I don’t game, but I loved Arcane

An understanding of the online game League of Legends is not required to appreciate the new Netflix show’s masterful storytelling and animation.

Photo+illustration+by+Tate+Hildyard

Tate Hildyard

Photo illustration by Tate Hildyard

Josie Fischels, Managing Editor


I’ve never played League of Legends — my passion for gaming extends only about as far as my poor Mario Kart skills. 

So when my friends who do play the online game urged me to watch Arcane on Netflix, I had my doubts. I had no knowledge of how League of Legends was played, who the playable characters were in it, and the animated style of the series made me impulsively react in the cringeworthy “I’m too cool for this,” way that bars so many of us from good content. 

Alas, reader, she was not too cool for this. 

Arcane is the origin story of two League of Legends champions, Vi (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) and Jinx (voiced by Ella Purnell), and it serves as a prequel to the game itself. The protagonist sisters, who find themselves fighting on opposite sides of an impending war between worlds, must navigate loss, corruption, and betrayal within their ultimate struggle to reunite. Along the way, dozens of other LoL champions make appearances, which I’m sure was even more exciting for actual LoL fans than it was for me, who spent a lot of the show Googling, “List of League of Legends champions” to get some background on each character.

But even had I not, I still would have understood the show perfectly. From the moment I settled in to test Arcane’s waters, I was immersed. I latched onto the irresistibly likable characters and the perfectly paced storyline, all set against the beautifully constructed and illustrated twin worlds of Piltover and Zaun. Every scene is immensely detailed, every character is complicated and dynamic, and all of their movements are full of vivid emotion. The show’s animation is a canvas filled with gorgeous splashes of beauty and destruction — just check out the trailer to see what I mean.  

And the fight scenes? Backed by Arcane’s excellent score, they were enough to make me geek out just as much as any hardcore LoL fan. Don’t even get me started on Ekko and Jinx’s epic face-off. Aside from the Imagine Dragons cameo in episode five that seemed a bit overkill (the band is responsible for the show’s opening title song), I was thoroughly impressed. 

Arcane’s storyline is gripping. It balances brilliantly on the edge of PG-13; just violent enough without showing gore, and just sexy enough without relying on sex (OK except that one time — but can you blame them? Pretty much every character in this show is ridiculously hot). 

In my opinion, Arcane’s storytelling works so well because of how little exposition it needs. There is no voiceover from the protagonist at the beginning, filling us in on the complexities of the technological utopian and dystopian cities we are about to see. There are no long, drawn-out monologues from the villains that are necessary to explain their motives. Arcane simply tosses you into the fray — the game’s already excellent and expansive lore does most of its work for it.

All of this means I wasn’t surprised to learn that Riot Games’ first TV adaptation of one of their games has been met with so much success. The series has already been renewed for a second season and continues to hold a 100 percent rating among critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

And I can practically guarantee that not everyone who reviewed the show has played the game. So take a few hours this finals week and get lost in Arcane, you won’t regret it. 

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