercity” so far in the series), conversely, finds itself riddled with abject poverty, homelessness and crime. The two sisters are products of Piltover’s stranglehold on the undercity. And their story stems from their desire to change their fortunes. Act 1 of Arcane consists of three 40-ish minute episodes that introduce us to the world and establish its major players. And so far it’s been a slam dunk for Riot’s cinematic efforts.
Fans of League of Legends knew Riot Games had the pedigree to create something great. Their trailers and game cinematics are often lauded as some of the best in the industry. But a big nine part TV show was a whole other undertaking. But in the wake of Act 1, Arcane sits at near perfect scores across the board. 9.4 on IMDb, 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and 9.1 on Metacritic. These ratings put it above shows like Stranger Things and House of Cards. Programs that arguably lifted Netflix to a higher echelon of entertainment. It’s even dethroned one of 2021’s most talked about shows, Squid Game, as #1 on the platform. Viewers laud the striking animation style and unique characters. But the true strength of Arcane lies in its storytelling.
Video game adaptations often struggle between adhering to game lore or making something completely new. It was the same conflict that plagued comic book films pre-MCU. Riot, like Marvel, has realized that the best answer is somewhere in-between. Call backs to the game are coded and subtle, and playing the game isn’t a requirement to connect with the major characters. It’s a difficult line to toe, but Arcane does it very well.
From 2017-2020, Riot Game’s musical efforts seemed to be their ticket into the pop culture consciousness. Through Pentakill and KDA, Riot began to prove that ancillary content didn’t always have to fit the game, you could make the game fit the new content. And with Arcane, they’ve taken that ethos a step further. They’ve mixed in established lore, with new ideas and fresher concepts while not alienating fans or new viewers. And with Netflix investing more into video game and anime adaptations, Arcane is proving that with the right production “nerd” content pays dividends.
Act 2 for Arcane: League of Legends releases on November 13th and its final episodes on November 20th
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