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Review: Act 1 of ‘Arcane’ a good setup for something hopefully greater

Graphic by Kyle St. John

To be entirely transparent, I have been playing Riot Games’ “League of Legends” for over 7 years now, and have been aware of and interacting with the game’s colorful cast of characters for a good while.

However, despite the game’s popularity, it is surprising that it has taken until 2021, 12 years since the game’s initial release in 2009, for us to get a fully animated series that takes place in the game’s world. 

While Riot Games has made a point to create a number of varied and detailed stories about their characters in a written format, this marks the first time that we get to see and understand the detailed backstories of some of the game’s characters.

Netflix’s new series “Arcane” focuses on the backstories of some of League’s most well known and popular characters, including Vi, Jinx, Jayce, Caitlyn and Viktor, amongst others.

While we only receive a small number of in-game context clues as to these characters’ pasts and motivations, this series provides a much greater perspective on these fan-favorites.

Despite the series’ roots as a connecting piece of “League,” my favorite part of this series is its ability to stand on its own and not entirely rely on in-game references to appeal to an audience. There is still a compelling story of class struggles at the center of it all, and the series itself is easily approachable to  avid players of “League” or those that have never even heard of the game. 

The biggest issue with this act is that it is doing a fair amount of legwork in setting up the characters and their motivations for what will inevitably be a greater rising action in the upcoming second and third parts.

The first three episodes do a good job of getting the audience to understand the motivations and influences of several characters’ development, as well as ending on an enticing cliffhanger to make sure the audience comes back for the next parts. However, the act as a whole does a bit too much setup work, and it may not have the legs to stand on its own when the rest of the episodes are released.

Overall, I think that Act 1 is a great start for “Arcane” as a series, as well as this style of “League” backstory as a whole. I’m excited to see both how this series continues, as well as if we will continue to get similar series revolving around different characters in the “League of Legends” world.

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