Vi bounces her leg when she's nervous. This is a small, but charming, habit she displays throughout the first four episodes of Arcane. It's an action that she continues to do during the Netflix series, which is based on League of Legends lore. Vis's leg shakes with anxiety as she fights with her friend from their squashed armchair. Later, Vis's knee bounces when she sits alone in the darkened room facing certain doom. Vi feels real because it's like Vi has a past that she carries around with her.
Arcane is full of amazing action and beautiful animation. But it's the little details that truly bring the world alive. Jinx will only destroy it all.
Warning: There are some spoilers ahead for the first four episodes.
Arcane opens with the classic story of class warfare. It depicts violent clashes between Piltover's wealthy citizens and Zaun's poor, criminal society. Vi, Jinx, and their crew live in Zaun. Vi and Jinx were children in the first three episodes. Vi is the leader and founder of a small group of teenage outlaws. Jinx, who goes by Powder, is actually her little sister. She has a few years more heist experience than the others and is still growing. The fourth episode shows Vi and Jinx getting older and being on an equal footing.
They are surrounded by their family, which includes Vander, their father figure and unofficial mayor of Zaun. Vander, a former leader of resistance, runs The Last Drop bar and attempts to maintain peace with the Enforcers (Piltovers militarized security force). Scientists in Piltover are working on harnessing synthetic magic while Zaun's most evil forces are feeding monster soldiers shimmering purple liquid. It's a recipe for war.
The Arcanes diverse worlds are alive, vibrant and vast, Piltover shining among the clouds, Zaun hidden beneath the dirt filled with toxic green light, and Piltover shining in the sun. Fortiche Production, Riot Games' go-to animation studio, makes the show feel less anime-like and more Disney-like. The characters move smoothly and there are elaborate settings. Although the entire thing appears to be motion-capture technology-based, it was hand-animated using a combination of 2D/3D.
Arcane's fights are spectacular. Vi, a boxer, jumps in with her fists raised. Jinx, on the other hand, has a few semi-functional homemade bombs that are covered in crayons. Jinx can participate from afar, even though she would rather be there with the big kids. Larger battles are usually slow-motion with electronic music thumping through the scenes, and close-ups of heavy kicks, vicious punches, and last-second dodges. These fights can be viewed from a wider angle and have desktop-wallpaper potential.
Arcane spends time getting to know its characters and showing how they are interconnected. By episode three, the work has exploded into a huge fight scene that pays off in a powerful manner. Although Vi and Jinx may be bitter rivals in League of Legends lore they are actually sisters in Arcane. They have a deep, genuine love for each other. They help each other, save each other's lives, and then they fall apart. They are inseparable. They need to be ripped apart by something terrible, and Arcane is able to show us that every second of it. It is heartbreaking.
There are many League of Legends characters who play prominent roles in Arcane. A fan of the game, I feel a joyful spark whenever I recognize someone's name or face in Arcane. However, it won't diminish the enjoyment of the game if you don't know their names. This is an origin story.