‘Arcane’ Is a Work of Art

The Netflix series Arcane, a collaboration between Riot Games and Studio Fortiche, is an animated show based on the popular computer game League of Legends. Science fiction author Zach Chapman loved Arcane, despite having never played League of Legends.

“You don’t have to have any knowledge of the game,” Chapman says in Episode 536 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “In fact, less knowledge of the game is even better. It doesn’t need any of that. It just works really great as a standalone show.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley was blown away by the show’s visual style, a distinctive blend of 2D and 3D elements. “I’m looking forward to seeing more of this art style,” he says. “You can freeze any frame, and it looks like a really good illustration from a Dungeons & Dragons manual. So I think it’s super cool.”

Fantasy author Lara Elena Donnelly was excited to see an animated series that contains complex characters and adult themes. “There are parts of it that almost feel like you’re watching a Scorsese cop movie where no one is good,” she says. “Everyone has their own agenda, everyone thinks their way is the best way, and they’re all trying to play each other. It has a lot of sophisticated power dynamics that are very surprising in an animated video game adaptation.”

Fantasy author Erin Lindsey also enjoyed Arcane, but warns that the show doesn’t really hit its stride until Episode 3. “I think the first couple of episodes can lull you into a sense that you’ve seen these plot beats before and that you’ve seen this story before,” she says. “You haven’t. It will surprise you again and again.”

Listen to the complete interview with Zach Chapman, Lara Elena Donnelly, and Erin Lindsey in Episode 536 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Zach Chapman on character design:

It’s very clear that the [characters] were designed by a video game company. A lot of the characters look like Activision characters. Jinx, to me, looks like Junkrat—though I’m pretty sure she came before Junkrat. And Ekko looks and kind of acts like DJ from Overwatch 2 … There’s a beauty to the design that goes down to a very minute level of detail that’s just really impressive. There’s a scene in Episode 5 where there’s this shark-looking street vendor, and he gives Vi some food and some intel. And the design of that character has more personality than any of the designs in Blood of Zeus, for example. He’s in one scene and he looks amazing.

David Barr Kirtley on character death:

What convinces Victor that his experiments are too dangerous is that his lab assistant, who has a crush on him, gets incinerated by his experiment. And I think that character had maybe one previous scene where she had made any sort of impression on me. So when she dies, my reaction was split between horror and like, “Wait, who was that again?” So I felt like either that character should have been developed a little bit more or some character that we cared about more should have been incinerated, for that moment to have the impact that it might have had.

Erin Lindsey on Arcane Season 2:

I really don’t know who’s going to be left alive. I think Jayce has to survive, but I could totally see Mel dying. That’s part of the brutal irony of having her symbolically and literally reject her family legacy as she sits there and removes the ring of her house, when her house is this overseas power that’s known for its brutal ruthlessness. And her mum wasn’t in the room, so her mum definitely survives. And she’s probably going to be cranky about it and use this as an opportunity to leverage her position and take over. And I can see Jayce—since we’ve already established that traumatic events change his personality drastically from one minute to the next—I can see him also using Mel’s death as the thing that turns him to the dark side.

Lara Elena Donnelly on Studio Fortiche:

I’m so happy that this got made. I’m astonished that it got made a little bit, because there’s just nothing else like it on television. Watching it, I was just like, “How did they say, ‘Yes, let’s do this. Let’s do nine almost-hour-long animated episodes of this show that’s not for kids’?” It’s just amazing to me that it got made. I’m so happy it got made, and I want them to make more of it. And they are making more of it, and I’m 100 percent going to watch it. When they’re done with Arcane, I would love to see them do more animated TV and movies, because they just produce absolutely breathtaking work.

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