Okay, so, big reveal, I love anything animated. Cartoons, anime, video games, movies, you name it. So, that new League of Legends animated series on Netflix, Arcane, ticks so many of my boxes that I seriously can’t wait — and I’m not even a big LoL fan!
Buuuuut, that creates a serious problem for viewers. Sure, you might have a lot of absorbed knowledge about LoL, but is this new show going to be a Marvel movie situation where you don’t understand what has set up the plot because you haven’t seen the last five or so movies?
Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated… unless you want it to be that complicated. We’re going to go through everything you need to know about League of Legends before getting stuck into Arcane.
Do I need to understand League of Legends lore before I watch Arcane?
Thankfully, not really. Arcane looks amazing, like the visual spectacle animated shows should be these days, straying firmly away from the Family Guy and Rick and Morty-like art styles of most modern animated shows. Its style is very unique, like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, but without the comic book influence and art style.
Rather, Arcane has roots of its own — the massively popular MOBA game League of Legends. LoL is absolutely huge, and has been for just over 10 years now, ever since it departed from the original Warcraft III mod Defence of the Ancients (DOTA, which went on to be its own game, DOTA 2). Over the years, the heroes roster has been bumped up to 157 characters, each with unique abilities and traits.
That’s how LoL started — but what about the story! Like a lot of online-only games, LoL’s story developed over time, with new bits of lore, new characters and new stories being added through updates, comics and cinematics.
Like when a Marvel movie bases its story on a comic series or a comic character, it doesn’t just take the lore and transplant it onto the screen — it creates something inspired and different, to interest old and new fans alike. That’s really the gist of what’s going on with Arcane.
This is also a good time to mention that LoL has a looong history of creating nice-looking animated cinematics. One of Arcane’s main characters, the psychotic gunslinging Jinx, got her own music video back in 2013.
There’s a lot on the official LoL YouTube channel — from skin announcements, to longer-form renditions of battles, to straight-up music videos (such as those featuring one of the games fictional bands, K/DA), and the weirdest part is that they all sort of exist and don’t exist in the same canon.
That’s because the game uses a multiverse to explain a lot of these extra bits, but it’s mostly an excuse for the game to shoehorn in extra skins. It’s also why the styles of so many characters are vastly different, from sci-fi music producers, to steampunk robots, to those who studied the blade. OK, sorry, it is complicated.
Here’s the best bit: even though this stuff is important to LoL, it mostly has its own throughline — the events of Runeterra Prime, the game’s main universe. It’s where the most basic lore of the game takes place (where most of the characters are from) and where most of the games in-lore events take place — which brings us to Arcane.
Is Arcane canon in League of Legends?
Not really — it’s mostly inspired by LoL, but to some extent, it’s likely canon in LoL’s multiverse soup. Think of it like this: if the main events of the game occur in ‘Runeterra Prime’, then the events of Arcane occur in ‘Runeterra Prime: Netflix Edition’.
Arcane brings in a lot of focus, which has always been absent from LoL, given its dependence on being a multiplayer title without a linear storyline (aka it doesn’t have a game mode focused on lore). Instead of being focused on the gameplay, Arcane homes in on the political divide between Piltover and Zaun, and the relationship between Vi and Jinx.
Piltover and Zaun are canonical parts of the LoL Runeterra Prime universe, and Vi and Jinx are canonically sisters in the game, although these elements are rarely explored. The show will dive deeply into these things, while also drawing in other characters from the original game.
Jinx has long been a bit of a mascot for LoL, and her character is definitely worth fleshing out for the sake of the show. From what we’ve heard and seen, she’ll be pretty accurate to her in-game portrayal.
Caitlyn, Viktor, Jayce and Heimerdinger will also be appearing in Arcane, but you won’t have to know really anything about them before seeing them on the screen.
Now, will Arcane have any impact on LoL? It’s tough to say. Maybe there will be a new character introduced through the show that will make an appearance in the game later on.
When DOTA 2’s anime was released (DOTA: Dragons Blood, also on Netflix), a new character, Marci, was introduced to the lore, and was added to the official game back in October. So it’s not unprecedented, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Arcane will be streaming its first act on Netflix from November 6.