Arcane: League of Legends

Years ago, the residents of the undercity of Zuan rebelled against the privileged people living in the utopian society of Piltover: in the violent crackdown that followed, sisters Vi and Powder were orphaned. Rescued by Vander, the leader of the failed rebellion, they are adopted as his children, along with two boys, Mylo and Claggor. Under Vander’s protection, Vi and the two boys grow up to be accomplished thieves and housebreakers; Powder, however, struggles to develop her magical and alchemical abilities, and often proves a liability to her siblings. One day, the quartet rob the home of one of Piltover’s most renowned scientists; and despite setting off an explosion that destroys the house, they manage to escape – though, unbeknown to the others, Powder also pockets some magic crystals that harbour enormous quantities of energy. But the repercussions of the robbery set in train a series of events that threatens the fragile peace between Zuan and Piltover: crime lord Silco plots his own rise to power through a powerful mutagen known as Shimmer; scientists Jayce and Viktor work to harness the power of the mysterious crystals through a technology known as Hextech; Councillor Mel Medarda hopes to use Hextech to give Piltover the edge over its foreign rivals; Councillor Heimerdinger, on the other hand, tries to put the Hextech genie back in its bottle; while Powder tries to prove her usefulness to the others by incorporating the crystals she stole into her home-made explosive devices. When these competing agendas and ambitions collide, they result in a tragedy that not only brings death and suffering, but also alienates Vi and Powder and sets them on a collision course that will have consequences for years to come…

Based on, and serving as a prologue to, the “League of Legends” video game developed by Riot Games, and produced by Fortiche Studios for the Netflix streaming network, “Arcane: League of Legends” premiered in November 2021. Superbly animated in an astonishingly seamless blend of 2D and 3D animation techniques that utilise a filming method known as keyframing, “Arcane” literally bursts off the screen with its stunningly realistic detail, vivid colour palette, and flawless depiction of motion. But all these superb visuals would be for nothing were it not for the first-class story-telling that elevates this series to the first rank of fantasy narrative. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional; the dialogue is both relatable and convincing; the world-building is nothing less than captivating; and the plotting is both lucid and full of surprises. Thus it is that visuals and writing come together to produce a moving, funny, violent, powerful, and confronting tale of human ambition, traumatic loss, fragile relationships and profound vulnerability. Shakespearean in its psychological insight, gripping in its dramatic drive and narrative thrust, and heart-stopping in its relentless exploration of human pain, “Arcane: League of Legends” should, if its subsequent seasons follow suit, become one of the best things anime has ever produced.    

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.