Arcane – Review
So what makes Arcane so good? Does it deserve critical acclaim? Let’s have a look, here’s our Arcane review.
If you told me earlier this year that a show based on League of Legends was going to be my favourite release of the year, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are. And I’m not the only one in this boat. Arcane holds a 100% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 98% audience score. On IMDB, it has a score of 9.3/10. This score beats Stranger Things, Squid Game, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. Putting it as one of Netflix’s highest-rated original series of all time. It also knocked Squid Game out of its number one spot on Netflix’s most-watched.
League of Legends
Arcane is based on the popular game League of Legends, which is notable for having an extremely toxic community. It’s a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. The aim is to work together to destroy a central base, competing against other teams. You choose a “champion” to play as, each with their own unique skills. And that’s the extent of the story. This isn’t a game that is centred around any narrative arc. But, there is extensive lore around each of the Champions. While it doesn’t come into play in actual gameplay, it’s there to be read if the player chooses.
No one hates League of Legends more than people who play League of Legends. It’s a common attitude online amongst players that everything relating to League is amazing except for the game. The Lore is rich and interesting, it consistently releases great music, and has awesome world-building. A more in-depth look at the Lore has been asked for by fans for a long time.
But can you enjoy the show without playing the game? Absolutely. You could have never heard of League of Legends and your enjoyment of the show will not be impacted at all. The only thing players have on casual viewers is noticing easter eggs and knowing where some characters will end up.
Who does Arcane follow?
There are over 140 champions in League. It would be impossible to feature all of them in one season of the show. So which champions are featured in Arcane? The primary characters of the show are champions Vi and Jinx, played by Hailee Steinfeld and Ella Purnell. The secondary plot features Jayce and Viktor, played by Kevin Alejandro and Harry Lloyd. Also featured are Ekko (Reed Shannon), Caitlyn (Katie Leung), Singed (Brett Tucker), and Heimerdinger (Mick Wingert). While this isn’t the full cast, it’s every champion in the show who is also featured in League.
The heart of Arcane is Vi and Powder/Jinx. The show centres around the sisters, and how they end up on opposite ends of a war. After accidentally blowing up her adoptive father and brothers while trying to save them, and then being abandoned by her sister Vi. (Who got arrested before she could go back for her). A young Powder is immediately adopted into a crime ring, led by Silco. Silco believes that the impoverished and oppressed side of the city Piltover, the Undercity, should be independent as the Nation of Zaun. He’ll do absolutely anything to achieve that goal. She becomes his right hand and adopts the name Jinx. Suffering from trauma-induced schizophrenia and PTSD. Jinx, encouraged by her new adoptive father, becomes a weapon and loose cannon. Building bombs and causing problems.
After about 7-`10 years, Vi, who had been in prison the entire time, is released by Caitlyn to investigate Silco. (Caitlyn is an Enforcer, a police officer, from a well-to-do family.) When Vi learns that her little sister Powder has become “Jinx,” she is driven to rescue her. She’s the only person who still believes that Jinx isn’t beyond saving.
While this is happening in the Undercity, Jayce and Viktor are being science nerds in the utopian and wealthy side of Piltover. Jayce believes that he can harness magic through science, which he succeeds at. As a result, he and Viktor elevate Piltover to become a global trading centre through the power of ‘hextech’. As Jayce’s power rises, causing him to have to navigate complicated politics, Viktor’s health deteriorates. Pushing them both to seek drastic measures, Jayce to protect Piltover from Silco and the Undercity, and Viktor to pursue questionable hextech to cure himself.
These two arcs are woven together in a well-written and easy to follow way. The world-building is effortless, and viewers have a handle on the dynamics of Piltover right away.
But what makes it so good?
The answer to that question comes in phenomenal character building and screenwriting. These are characters who, in-game, are extremely one dimensional. For example, in League, Jinx is just a fun psychotic anarchist with a love for arson and explosives. There’s no character to her beyond that in gameplay. Arcane takes a caricature and makes her feel like a tangible person. Jinx has motivation for every single thing she does. You understand where she’s coming from at all times, and what drives her is complex and interesting. She’s still fun, still blows things up, and is still at times goofy, but is also anxious, insecure, and cut off from her family. You learn that her silly anarchist attitude is a defence mechanism of a severely traumatized and mentally ill teenager.
The show also does an excellent job at portraying her mental illnesses not a character flaw, but as part of the situation, the character is in. She’s complicated, and even though she’s aligned with the “villain” you still sympathize with her.
And Jinx is just one example. They take Vi from a sexy brawler to a perseverant, hot-headed older sister, not just to Jinx but to every kid she grew up within the Undercity. She’s a natural leader and a capable fighter who still believes in Jinx after everyone else has given up on her. Even someone like Silco, who is not in the game, is given a complex arc. He’s a drug lord and antagonist, but he’s fighting for what he believes is best for the Undercity. When you’re dealing with Piltover, who doesn’t care about the extreme poverty in the Undercity, discriminates against them, and at times exploits them, you can absolutely understand where Silco is coming from. He also genuinely loves Jinx as a daughter while also contributing to her psychosis and manipulating her into becoming a weapon.
Every single character in this show, from big to small, feels like a real person. If they have a line, that line is said with intention and motivation behind it. The character and world-building are on par and even might be better than early Game of Thrones. Arcane has some of the most diverse and well-written characters of any show on television currently.
Arcane is also dealing with some complex and topical themes. It touches on police brutality, systematic oppression, privilege, wealth disparity, and a lot more. Including excellent LGBTQ representation. And it does so without feeling preachy or performative.
The entire season is building up to a war and ends with the war kicking off. In any other show, that would feel slow. It would feel like being in a plane that’s about to take off, and then being asked to get off right before it starts flying. It’s the problem I have with Dune and the first season of Game of Thrones. But I never felt that way watching Arcane. You’re introduced to a world that feels original and exciting and every corner of it is fascinating to explore. And this war is complex, with good and evil on both sides of it. This show isn’t dealing with a black and white straight-lined conflict. The characters fall on a spectrum in terms of how to solve the tension between Piltover and Zaun, and there really isn’t an answer to it that doesn’t have its flaws.
Arcane’s animation is also uniquely gorgeous. It’s a stunning mix of 2D and 3D animation. It’s something that hasn’t been seen before, and it looks like a moving painting. The show is beautiful and thoughtfully crafted. Not to mention that the details are incredible. For example, when Jinx steals from Piltover she finds a little mechanical butterfly.
For three episodes, we can see versions of that butterfly in her workshop and get little shots of her building and studying them. She then makes hundreds of them that double as bombs, which she uses to wreak havoc. She never says anything about them, special attention is not drawn to them, but if you pay attention you notice that they weaved that plot point in the background of several episodes. There are dozens of examples just like that. Care is put into every character and set design. There is no detail too small that doesn’t have meaning.
Simply put, Arcane is a work of art. It absolutely deserves to be recognized as Netflix’s best original series. From revolutionary animation to stellar writing, Arcane is set up to be one of the best shows of the decade. It’s already been renewed for a second season, with speculation that it will come out in 2023. Until then, I’ll be rewatching Arcane.
Did you like Arcane? Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our seven Animes for newcomers HERE.
Read IMDB information about Arcane HERE.
Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review
Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!
Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.
This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.
Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.
Shades of grey
This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.
With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.
This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.
Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.
Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10
Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.
Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.
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