Unlike most Netflix shows, Arcane is not being dropped all at once, instead, parts at a time. These parts aren’t seasons, and the episodes Netflix has released so far, three total, serve as more of a prologue to a longer story. That’s not a bad thing; prologues can be well-utilized to introduce an audience to characters and the world around them. At times, though, Arcane can be a little confusing in its opening episode: who are these people, where are they at any given moment, and why, most importantly, should we care? It answers those questions relatively quickly in the last two episodes, though.
Arcane is based on the video game League of Legends, which I mainly know about because it’s got a big tournament scene which regularly makes the news as a special interest sort of thing. I really have no idea how closely it hews to the characters in the game; I was interested in reviewing Arcane, produced by Riot Studios, who made the original game, and Fortiche Production, which is a French animation studio. Upfront, the producers noted that this wasn’t a series for younger audiences, despite it being an animated show, and that’s true. It makes it unique amongst American adult animated shows, putting it in the category of Castlevania and Invincible, not one of the many comedic adult animations.
The show’s animation is really pretty beautiful, and unique, occasionally reminiscent of the Borderlands game, but definitely its own thing. Colors abound, and for 3D animation, which is not always my favorite, it’s pretty fluid and serves the action well.
The two main characters, Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) and Powder (Ella Purnell and Mia Sinclair Jenness) are sisters soon to be pitted against one another, which is not a dynamic usually seen—it’s usually brothers who lead these types of shows, or at the very least, men. While the dialogue can be a bit on the nose occasionally, the story the creators are building is interesting. Turf wars, sabotage, new scientific discoveries, class strife—all make for dynamic issue to be explored in an animated series.
As far as runtime goes, Arcane falls into the same category as Invincible, both hour-long shows in a world where animated shows for a long time were regulated to the half-hour runtime. This probably points to the fact that animated shows are very quickly becoming easier to produce for those with enough resources to make longer shows, and I’d definitely count Amazon and Netflix in that category.
Arcane is worth checking out if you’re a fan of adult animation, steampunk, League of Legends, and shows driven by women characters. Since Netflix is only releasing the show in chunks, it could become terrible, but for now, it’s an interesting show with an eclectic and diverse cast and an animated style that is very much its own.