Arcane’s first act is a brilliant start to a gritty, heartbreaking story between League’s most dichotomous sisters and region

League fans and general cinema buffs alike will find something wonderful within the flames and fury of this series opener.

Image via Riot Games

How far will you go to protect your family? Some people are willing to fight for their own, while others will even die for them. But sometimes, the notion of family can be a little bit more complicated than just the blood running through your veins.

Riot Games’ first foray into the world of filmmaking has arrived with the premiere of its animated Netflix series Arcane and the aforementioned question is what drives so many of the titular characters throughout the show’s explosive and heart-wrenching first act.

Arcane is set in the fictional world of Runeterra and, more specifically, in the regions of Piltover and Zaun. These twin cities are equally as impressive in culture, diversity, and opportunities. But the former is bathed in golden light, luxuries, and stature, while the other is a dark mirror filled with crime, toxic waste, and shadows in every corner. Separate yet synonymous, you can’t mention one city without the other because they’re that closely entwined.

Image via Riot Games

Within the show, the two main stories are easy to follow: Among the brilliance of Piltover, two ambitious scientists are trying to find a way to harness the volatile energy of magic to help their society move even farther into the future as leaders of their known world. In the murky shadows of Zaun, two street kid sisters and their makeshift family look to secure a better future for themselves, while also grappling with the struggles of their own daily lives and the demons within.

Now, one of the first questions that people have asked about Arcane is if they need to do research on League of Legends or play the game. The answer to that is a resounding no. There’s plenty to enjoy in Arcane whether you’re a die-hard fan or someone looking for another show to pick up on your Netflix list.

Screengrab via Riot Games/Netflix YouTube

For players, there are so many aspects that you’ll appreciate in terms of what Riot has done to help bring the lore of Runeterra to fruition. From the many odes to in-game elements to familiar champions coming to life on the big screen, longtime League enthusiasts will find many moments to smile about. If you’re coming into this universe blind, however, things will be just as exciting. For example, most League players are familiar with the characters of Vi and Jinx and will appreciate the deep dive into the backstory of two of the oldest and most iconic champions in the game.

But for newcomers, you’re thrown into a pivotal moment between two intriguing main characters as their relationship evolves and grows from the decisions they make and the environment around them. It’s a story that’s easily jumped into and shouldn’t provide many question marks as you watch for the first time. Arcane is built for anyone, no assembly required.

“Welcome to the Playground”

Image via Riot Games

With shows based in fiction, only the best storytellers can successfully immerse their viewers into the lives they’ve created for the screen.

In Arcane, even though they’re surrounded by magic and monsters, the characters and their predicaments still bring a relatable side that many people can connect to and empathize with. For example, our pink-haired, punch-first hero Vi is dealing with the weight of adult-like responsibilities at too young an age. At the same time, she’s also trying to forge a better life for her, her sister Powder, and the rest of her family—even though it seems almost impossible.

Powder is struggling with self-doubt as she fails to show her worth among the people she cares so much about over and over again. In the end, she and the viewers come to a crushing realization that sometimes, bad decisions aren’t worth the good intentions. Jayce and Viktor, on the other hand, both want to change their world for the better and are also looking to prove that they’re bigger than the expectations set for them by society.

Screengrab via Riot Games/Netflix YouTube

The world within the show might be a mystical place, but the problems these characters are going through are familiar to so many people at a personal level. Whether its Powder pounding on her head as she frantically searches her mind for a way to help her family or Vi’s voiceless screams as she helplessly loses her loved ones, these scenes tug at your heartstrings as you begin to understand why they were driven to the extents they reached by the end of act one.

Within three episodes, the Arcane team has created a beautiful appetizer for viewers to prepare their palette for the variety of flavors set to arrive over the next two weeks. Fans ran through a whole plethora of emotions over the course of 120 minutes.

We started the series with a somber and melancholic intro, found excitement as Vi and Powder’s group traversed the city, felt dread during the dark, brooding moments with Silco, and finally experienced absolute desolation when the two sisters’ relationship shattered on the rain-soaked cobblestone in the final moments of episode three.

Like Marvel’s Iron Man or DC’s Man of Steel, every memorable cinematic universe has its birthplace. People didn’t know it at the time, but those pieces of film were the starting point for some of the greatest sagas we’ve seen on our screens. Now, Riot has the opportunity to gather the building blocks to create its own cinematic kingdom to challenge the giants of the industry. But first, we must see if Arcane can continue to burn brightly after such an amazing debut.

With brilliant animation from Fortiche Studios setting the stage for this captivating tale, the curtains have finally been pulled back and the lights are brighter than ever before as we settle in for the show that could set the tone for future Riot projects to come. It’ll be hard to wait until the next act begins on Nov. 13.

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