Arcane Not Only Deserves To Win An Emmy, I’ll Be Surprised If It Loses

Arcane has been nominated for Outstanding Animated Program at this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards. It stands alongside fellow nominees The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, What If…?, and Rick & Morty. Given the competition, I reckon it has a pretty strong chance of picking up the gold. Heck, if it doesn’t, feel free to come round my house and slap me in the face.

I have a lot of respect for The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers, but compared to Arcane they aren’t exactly pushing the medium forward. Both are sitcoms that have been around for years and will continue to trade in the same formula moving forward. Rick & Morty is far more experimental and outlandish, but doesn’t quite hit itself out of the same ballpark.

What If…? is the only real exception here with its excellent animation style, but it was frequently let down by a disappointing story that ditched the anthology promise for a connected multiversal team-up. That makes three in Phase 4 alone. That and it had an underwhelming reception from viewers compared to other shows in the MCU. It has a fantastic concept, but didn’t do nearly enough to set itself apart from its neighbouring shows and films. It was a missed opportunity if we’re being honest, and not something I’m sure a second season can rectify.

This leaves Arcane, which blows them all out of the water. Its narrative feels somewhat rushed in the final act, but otherwise it takes the daunting League of Legends universe and makes it palatable for a casual audience. This task previously felt impossible, but by translating the worlds of Piltover and Zaun into a parallel universe of sorts it was able to craft a new story without harming the established canon. I made a point to avoid League before Arcane, but now I’m in love with it.

My love is only growing due to the coming debut of Star Guardian which features both magical girl skins and a new song from Porter Robinson. There’s also the sapphic brilliance of CaitVi that has held my gay heart hostage for the better part of a year at this point. Make it gay, cute, or anime and there’s a big chance I’ll come knocking and refuse to leave, which is exactly what went down with Arcane. Except it isn’t just about me latching onto a fandom, the show managed to accomplish so much more than that outside of its own echochamber.

Riot Games knew Arcane was going to be a big deal. It spent years in production with an unparalleled attention to detail in its animation, new origin stories for beloved characters, and an approach to storytelling that wasn’t afraid to weave together a mature yarn of love, loss, betrayal, action, and so much more. Fans weren’t the only ones tuning in. I spoke to friends and siblings who had never touched League of Legends in their lives and couldn’t stop talking about how good the show was. Granted, I was convinced some of my friends watched it wrong when they couldn’t see the chemistry between Vi and Caitlyn, but even they still loved the show.

Netflix as a platform helped matters too, with its prestige and a presumably hefty budget allowing Arcane to take centre stage without anything standing in its way. Part of me wished that similar Netflix shows like Midnight Gospel and Dead End: Paranormal Park were afforded a similar amount of attention, but Arcane has always felt like it exists on another level. League of Legends is one of the biggest games in the world, so of course one of its first forays into a new medium was going to be met with huge anticipation.

Arcane breaks the rules of all previous video game adaptations, and proves that shows don’t need to dedicate themselves to the source material or even risk bastardising it. They can be their own thing with distinct takes on characters that even have the potential to supersede what came before. It accomplished that so beautifully, while proving that animation can have universal appeal without pandering to children or dumbing itself down to meet some strange societal prejudice towards what the medium is and should be capable of. An Emmy win would cement that statement of intent, while showering the praise upon Arcane that it more than deserves for changing the game and making me fall in love with League of Legends.

If it doesn’t win, the invitation to come round my house and slap me in the face still stands.

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