At one point Blizzard Entertainment, creators of popular first person shooter Overwatch was urged by its fans to make a well deserved movie. The video game’s cinematics such as Honor and Glory, which I highly endorse, proved them more than capable of successfully pulling this off. Unfortunately, Blizzard didn’t make any worthwhile attempt to take advantage or capitalise on the momentum. Unlike the game developers Riot Games who announced almost immediately after Arcane’s full release that they would be continuing to work with Netflix and Fortiche Productions on a confirmed season 2. “Alright, now I have to see what all the fuss is about”, I said to myself not knowing what was ahead of me.
Let me set the record straight with something that is really important to know before getting into this review. I have never had an interest in any multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). As far as video game genres go I do enjoy top down strategy games, but I can’t get into MOBAs which is why I knew literally nothing about Riot Games’ League of Legends which the animated show is based on. So as I waited for Netflix to load up I couldn’t imagine the source material being that story based, and if there was any lore to be had then I assumed it would be minor, at best providing a trivial backdrop for the more important gameplay. Man was I wrong.
My opinion had been well set and formed at this point which meant I had no expectations going in, but that might have perhaps made it one of my favourite viewing experiences, period. I’m always used to the idea of being armed with some kind of knowledge or mindset about the thing I’m going to watch even if just from a trailer. I mean why else would you willingly pay to watch something you’ve never seen before right? It’s a risk, and yet surrendering myself to ignorance was actually really satisfying. If anything I now feel that knowing the franchise and inherent spoilers beforehand could have possibly tainted my experience. As a long time comic book reader and MCU fanboy this is a fascinating concept to get my head around. I had nothing to compare the show to, no waiting criticisms dwelling in the back of my mind, just me and Arcane. I could give you a plot synopsis of the show but I’d rather just tell you about my lasting impressions of it.
Split into 3 acts across 9 episodes, Arcane is truly impressive not only in being able to hook audiences on an gratifying story without the need of any prior familiarity, but also traversing the notorious obstacle of actually making a good video game adaption. These are all characters people have played as and known for years, but whether you're in the know or not, both sides can agree that the animated show has plenty to offer. I didn't have to be a fan to appreciate the great character development, action-filled scenes, meaningful twists, and beautiful visuals all culminating to a worthwhile cinematic-like experience. For me and many others it seems, Arcane is a testament to consistently entertaining storytelling and immersive writing that leaves you wanting more with every episode.
I imagine a great deal of the show’s success also stems from Riot Games' strong and fruitful working relationship with Fortiche Productions who make League’s cinematic shorts. Prior to Arcane, Fortiche actually made music videos featuring the game’s characters and even gone as far to take on the music industry by literally creating a viral K-Pop band who’s members are all in-game characters. This probably stands to reason why the music in Arcane is well-liked and also surprisingly well-integrated into the show.
Arcane has proven to be a masterful adaptation through an endearing story, meaningful characters, intriguing worldbuilding, and striking visuals that pave the road for what is truly possible in TV animation. And to top it off, against all odds Arcane manages to surpass the age-old criticism that video game adaptations can’t work outside the medium they were programmed to. I haven’t been this impressed since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as well as the first season of Love, Death & Robots which you can read either of my reviews by clicking any of the links. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone if you haven't already experienced it for yourself, so do yourself a favour and watch something completely new and unknown to you. Take it from me, it could be better than you think.