This November 7 releases the first salvo of episodes of the long-awaited Arcane series, adapted from the game League of Legends. Did she convince us? Answer in this review.
Everyone (or almost) in the gaming community knows the title directly or indirectly. League of Legends. Since 2009, the Riot Games MOBA has established itself in its discipline and continues to attract players from all walks of life, especially since the studio has increased the number of game modes and supports available. Another has just been added to the list, and that is the small screen.
Arcane is an animated series loosely inspired by the universe – even multiverse – imagined by Riot Games, including its characters, places and themes. At the crossroads between fan-service and a true animated work of art, Riot Games hopes to convince gamers and non-gamers alike to follow the adventures of the most wacky murderess in existence. Is it the next video game series to see on Netflix? Answer in this review ofArcane League of Legends.
These opposites that everything attracts
Arcane it is above all its headliner, occupied by the famous Jinx and her sister Vi. While non-gamers won’t recognize these names, they are fierce female fighters, who can be seen evolving from childhood to adulthood. When they are young, Vi and her little sister witness a bloody war, in which they lose all parents. Instead of being orphaned, they are taken in by Vander, a brute force with heart in hand.
They will thus grow up surrounded by other children, who will become their comrades in arms and nonsense. They see their fate shifted as the peace between Zaun and Piltover, the twin cities, is about to be shaken. There is no shortage of explosive duets in Arcane, which is based on the principle of its narration on duality.
We find this notion in the relationship between Powder (Jinx) and Vi, Zaun and Piltover, but also between magic and technology. It creates a wonderful tension that pushes the storytelling to evolve on its own, organically. Each alter ego pulls each other up or down and it is a dynamic that succeeds in propelling Arcane at a very high level.
Furthermore, Arcane adopts a rather simple but effective narrative scheme, which is based above all on a movement that will crescendo, as the suspense grows, until the climax at each end of the episode. The whole is excellently balanced with the action sequences and the more emotional sequences, a mixture which is recipe.
The family of champions is reunited
With each adaptation, comes the question of fidelity. Arcane does not do in the fan-service, multiplying the references and the clichés simply to please the players of League of Legends. Instead, the series perfectly illustrates certain aspects of the universe created by Riot Games, while keeping in mind the coherence and openness of the storyline.
According to U.S, Arcane is equally accessible to LoL players as to non-players because it addresses universal themes through specific characters. In this sense, the Fortiche studio has known how to respect the identity of places and characters, while infusing them with a story, a soul.
With Arcane, we quickly realize that we do not know all that well the champions with whom we play for many hours. The stories and personalities brought to each are completely coherent and all in all well worked. For many of them, the evolution of their character until they reach the stage that we know them is pleasant to follow, and sometimes even manages to surprise us.
Piltover, the queen, Zaun, the underground
Visually, Arcane is a feast for the eyes and this only underlines the colossal work of adaptation on the part of the animation teams. The studio notably uses colors and play of light to participate in a change of tone or to emphasize an emotion, like a photograph or a painting. This effect is reinforced by certain key scenes, which take on a less raised composition compared to the others, and which therefore seem to be frozen on a canvas.
An artistic dimension that fits perfectly to the Fortiche style, already at work with the clip Get Jinxed, released in 2013. We can recognize the graphic touch of the studio here by its painted characters and sets, and its crossover animation style paths between 2D and 3D. Zaun and Piltover literally come to life under the pencil of Fortiche who once again hit the nail on the head.
To help them, Arcane adopts an animation style close to realism, with interesting camera games. We can feel the intention of the studio, which sometimes tries to replicate the mobility and quality of a physical camera, especially during action sequences, which remain understandable despite the intensity of the moment, or even during phases where the camera plays with the focus to give bokeh to the image.
We also notice an excellent realization of the special effects which, in a series on League of Legends is an essential not to be missed. Nevertheless, in view of his heritage, Arcane could have afforded to go even further, which is one of our wishes for the future, if there is a follow-up.
Sublimation through music
Another area that would have taken slightly more effort is lip syncing. Indeed, it is not perfectly fluid or faithful at certain times. However, the excellent dubbing clearly catches up with this defect, which is more or less common to all animation series. The latter is well executed and the vocals stick well to the personalities of the characters. However, we cannot vouch for the French version at the time of this writing.
The rest of the soundtrack is simply masterful. The instruments perfectly accompany moments as sad as they are intense, through the unbearable suspense during certain sequences. Arcane also introduces some modern music in a rather subtle and always well integrated way. These create a mismatch between the moment in history and our time, reminding us that themes of Arcane are ultimately timeless.
They also bring the little touch badass that we expected in a series on Jinx and Vi. Netflix even pays for the luxury of getting an unreleased song by Imagine Dragons in credits, which we have absolutely nothing to blame (we have already put it in our Spotify playlist).