Most people know “League of Legends” as one of the most popular video games in the world, but that changed with the release of “Arcane,” the Netflix TV adaptation which debuted its first season on Nov. 6.
Two sisters, Vi and Powder, also known as Jinx, live in the fantastical twin cities of Piltover and Zaun, where many morally ambiguous forces are in conflict: crime bosses and city councils, citizens and law enforcement and dysfunctional families turned against each other.
Vi and Powder, residents of Zaun, botch a heist in Piltover, causing tensions between the cities to boil over. These plots develop after skipping forward in time to the sisters’ adulthood. Vi and Jinx find themselves on opposing sides after their relationship is fractured, straining their chances to reunite and heal old wounds.
Meanwhile, two inventors, Jayce and Viktor, discover a way to combine magic and technology called hextech, resulting in a power shift that inflames problems in the city involving the scheming crime lord Silco. Circumstances force Jayce into leadership of Piltover, where his responsibilities as a leader come at odds with his morals.
“Arcane” is the latest in Netflix’s lineup of video game inspired TV, including medieval adventure shows such as “Dota: Dragon’s Blood,” “The Witcher” and “Castlevania.” Rivaling the popularity of similar shows, “Arcane” was the second most popular TV show on Netflix in its first week, with over 34 million hours viewed.
Fans of the franchise, both new and old, received the series with overwhelming positivity, shown by Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score standing at 98%. Critics were equally satisfied; IMDb rated it at 9.4, and IGN with a 10.
The uniqueness of “Arcane” comes from its creative choices, which reframes the historical fantasy genre with a modern, steampunk twist. It portrays the struggles of urban life, technological advancement, mental health and class conflict through expressive animation by French studio Fortiche Production and a distinctive soundtrack by Riot Games Music.
Arcane also breaks the mold of the fantasy genre with its diverse cast of characters. Characters of many races drive the plot and receive strong development, physical disabilities are portrayed without prejudice and a budding romance is featured between Vi and Caitlyn, a female enforcer.
Alex Yee, executive producer and one of the show’s co-creators, spoke about the broad appeal of “Arcane” and its relationship with preexisting fans of “League of Legends” in an interview with Screen Rant. He hopes the show is in a place “where both fans of the intellectual property and newcomers can both appreciate it.”
“We always tried to make the team comprise of both longtime League players and lead developers, and then also people who are kind of coming in fresh,” Yee said. “I think that really helped give us both sides of the perspective of different audiences that might be coming to watch.”
The first season of “Arcane” finishes in a cumulation of all of season 1’s plots, ending on a cliffhanger, leaving fans in suspense. The announcement of the second season’s production was posted on Twitter the same day as the series finale.
Watch all of Season 1 now on Netflix.