Netflix ARCANE: A combination of a unique look with a compelling story

Streaming Hit Arcane in a nutshell:

Netflix Streaming Hit Arcane is still one of the most-watched series on Netflix.
Even if you haven´t played the game League of Legends it is a definite recommendation. And it has much more to offer than fandom.

Arcane Storyline

The animation series Arcane takes place in a Steam-Punk, Gothic city called Piltover. This is home to two different parts of society.

The story is based around characters from the game League of Legends who get a great backstory.
The story unfolds well, though there is some unfocused storytelling during the last three episodes. The characters are lovely and their motivations are clear. We can experience the struggle between rich and poor, darkness and light, good and evil. Not only the surrounding world of Piltover reflects the storyline but also the main characters themselves.

Take your time for this series. It tends to skip dialog for on-screen emotions. When you are dishwashing aside you won´t get the best experience out of it. It is not too long and you can finish it in a decent amount of time.

Arcane. (L to R) Fred Tatasciore as Master Crafter, Toks Olagundoye as Mel, Erica Lindbeck as Elora in Arcane. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Binge Watching Arcane in one evening

The series has 9 episodes each screening around 45 min which makes a total of 405min (6,75h) runtime. So binge-watch it if you like. My recommendation is to split it into smaller sessions, since there is a lot to miss out on.

Great art, for example! It´s the first thing you recognize. In a museum you would want to enjoy it, wouldn´t you?

The art behind the Arcane?

Arcane. Ella Purnell as Jinx in Arcane. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

As Alexis Wanneroy, the Animation Supervisor of Fortiche tells in an interview their work for this project was quite different than it would be in other animation projects that he had worked on.
The team developed a storyboard as the basis for all the layouts and scenes. Using this as a guideline the designer could basically run loose with all their ideas and had enough space to “Just make Art,” as Alexis puts it.
Astonishingly the studio used no Motion Capturing for the animation, which is a different approach than other studios. Motion Capturing is the State of the art technique for big movies and Games and lets you animate characters more quickly and accurately from the basis of a real-life object.
(If you want to know more about Motion Capturing, leave a comment below and I will write an article about this.)
So what we see is not only the laboring work of some artists who recreate the idea of a few selected heads of departments but it is a more collaborative approach than usual. By this, the creators altogether were able to acquire not only great designers but also the creativity, passion, and craftsmanship that these artists inherit.

The origin of arcanes visual style

The style that Fortiche used was first used in two videos as a collaboration between Riot Games and Fortiche. (Get Jinxed and Warriors featuring Imagine Dragons)

Since then they developed their style even further, painted backgrounds and camera scratches by hand over the final animation.

The style and animation itself is a unique piece of art, but even the design of Piltover tells its own story.

The Design of Arcane

Look over Piltover – Arcane. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

The designers and architects not only designed Piltover and the undercity in two aligning architectural design styles, Art Nouveau and Art Decor but also put much detail into the rendering and the animation itself.

In many scenes you can see a mix of 3D animated characters and actions, overlaying with a 2D layer of hand-drawn particles, weapons, and specific details.
Because of all of this, the series looks powerful and every scene is like looking at a painting.

Do I need to know League of Legends to like the series?

Riot Games produced the Arcane series and also holds the trademark of League of Legends.
No knowledge of the game is required to enjoy the 9 episodes. Even though the characters in the series are a selection from the over 150 game characters.
Fans of course recognize their favorite champion and will be happy to get an epic backstory for Jinx, Vi, Jayce, and Heimerdinger. For those who read the in-game background information, many plot points won’t be a surprise or even anticipated from the beginning.

What makes Arcane so good?

ARCANE (L to R) : ELLA PURNELL as JINX, J.B BLANC as VANDER, HAILEE STEINFELD as VI, in ARCANE Cr. NETFLIX © 2021

[Attention: Spoilers ahead!]

Arcane is one of the best-selling Netflix series of all time, ranking second in November of last year.

But what makes this series so compelling? Even though I never played the games and didn´t have the Fan Bonus to watch it, Arcane drew me into the story from the first minute on. Already after the first shots, the story felt epic and mature. Much of this is because, besides a great visual style, we have a plot that feels big and epic. Even though we have different characters who all play their own role, in the end, it all comes down to a simple motivational principle.

Class conflict

We have an overlying story, telling us the struggle between to ends of social life. The bright, shiny world of ruling the city and the dark, suburban undercity. The battle rises from the bottom of society, starting with the ones who are never seen and heard. Vi and her friends want to be heard and respected.
But, as in real life, the glamorous and posh inhabitants of Piltover don´t want to share everything they have and look at the people from the undercity as a form of human garbage.
On one hand Arcane is a series about social classes and status.
On the other, and that’s what I mentioned before, it is a story about the simple ingredients, that have made the undercity so strong and independent.
Friendship and loyalty.

All the characters are looking for love

ARCANE (L to R) : HAILEE STEINFELD as VI, ELLA PURNELL as JINX in ARCANE Cr. NETFLIX © 2021

Nearly all the characters we get to know are looking for a form of love. They are searching for friendship, guidance, acceptance all because all of them are socially broken and forgotten in their own world.
What drives them is not an obscure rage of destruction but a feeling of being not enough in a world that presents you with abundance.
Even the acclaimed bad guy is yearning for someone who truly loves him and accepts him with all his flaws and he finds this in adopting a lost daughter, Jinx.
Vi trying to convince Jinx that she has taken the wrong path is not only hurting her sister again but also rips Silcos heart away, his love that he needs in a moment when all his other allies have vanished.
As you can see there is a lot of emotional tension going on and here Arcane is laying a big focus.

Arcane has time for emotions

Modern comedies and movies often tend to tell a story rather with words than with action. (Even so-called Action movies only show action, not story.) They explain plot points and go for rather verbal jokes than physical ones. Since it is much quicker to set up a one-liner they are rushing from joke to joke, from plot point to another, and forget that cinema and movies are all about emotions. WE are the audience and we have lots of them!
Here is the point where Arcane catches me. The creators know about the time they have on-screen and they use it wisely.
The main motivations of our characters are not given to us by dialog, but by the look, they have in their eyes and through their position and posture in a conversation. We have passages of two-minute-long artsy scenes that just show (!) what the inner battle of the characters is they are fighting.

What’s bad about Arcane?

I praised the series so much, so what is there to complain about? Well, in the beginning, we are set up in a great developing story that drags us in, but during the last three episodes, the clear line gets lost.
It seems that the studio wanted to push their second season but sacrificed the ending of their first for it.
Side characters seem to get snipped away by the plot because they are needed somewhere else at the beginning of season II.
I loved the standoff of Jinx, Vi, Silco, and Caitlyn but the BIG story got lost somewhere between the arrival of Ambessa and the development of new magic Steam-Punk weapons.

Will there be a season 2 of Arcane?

Yes, Riot Games announces it in this trailer. No date for release is set.

Conclusion:

If you are into League of Legends Arcane is a must-see.
For everyone else who is tired of the same series and movies, this might just be for you. I was blown away and have even watched it a second time, which is quite rare for me, with a few exceptions.

Are there any parts that you would like to get into more deeply?
Leave a comment below!

Benedikt

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