Arcane Continues A Wonderful New Media Trend
Arcane cemented for me we’re living in an era where video game-inspired media is consistently good. It seemed to get going with Sonic the Hedgehog but hasn’t stopped since. Finally, people are throwing passion and craft at stories and lore and worlds that gamers have been connecting with for years.
And with Arcane, I’m somewhat in that demographic. It’s been a long time, but I used to play a lot of League of Legends, specifically as Heimerdinger. So, you can imagine how exciting seeing him in the show was for me.
Arcane Is A Treat Even If You Don’t Know League
Not that you need to know anything about League of Legends to watch this show. I would know. I didn’t know the lore before starting this review. And still, it was easy to understand what was happening. The creators, fortunately, made it very accessible to new fans.
Almost too accessible, unfortunately. If I have a main issue with Arcane, it’s the early episodes. For most of two episodes, it feels generic. Scenes you would expect in any fantasy show under the sun play out as they always do. You’ve got your shady bar scene, street brawl scene, and many, many other bog-standard tropes. I would not blame the average viewer if they dropped the series early.
A Slow Start Might Bounce Some People Off Early
But fortunately, you’re reading my article, and so I can prevent you from missing out on a show that only improves with every passing ten minutes. Sure, you can get a sense early on of how good the animation is, how dynamic and fascinating the camera tricks can be in this series: but you have no idea. You might think you’ve seen how stylish the scenery can be and how fun the soundtrack is—but you’ve not even scratched the surface. You might enjoy the little crew of teenage/child thieves, but wait until things get much, much more intense.
What I mean is this: the show expands ideas and connects plot points constantly. It plays a wicked fun game of weaving consequence webs from “normal” and rote early scenes. Character choices have violent, devastating, and impactful effects on multiple other people. Characters die in this show because they made mistakes, and things don’t wrap up easily just because it’s the main characters.
Organic Consequences Underpin Solid Storytelling
The same rules even apply to worldbuilding, if not more so. Political, economic, and sociological aspects of their fantasy world change because of inventions and choices made by characters. It’s like watching an epic fantasy condensed down into stylish and easily digestible scenes.
And speaking of stylish: the animation is spectacular. The blending of different styles and the appropriately like-a-video-game-cutscene approach to certain moments causes its presentation to pop and stand out from almost any other cartoon I’ve seen. But the facial expressions are where we see the true artistry. Powder and Violet—our main sister duo—have several moments of gut-wrenching reactions rendered with stunning detail. I’ve never seen animation get across rage and grief and panic like this, not even from Pixar.
Certain Scenes Are Both Beautiful And Devastating
And then there’s the voice acting, which almost never ceases to be perfect. I have to give it to Hailee Steinfeld (Violet) and Mia Sinclair Jenness/Ella Purnell (Powder at different ages) for lending such dynamic personalities to admittedly tropey and sometimes cliche characters. Real-world magic is being done here. Things shouldn’t work as well as they do in this show. Conversations are essentially stitched together quips, one-liners, and highly emotionally charged statements, and somehow, they achieve a weighty, honest, and potent impact. There’s a rhythm and attention to lending tropes either crushing reality or stylish flourishes that buoys this adaptation into something different and fresh. I may be overselling it. I may be praising a show that’s just solid and nothing more, but I’ve not witnessed something like this in a long time. Not since Spider-Verse.
Arcane made it easy to fall into this amazing new world, and see the sights, the flowing action, and the moments packed with drama that actually feels dramatic. That’s what fantasy stories exist to do for people. If you want that, it’s here. Even if you never intend to play League of Legends, Arcane is a treat for anyone and everyone that loves animation and loves exploring human imagination.
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