I was late to the party when it came to Arcane. I’ve been hearing for months that the Netflix animated series was fantastic, so this week I finally sat down and watched the first season. Man, this show lived up to the hype and then some!
Set in the utopian city Piltover and it’s oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows orphaned sisters, Vi and Powder, whose lives have been shaped by tragedy, loss, and betrayal. The sisters eventually find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict, that’s ready engulf both Piltover and Zaun -and possibly tear them apart forever.
However, before they’re eventually ripped apart, for a time, the sisters seemed to have carved out something resembling a happy life. As the big sister, Vi has always been deeply protective of Powder. Despite it’s problems, their remains a glimmer of a sense of community among the people of Zaun, and the sisters are able to make a home in The Undercity. They even develop a surrogate family, forming strong bonds with others just trying to scrape by in the unforgiving Zaun.
Despite it’s appearance as a gleaming, steampunk metropolis, Piltover is a city divided: The affluent, prosperous city above…
…and the crime-ridden Zaun or The Undercity, as its most commonly referred to, ravaged by poverty, crime, and addiction. Piltlover’s police force/military, The Enforcers, are responsible for keeping the peace in the whole city. Yet they abuse their power and victimize the more vulnerable people in Zaun, the people they’re supposed to protect. The real power in The Undercity belong to kingpins and crime lords, all too happy to keep the corrupt Enforcers and Council Members who run the city, in their pockets.
After another tragic, personal loss, involving a bloody showdown with Silco, one of the cities most powerful and dangerous crime lords, the sisters are abruptly and unwillingly separated.
Neither sister is completely certain what happened to the other. If there’s one the two have in common, it’s that they’re survivors. So, while separated, both sisters do what they have to do to survive.
Years pass, and Vi finally returns home. Determined to find her sister, Vi receives help from the last place she’d expect, a rookie Enforcer named Caitlyn. The only daughter from a wealthy family in upper Piltover, Caitlyn is one of the only Enforcers who isn’t corrupt. Unlike many of her colleagues, she genuinely wants to help people in need.
As she accomplices Vi to The Undercity, she shares Vi’s disgust with what has happened to her home. With Silco now the undisputed Kingpin of Zaun, The Undercity has sunk into chaos. Drugs, violence, and crime have ravaged this once tight knit community. Vi holds Silco responsible for turning her home into as cesspool, as well as her separation from her sister.
Unfortunately, Vi’s sister is not the sweet little girl that she once knew. Now going by the name Jinx, she works for Silco as his right hand woman and surrogate daughter (with some slightly creepy sexual undertones). Jinx is feared as a dangerous, and seriously unhinged, part of Silco’s operati|on. Does Jinx even want to be “saved” by her sister? Or is she too far gone?
This is a phenomenal series. Flawless pacing, gorgeous and dynamic animation, as well as incredible voice performances, Arcane is simply a story well told, on EVERY level. This show would still be killer,even if the animation wasn’t top notch, but Arcane boasts beautiful animation that rivals blockbuster studios like Pixar. There are a lot of fight scenes in this series and that’s where the animation really shines. Each fight is telling a story. The fights never get repetitive because they’re all unique and dynamic. I found myself rewinding and rewatch certain fight sequence four or five times because the creators bring so much to each scene.
Every character feels real and fleshed out. Arcane understand that no one thinks they’re the villain of their own story. Characters with the noblest of intentions find themselves morally compromised, crossing ethical lines in service of a greater good. Men and women we would label villains or monsters, display unexpected love and compassion. All of Arcane’s characters are nuanced and well written, there are no “good guys“ and “bad guys“. Even Silco, the character who could most easily be described as the “villain“, has some of the most compassionate and vulnerable moments in the entire series. Just like the real world, people exist across an entire moral spectrum of complex emotions. While It’s easy to throw around labels like, “The Bad Guy” or “Villain”, the truth is often much more complicated. People aren’t born evil, they’re shaped into the person they become through the trauma and tragedy they experienced. It’s a refreshing change of pace because we rarely see this kind of sophisticated storytelling.
It wasn’t until after I finished watching the first season of this excellent show, that I found out it was actually based on a video game. Now I have no idea what kind of game this is, is it an RPG? A fighting game? I don’t know. The point is that this world and these characters are entirely new to me. Yet through Arcane’s incredible storytelling and compelling characters, I totally fell in love with this world and the characters who live in it. I was in! 100%!
As I mentioned before the voice work in this series is extremely impressive, led by Hailee Steinfeld who plays Vi. Hailee Steinfeld has been crushing it this year with great performances in Arcane and Hawkeye. who plays the lead character by. This series is just excellence across-the-board. I almost forgot to mention the show’s great music. Arcane has one of the best soundtracks for a series that I’ve come across in awhile. If you’re looking for something to dive into now that The Book of Boba Fett and Peacemaker have wrapped up their seasons, Arcane is the show to watch. Simply put, Arcane is a storytelling masterpiece. This series gets my highest recommendation!
Thanks for reading ! Follow us on Twitter @PJWrightWBM, Instagram @worldsbestmedia2017, and our Facebook Page, Worlds Best Media. Those likes and follows, as well as iTunes reviews for the podcast, go a long way to supporting World’s Best Media. We really appreciate the loyalty and support shown to us by our fans, so thanks again! Stay healthy and stay safe!