Working Through The Queue: Arcane: League of Legends Season 1 (2021)
Arcane is another one of those popular video game franchises attempting to branch out into more multimedia venues and succeeding wildly, and damn if this series doesn't at least have me watching lore videos of the game world as I'm waffling on giving the game a try. I probably never will, but you have to appreciate a show so well done that it can tempt you when you have no background at all in the existing material.
Set in the not too distant past of the game's core timeline, Arcane follows a wide cast of engaging characters in a sort of magical steampunk style world. At the center of the story are sisters Vi and Powder, whose struggles highlight the class divide between the technologically advanced city of Piltover and the undercity of Zaun.
Netflix originally staggered the release of the season in three episode chunks, which was lucky for me because I was so hooked within the first chunk that I probably would have not gotten any sleep that night if I had the whole season available. The storytelling is just top notch with a great sense of pacing and balance as we get a number of different stories slowly developing and giving us plenty of time to care for all of the characters. Toss on top of that a fantastic cast of voice actors and some truly beautiful blending of 2D and CG animation and you just get a really fluid and fully fleshed out production that leaves you feeling really immersed in its worldbuilding.
The series also does a great job of avoiding any hollow 'big bad' type of villains as well, instead offering antagonists with developed personalities, motivations, and actual sympathetic emotions. Underground crime boss Silco is manipulative, murderous, and generally terrible, which is why it's great that even he seems surprised by the emotional attachments he develops by the end of the season and the paths they lead him down.
Part of the storytelling balance is also in the strength of the action sequences and they do not slack around in that department. This is where the fluid animation style really shines, offering us vibrant and kinetically choreographed action sequences that embody the personalities of the characters as well. They also do an impressive job of finding just the right balance of action to plot and story, as well as the right balance on the levels of violence. It doesn't shy away from brutality, but it also never feels gratuitous, and that's a really tricky line to navigate.
As someone with no background or attachments going in I was genuinely floored by the overall quality and accessibility of the show. I kind of wonder how it plays to long time fans of the franchise and if it steps on any continuity/lore toes, but I also sorta don't really care because I just want a good story. So if you're in the mood for exceptionally well crafted world building and a truly fun fantasy adventure then I highly recommend giving this a shot.