So just like Vox Machina was based on a D&D podcast that has run on for a long time, Arcane is based on League of Legends, a game I never played. All of which is interesting because both of these are so new person friendly. Arcane is a very well detailed (on every detail really) that allows anyone to just jump into the animated series without even thinking about it. If anything, it starts from the ground up in displaying how Arcane just works from its world construction to going on a character’s journey and seeing how each of them got there. All while exploring all the world elements too in a way that makes sense. Some people really thought hard about it.
This is a nine episode series with each act having three episodes, so it is a series that is built out of three act structure infinite. There is the world introduction episode, the something is happening episode, and the resulting episode. The first arc is the introduction episode which has its own three act structure, the second act structure is something is happening one with its own three act structure, and then what happens with the third act structure is obvious. If there is something that I can just partially pick over, it’s the fact that it’s really easy to know what the pacing of the story is going to be and when to expect things, but the execution is really good.
The world of Arcane takes place in the city of Piltover. Only one specific city in the League of Legends worlds here too and that’s, for the most part besides one specific scene in a backstory, always there. It is one series that somehow explains the over world, the underworld, and some of the vast economics of the city because it does change from the beginning of the series to the end of it from the vast political deals from the council at the top of Piltover to Silco, who controls the underworld where people struggle to exist there. A class structure that feels realistic, maybe over exaggerated but it is an animated series, and weighs over every element onto it.
From that world explanation comes the main story itself. It is a story about two sisters, Vi and Powder. Two young girls that were street urchins at the top and taken to live in an underworld situation by that current voice or head of it at the time, Vander. That is the first part of this three part story. They were two kids that worked with two other kids, to rob the top for money and resources when they could, with Vi leading the charge with her literal athleticism and fists and Powder always trying to catch up, but always causing problems. All while Silco is trying to take over Vander’s territory that creates an order there and he does win. The first part is setting up the consequences for why the two sisters split up.
At the moment that is happening, Jayce is developing his own magic tech. I mean, he is the upper level person that Vi and the three others are stealing from and Powder destroys accidentally. A very efficient sort of arc that not only characterizes the establishing conflict between Vi, Powder, and their friends, but who Jayce is and what he’s trying to do. It’s kind of astonishing how Arcane can just naturally do that in a way that never feels forced or anything else. From Jayce’s introduction, we see the technology of the world that will shake the rest of Piltover and the rest of Arcane going forward. It’s completely astonishing and yet so good.
The next arc takes place after a time skip. Vi is in prison, Powder is now named Jinx and is working for Silco, and Piltover has changed economically thanks to Jayce’s magic technology that can be used by anyone. The technology also leads into their weapons that other characters act here too. So this is a small arc about a policewoman named Caitlin taking Vi out of prison to see what happened to that world and is about how each of them has changed. It is a simple bit of war escalation and other things on it there as well here too and it’s cool enough there to create that tension and jealousy there too.
Then the third arc is not something that I will not discuss, but it is the best part of Arcane for me too. Some of the most iconic parts of Arcane that are stuck in my mind come from that part from certain fights to good emotional beats to it all just connecting to all of them in the best ways there too. I find all of those incredible and amazing there too and I like all of those here too. It’s astonishing and excellent there too as well here on such cool levels there as well here too. The cliff hanger is something that I am going to be thinking about here until who knows when the second season of this comes out. I am waiting for it because damn.
I haven’t discussed the characters as much in this post because they do change and have their own arcs, but Arcane is much more story based then character based. Vi herself does grow up and become like the pinnacle sort of tom boy fighter that she could be because she fights with her first and she is very head strong. Powder changing to Jinx was a massive change, but we just woke up to her changing from one form to another, so that character journey isn’t there. Otherwise, the characters in this story are living in this world and do change but not enough to have a large arc. This is a story of mini arcs which feels much more realistic but somewhat limiting in some ways too. A plus or a minus here too.
Like a lot of other people mentioned and I don’t feel like I have to say it, Arcane is a visual feast. It’s really obvious to see that the production on this series lasted for years because it is immaculate with style and such distinct looks. I suppose it does look like League of Legends but hyperized because it had to be to be an animated series, but it’s great. Some cool clothing designs and other things are here too. There are also the musical video logic fight scenes that just say so much without saying a lot of things there too and I like all of those elements too. I find it great and cool because even the smoke and dust picked up here feel distinctive too.
So yeah, this is fun. Arcane is cool and simply exceptional too. Its flaws are flaws that feel like they are there by design there too. The three act structure is something the creators wanted to do which leads into some things there too. Same with the way the characters are written and placed into its world here too. It is functionally designed and executes everything that it wants to say and dig into it as well here too for all of those complicated things it would place onto it as well here too. I find that amazing because not every animated series has some much intention behind it besides Arcane. Even Legend of Machina, for instance, doesn’t feel like that.