Arcane and Its Mastery In Storytelling

By Zahra Siddiqui

Upon its release in November 2021, Arcane: League of Legends was critically acclaimed by both fans of the game that it’s based on and viewers who’d never even heard of it – and with good reason. With one season currently out (and a second already confirmed), the show manages not to waste a single frame in having a substantial impact on the viewer. Sustaining a pace that its audience can easily follow over just nine episodes split into three acts, Arcane never compromises its quality for anything.

Arcane prospers in its ability to balance a fantastically-written cast of characters with many intertwining subplots and lore. Along with an unprecedented plot, the unconventional animation style also largely contributes to its success in visual storytelling. Arcane pushes the boundaries of two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation in a manner that is on par with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Topped with a steampunk aesthetic and incredible fight choreography, the series boasts an airbrushed art style that most animation seems to be lacking. 

Alongside the new approach to animation, the strong themes that follow the characters continuously parallel each other throughout the show. The story initially follows two orphaned sisters, Vi and Powder, as their failed attempt at a heist spirals into the events of a civil war in the city of Piltover. Unlike many pieces of media, where a war usually means good versus evil, Arcane portrays a realistic amount of moral nuance in its political climate. 

Though Piltover is one city, it is very lucidly divided between the wealthy and the underprivileged. Those that reside in “the Undercity” – which is both physically and socially underneath “the City of Progress” – are forced to live in a dangerous and polluted environment. While the show begins in the Undercity and closely follows Vi and Powder’s desire for revolution, the audience is given the perspective of two visionary scientists, Viktor and Jayce, in the richer side of the city. There, the gilded politics begin to weave with the possibility of magical technology.

Arcane does a phenomenal job of balancing how much information it shows and how much it decides to tell. This makes the lore and worldbuilding comprehensible without making it unrealistically narrated. Though the show built itself on the world of the game that it’s adapted from, the game League of Legends, Arcane builds its own identity narratively. Having a lack of knowledge of League of Legends contributes virtually nothing to the enjoyability of the show. 

Arcane skillfully adapts a prominent game into its own story with gripping characters, stunning visuals, and a riveting web of plots. The show gives a new definition to the word “masterpiece” and has set a high standard for storytelling in the future.