Arcane (2021) Review – Well-done on-screen video game
When League of Legends first entered the video game scene in 2009, no one could have predicted the impact or longevity it would have on the gaming industry as a whole. What started out as a free little game quickly turned into a very inevitable media phenomenon – everywhere on the Internet and at events around the world. Some of the success can only be attributed to the developer Riots characters and world; it all apparently culminated with Arcane: League of Legends.
League of Legends didn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay. After all, the parallels of the game with titles like Defense of the Ancients (Dota) are well known. What a set League of Legends apart from the competition, however, created a world rich in lore. From day one, players could visit the League of Legends website and educate yourself on each champion or the universe as a whole. Riot in addition, they brought their universe to life through various forms of media; whether it’s comics, music videos, short films or the brand new Netflix original show, Esoteric (2021) (titled on screen as Arcane: League of Legends).
In the simplest terms, Esoteric follows the story of two beloved characters from League of Legends, namely the sisters Vi and Jinx. The series follows them from childhood, showcasing the challenges they face while growing up in the sub-town of Piltover (soon known as Zaun), a place divided by class and ideals. It’s also the town where they saw their parents get killed before being taken away by Vander, a man with his own dark past and secrets. In much deeper terms, Esoteric is a story of monsters and what makes someone become monster. Unfortunately, not much more can be said about the excellent narrative without spoiling the key elements and emotional points.
Audiences looking for a story told through long, rambling monologues will be disappointed with Esoteric. However, for those interested in a story told through raw, honest emotion, where exposure is communicated both visually and verbally, then Esoteric more than book. Viewers will be able to see the changes sisters go through in their lives and how the world and the people around them play a role in shaping the adults they have become, for better or for worse.
One of the essential aspects of League of Legendits always been the champions. Everyone who plays the game will have a favorite champion or two, and they will no doubt be able to explain the choices and traditions behind their favorites. This is only possible thanks to the wonderful world built by Riot for players to enjoy and consume. With that in mind, it’s great to see how this love for character development has translated into Esoteric, and still built on.
As the characters grow within the confines of the series’ narrative, they become more aware of their realities, for better or for worse. A good example of this is how Vi is portrayed losing her innocence when trapped in prison, but after her release she wants to use her freedom to make sure others don’t go through what she is doing. did. Conversely, her sister Jinx is the perfect example of what abandonment can do to someone. While Jinx is unaware that Vi has spent years in prison; in her mind, Vi has just left her. Eventually, and without the guidance Vi could provide, Jinx becomes a woman constantly on the verge of insanity.
Each character introduced in the series undergoes character development, ensuring that no character is the same in the last episode compared to the first. In this sense, many actors are introduced when they are young and innocent in the world in which they live. Therefore, every character, whether minor or significant, feels fleshed out or like a complete individual. Each has their own emotional struggles, challenges, and personalities – something few anime series can achieve.
For this reason alone, the overall tone never seems confused or overloaded; because no matter how many characters are added to an episode, they all feel fully realized and correctly interpreted. Further improving this point is the way the story is told. There are never two inherently good or bad characters. On the contrary, everyone exists in gray – much like in real life. As a result, and depending on their current motivations, viewers might end up looking for characters and archetypes that they might not normally associate with.
Complementing the incredible development of the character, the overall tale of Esoteric. It has been masterfully designed and fleshed out in a complex way, whereby love / hate, joy / pain, heat / cold; never feels scripted. Instead, it feels very organic and alive – lending delicious realism to the animation. This level of narrative development is a nice reminder of how League of Legends has always focused on tradition. In this way, Esoteric handles all the mythological complexities with incredible skill and aplomb. So much so that each character integrates seamlessly with each other and the world at large, to the point where one could almost forget how the story and the characters are actually derived from another medium outside of what is seen in Esoteric.
This is made even worse by how visually stunning the entire series can be. Almost to a point where it was sometimes a challenge to focus on something else. Whenever a new location or character was introduced, the animation would sparkle and once again draw viewers into its vortex of beauty. It is truly sublime.
Esoteric is so good in its overall execution, it begs the question: what makes a good video game adaptation? As a series created specifically for television, it presents a story that anyone can love; regardless of having prior knowledge of the game or even an interest in it. One only needs to look on social media to see how many non-gamers have found themselves addicted to the show, unable to look away. Instead of addressing only people who are already fans, Esoteric actively attracts new ones. This is where the beauty of the series really lies, not in its intricately animated environments and realistic depiction of intimate emotions, but in its unbridled accessibility.
One can enter the series completely devoid of any knowledge surrounding League of Legends and still absolutely fall in love with all it has to offer. Likewise, fans of the game who choose to delve into Esoteric will find themselves in a constant state of excitement in the face of all the hidden references and revelations; of which there are many. In the first episode, for example, eagle-eyed viewers should keep an eye out for when Vander wonders Benzos. There are many game-related items in the store, such as Tryndamere’s Helmet, The Heart of Gold (a beloved 2012 item that spawns five gold every 10 seconds), and Rabadon’s Deathcap.
However, it’s accessibility that really makes Esoteric so special, and the show reminds Star Wars: Visions (2019) in this regard. As a standalone product made for television, it has everything it needs to be great: a compelling story; goosebumps inducing score; impeccable art; an animation that feels alive; a world made beautiful through all its faults; and finally, characters with so many raw emotions that they feel realistic. All of this put together, allows Esoteric transcend from a simple adaptation to a work of art capable of standing entirely on its own. An incredible feat for what is, in the end, an adaptation of a video game to the medium that is television. With so many more stories still waiting to be told and so many champion stories ready to be explored, it’s certainly exciting to see what else. Riot will do with the series in the future.
Esoteric could be based on the League of Legends universe, but it stands on its own as a magnificent entertainment medium, living up to and exceeding the expectations placed on video game adaptations. From small moments and interactions between the characters, to the sets on a larger scale; Esoteric asks viewers to look inside themselves and ask if monsters are born or created? A simple question with a complicated answer, but one that is so delicately fleshed out in Arcane; it produces one of television’s strongest season ends; leaving viewers wanting more. It’s really no wonder that the series has already been renewed for a second season. The future of Esoteric is certainly very bright.
|One of the best, if not the best, video game adaptations||One of the strongest endings of a season that makes you want to watch Season 2 right away|
|Animation with special attention to detail|
|History accessible to all, whatever their prior knowledge|