“Power doesn’t come to those who were born strongest. It comes to those who would do anything to achieve it.”
A good adaptation is a tightrope walk, balanced between relying too much on fans’ love of the source material and veering so far off it’s unrecognizable.
Video game adaptations, in particular, have historically had a hard time with this.
Netflix’s Arcane, based on Riot Games’ League of Legends, seems like it would struggle with the same problem.
League of Legends has a fiercely devoted fanbase, but even its most popular characters are largely unknown to the general public.
Arcane sidesteps that issue by making it essentially a new backstory for some of the game’s most popular characters.
That way, fans get a deep-dive into the lore of LoL and its characters, and newcomers aren’t missing anything the show itself won’t fill in later.
As Arcane opens, a group of kids from the slums of Zaun pull off a heist in the city-on-a-hill Piltover.
That act spirals out into a crackdown on Zaun by Piltover’s crooked cops, the invention of magic-powered technology called hextech, and a looming war between the two cities.
Even with all the world-changing fallout of hextech and a mutation-inducing drug called shimmer at the center of Arcane, the show is at its best when it stays focused on its characters.
The relationship between sisters Vi and Powder (later Jinx) remains the strongest part of Arcane’s story from beginning to end.
Even if Arcane’s fairly conventional story doesn’t appeal to you, there’s still a good reason to give it a shot:
The show looks like video game concept art come to life, packed with worldbuilding details and incredible scene-setting shots of Piltover and Vaun.
Just a glance at Arcane’s settings shows the cities are worlds apart — exemplified by Piltover enforcers dawning gas masks just to enter Zaun.
Arcane’s animation shines spectacularly well in action scenes, which are brutal and gorgeous in equal measure.
LoL players won’t need convincing, but it’s fans of animation who should really make sure Arcane is on their watch list.
Season two is already in production for release after 2022.