2021, TV

Arcane (2021)

This was recommended to me by work colleagues whose pop culture tastes I don’t yet know. I mention that because I might not have started this show if I’d known much about it. It is apparently associated with the League of Legends game franchise, something I know nothing about.

So immediately, there is the obvious problem of where the undercity is and how it is lit. I guess because the show is animated this doesn’t bother people but it’s never even addressed. There is regular implication it’s next to the topside but, again, it’s never spelled out.

While I’m on nitpicks, the technology and magic is typically inexplicable. It’s magic as technology but we’re never even treated to technobabble about it, they just think that calling it “arcane” or “hextech” is enough and they don’t need to flesh out what it does. That would be fine if I liked the show.

My biggest issue with the show is that it’s a collection of tropes:

  • a class rivalry between the rich (who are literally closer to the sun in this case) and the poor, and their respective elites
  • a rivalry between the young and old about the uses and abuses of technology/magic
  • kids growing up to fast due to no parents
  • two siblings separated when they are young, with one on a different path because of that separation
  • a good magic/technology and a bad magic/technology
  • and lots of more.

If you’ve seen Star Wars, Hunger Games or any number of other popular science fiction or fantasy films and series, you’ve encountered the tropes in this show. And, it should go without saying, if you’ve read any of the sources of these stories, you have also encountered these tropes. They are extremely old tropes. The show thinks they’re not because they have been added to this video game’s own universe and because the hero and antihero are sisters. But there’s nothing new here, at all.

Of course, the reason to use these tropes is because they are effective. And it’s not all bad in the sense that the show isn’t particularly boring and executes reasonably well. The reason people like this show is not just because of a familiar story in a new setting but because it’s reasonably well told for an animated show inspired by a video game. It could absolutely be worse.

But it’s still just a new repetition of a combination of some extremely old stories. I will not be watching it when it returns.


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