The Riot Games Retrospective
Riot Games celebrated its tenth anniversary on June 2, 2019. At that time, Riot announced many things, including the release of new champions, new seasons, the arrival of League of Legends (a game made by Riot) on mobile phones and consoles, and the announcement of its arrival. The crew once scheduled Arcane as the Netflix series for the League, set to air in 2020. Finally, fans would not have to wait any longer. On November 6, 2021, Riot and Fortiche Production released the series, which is now available for the audience to watch on the Netflix streaming service. The presence of such animation certainly excites the gaming community, especially League of Legends fans, because the quality of the music and animation in Riot’s promotional videos cannot be underestimated. One example is the game-style girl band known as K/DA, whose music video entitled POP/STARS has been watched more than 400 million times on the game’s official YouTube channel, not to mention other video clips such as Warriors, Legends Never Die, Get Jinxed, and so on.
The Netflix series Arcane tells the story of two famous champions from the game, sisters named Vi and Jinx. Not only that, but the series also explores the prolonged conflict between Piltover and Zaun. In the first three episodes, the series presents Jinx and Vi’s childhood under Vander’s care and their eventual separation, which shapes them into who they are today. The series introduces the backgrounds of various characters who inhabit Piltover and Zaun, including Jayce, Heimerdinger, Ekko, Caitlyn, and Silco, as well as their interactions.
As the episodes progress, the series delves into more complex elements, especially Shimmer, a substance produced by Singed from Zaun that can turn people into monsters when used excessively. There is also Hextech, a breakthrough pioneered by Jayce and Viktor. The plot of the story doesn’t slowly build up and then plateau; instead, it constructs the background and then shatters it right before the characters’ eyes. This is why the story is so much more enjoyable.
The Dramatic and Political Elements
In essence, Arcane features two main storylines, each told from the perspective of a different city: the upper city of Piltover and the lower city of Zaun.
Piltover’s perspective focuses on the development of Hextech, a magical creation, and introduces the audience to characters like Jayce and Caitlyn.
Zaun’s perspective, on the other hand, centers on the relationship between two sisters, Violet (Vi) and Powder (Jinx). It’s important to note that there exists a significant social strata gap between Piltover and Zaun. Piltover boasts all the technological and scientific advancements achieved by its forefathers, and a council governs the city with the responsibility of bringing glory to Piltover. In contrast, Zaun is inhabited by outcasts, plagued by poverty and social inequality. The environment in Zaun is quite bleak, with many areas never touched by sunlight. The only respected leader in Zaun is Vander, who serves as the town’s bartender.
The way the animation connects these two highly contrasting places is also quite interesting. The initial premise of the series revolves around Vander saving Vi and Powder, who are victims of the war between the cities of Piltover and Zaun. Several years later, Vi and her group steal items in the city of Piltover, unknowingly breaking into Jayce’s room, and this event sets the stage for the unfolding story of Arcane.
As the story progresses, the audience becomes familiar with the concept that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is evident in the way young Jayce finds himself thrust into a position of leadership in the easily provoked city of Piltover, solely due to his focus on the development of Hextech.
On the other hand, the city of Zaun faces further deterioration following the disappearance of its leader, Vander, who is replaced by Silco, the mafia leader. Silco’s reign brings about significant corruption in the trade of a dangerous serum.
The Stunning Animation
One of the essential pillars of animation lies within the animation itself. This encompasses everything from the chosen style, the selection of camera angles, to the smoothness of movement in each scene. In the case of Arcane, as a Netflix series set in the League of Legends universe, it unquestionably excels in all of these aspects across its nine episodes, offering an exceptional viewing experience to its audience.
Each episode feels like a fresh and unique experience for the viewers. The series employs a three-dimensional style with a hint of pastel colors in its animation, rendering it more authentic when compared to animations based on other games such as Dota: Dragon’s Blood and Castlevania. Furthermore, the audience can appreciate the use of brilliant colors, especially when the camera shifts between the two cities, each characterized by its own distinctive but opposing shade.
In Zaun, the use of dark primary colors dominates, occasionally complemented by neon accents in the background or even on the characters themselves. This combination creates a somber yet free-spirited atmosphere for the audience. Conversely, in Piltover, in contrast to its competitors, the color palette is brighter yet somewhat monotonous, mirroring the lives of the characters residing in Piltover.
Of course, the choice of style and color must be accompanied by animation that feels vibrant and fluid, following the dynamics of its characters. It is a crucial task for animators to ensure that the animation does not appear dull or rigid.
The Interesting Story
Another aspect, which is somewhat less important in an animated film, is the story itself. As is widely known, Arcane originates from the League of Legends game’s storyline and has been adapted into a Netflix series. However, for those in the audience who are not players of the game, there is no need for concern because the series effectively engages film fans by gradually introducing the story as the plot unfolds.
It is worth noting that Riot has cleverly incorporated Easter eggs into the series, allowing the audience to realize its connection to the game. Examples include the appearance of a crow reminiscent of Fiddlesticks, Caitlyn’s cupcake, in-game items, foreshadowing of Warwick, and more. Each character is built upon a solid background, primarily through the development of relationships between the characters.
The central characters, Vi and Powder, are particularly compelling. In the first three episodes, the audience witnesses their reunion with Vander and their subsequent life together as sisters. However, they are later separated due to an accident, which results in growing bitterness in their lives throughout the series. This experience ultimately transforms Powder into Jinx, a character with a penchant for firearms.
In contrast, Jayce and Viktor on Piltover’s side have a complex and strained relationship. United by Jayce’s curiosity about Hextech, Jayce and Viktor collaborate to advance scientific breakthroughs, despite facing repeated objections from Heimerdinger.
Jayce and Viktor both want to improve people’s lives through Hextech. However, each other’s ambitions sometimes hinder their common goals. Jayce wants Hextech to succeed and be safe. So, he repeatedly emphasized that innovations like this should take time to develop. On the other hand, Viktor wants Hextech to be ready before he dies and needs immediate help.
The series doesn’t merely indulge the audience with a storyline packed with battles. The scriptwriter of Arcane aims to convey the idea that no one is entirely good or bad. Behind every character’s actions lies an underlying motive, whether it’s driven by revenge, pain, envy, jealousy, or pure business interests. Each character comes with their unique goals, skillfully propelling the plot forward without ever becoming dull.
In many ways, the series stands as Riot’s masterpiece, leaving an indelible mark on its viewers. It successfully presents a dynamic and comprehensible narrative, even amidst a plethora of specialized terms. The audience also recognizes the significance of character interactions in world-building, as there is no superfluous dialogue to be found.
Furthermore, the visually stunning animation is a tremendous asset to the series, providing a fresh and captivating experience for the audience.
- Edwards, M. (2021). Netflix’s Arcane series is a major hit – and not just with League of Legend fans. Total Film | GamesRadar+.
- Goslin, A. (2021). Netflix’s Arcane is the best story League of Legends has ever had. Polygon.
- Li, J. (2021). ‘Arcane’ is a gift for ‘League of Legends’ fans. Annenberg Media.