Characters from Arcane
You don't need to have played League of Legends to enjoy the beautiful animation and realistic characterization found in "Arcane." (Illustration by Molly Posten, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

‘Arcane’ Needs To Be the Next Show on Your Watchlist

With a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this Netflix fantasy series is undeniably fantastic, but what exactly makes it so great?

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Characters from Arcane
You don't need to have played League of Legends to enjoy the beautiful animation and realistic characterization found in "Arcane." (Illustration by Molly Posten, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

With a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this Netflix fantasy series is undeniably fantastic, but what exactly makes it so great?

Released in November 2021, “Arcane” is a Netflix original series that’s based on the online game League of Legends. The show is immediately captivating and even remains addictive through all nine episodes. Likewise, the series’ fascinating characters each possess a genuine depth that elevates every episode. Additionally, the masterful animation adds a visual appeal that makes Arcane” truly impossible to turn off.

League of Legends

League of Legends is a hugely successful video game that’s been popular since its release in 2009. The main objective of the game is to destroy the enemy, Nexus, which is located at the opponent’s base and spawn point. The player must assume a certain character class, which offers them a recommended set of characters.

League of Legends contains fantasy violence that is presented from a bird’s-eye view. While Arcane” may be based on this game, it expands greatly in other areas. Some characters are familiar faces to players of League of Legends, but they each show characteristics and backstories that are new to even the most seasoned players.

Why “Arcane” Truly Is for Everyone

Potential “Arcane” viewers should not be intimidated by the show’s less conventional source material. Joshua Rivera, a Polygon writer, published an article titled “Arcane is great TV even if you don’t care about League of Legends,”  which raises a central point in its title alone: Anyone can watch Arcane” and thoroughly enjoy it.

In his article, Rivera discusses how the characters’ personalities move the plot along in a natural way: “What makes it so compelling … is that its characters and their passions — for each other, for fulfillment, for revenge — are what everything else stems from. Its not a show thats particularly concerned with world-building by way of exposition … Rather, it shows characters building the world — and breaking it.”

The “Arcane” Storyline

The main characters of the show are Vi, Jinx/Powder, Jayce, Silco, Viktor, Mel and Vander. From the names alone, it is obvious that “Arcane” is a show rooted in fantasy. Powder and Vi are sisters that are torn apart by an argument, which leads to Powder getting swept up by Silco. Years go by, and Powder switches to going by the name Jinx. Eventually, Vi and Jinx end up on opposite sides of a war, the unrest having been caused by the fractured society that these characters live in. Piltover is a utopia that embraces technological advancements, while the undercity of Zaun remains oppressed.

Tensions rise between these contrasting areas and a violent conflict ensues. Each of these characters interact with their environment in a way that affects the other characters, without any of them necessarily meeting each other. The plot was planned with intense precision, which is proven as every action has a reaction that successfully moves the story along. Watching this series is refreshing, as far too many other shows rely heavily on random outside forces intervening, while “Arcane” needs only its characters.

Character Relationships

Additionally, every character in “Arcane” is multifaceted. Everyone is genuinely doing what they believe is best for their community, and the greatest example of this is Silco. His actions cause him to be perceived as evil, in contrast to Vander, who is immediately seen as good. Vander is greatly loved by both the undercity and Vi and Powder, who he has taken care of. It is soon revealed that Vander and Silco are brothers; years ago, Vander actually attempted to drown Silco, which becomes Silco’s villain origin story.

The attempted drowning reveal causes audiences’ perception of evil to become unclear. The writing behind the brothers’ backstory is genius, as viewers seemingly lose the ability to expect what each character may do next. People felt positive they understood Silco as blatantly bad, but he proved himself otherwise.

Dot Esports writer Cecilia Ciocchetti even wrote an entire article about Silco. In her piece, Ciocchetti stated, “But despite all the things he’s done and will do, Silco isn’t your average cruel character without emotions. On the contrary, he shows compassion and affection toward the one person who’s suffered as much as him: Powder. Like Silco, the young Jinx is abandoned and betrayed … In that, the two Zaunian criminals find the common ground to build up their relationship.

Jinx and Silco relate to each other’s pain, proving the complexity within their characters. They attempt to boost the economy of the undercity because they consider it their home. Their actions may be forceful, but once the viewer understands their reasoning, it becomes impossible to write Jinx and Silco off as bad people when they are so much more.

The fact that nearly every character in “Arcane” shows obvious flaws is another reason the show is so fantastic. Vander proves himself to be far from perfect when his past actions toward Silco are revealed. He tried to drown his brother because he believed that it would be the best course of action, not because he is purely evil. Silco himself proves his depth throughout the entire show; he is cruel in some respects, but warm to Jinx. And while he is extremely flawed, he also contains redeeming qualities.

Furthermore, Jayce and Viktor use Hextech to expand knowledge and benefit Piltover even though their actions are seen as reckless by their peers. Again, this helps to show that there is duality in every single character. Vi leaves her younger sister alone and sobbing because she made a mistake, though Vi is not seen as a bad person by most characters except for Jinx, whom she abandoned.

There are no clear villains in “Arcane”; each character has wants, fears, insecurities, vices and passions that make them believable people. Audiences can clearly see that they are each trying to do what they think is best.

“Arcane” is absolutely worth the watch. The complexity behind each character prompts viewers to quickly form emotional attachments to their favorites. Besides characters, though, the show’s fast-moving plotline is addictive and the animation is absolutely incredible. It mixes that classic, fantastical video game style with realism in the perfect manner, and audiences can pause any episode at any moment and catch an intricate and stunning scene. “Arcane” is a must-see show — even for people who aren’t League of Legends fans.

Writer Profile

Trinity Crompton

Molloy College
Writing

Trinity is a senior at Molloy College majoring in writing and minoring in journalism. She hopes to pursue a career in fashion journalism. She loves dachshunds, platform shoes and Stephen King novels.

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