Kids who grew up in the 90s know how their beloved anime shows capture the joy and warmth of their carefree childhood days. Anime from that period is often cited as the inspiration for today’s top shows due to its innovative storytelling, stunning visuals, memorable soundtracks, and strong characters.
Influenced by the golden age of anime, Riot Games’ Arcane series for League of Legends, most particularly its tone, brings 90s revival to a whole new level of nostalgia.
Arcane is Riot Games’ first animated series, created in collaboration with Parisian studio Fortiche Productions and based on the wildly successful multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) League of Legends released in 2009. The game has two teams, each with five players controlling virtual avatars called “champions,” and takes place on a map depicting a battlefield; the winner is the first team to destroy the opposing base.
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The 2022 championships were held from September 29 to November 5 in Mexico and the United States, with several fans rooting for South Korea’s DRX, which bagged a 3-2 victory over T1 to win their first-ever World Championship title. A record-breaking 5 million people tuned in to witness the finals, demonstrating the game’s enduring appeal. The nine-episode animated series based on the mega-hit game was equally well-received by fans. It won a second-season order shortly after garnering a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Set in a multi-layered world that includes both the utopian Piltover and the oppressed Zaun, the Netflix series follows two sisters as they strive to become legendary champions while facing challenges to their allegiance to each other along the way. The show’s engaging plot, intriguing characters, stellar soundtrack, and innovative animation technique have earned it numerous accolades. Arcane co-creators Christian Linke and Alex Yee opened up about the show’s classic anime influences in a recent Ask Me Anything thread (AMA) on Reddit. Yee recalled a conversation he had with Linke after an “epiphany,” which led them to establish an “edgier anime” tone similar to what they “appreciated growing up.” The Riot veterans set out to do just that with their goal of capturing the feeling of nostalgia for anime’s most promising decade by building a “bridge from childhood to adulthood.” The makers also spent a lot of time discussing the influence of 90s anime on the series’ artistic elements, and shows like Gungrave, Cowboy Bebop, Hellsing, Berserk, Samurai Champloo, and Ghost in the Shell were specifically cited as sources of inspiration.
Fortiche’s Head of Animation, Barthélémy Maunoury, was “blown away” by Arcane’s ambitiousness and scope. Maunoury, in discussing the show’s visual approach, emphasised the importance of striking the “right balance between realistic animation and cartoon animation” due to Arcane’s focus on “semi-realistic” characters. Incorporating motion-capture technology allowed animators to create a unique visual style that frequently breaks the conventions and is “more extreme.” Maunoury also mentioned the extensive flexibility granted to animators to implement their own ideas into each shot or sequence as a result of the fantastic ideation sessions that took place. The effort paid off, as Maunoury was nominated for an Annie Award, alongside Fortiche’s co-founders Pascal Charrue and Arnaud Delord, for outstanding direction in a television or broadcast episode.
Arcane’s producers achieved a look evocative of vintage anime by fusing the iconic 2D animation style of the best 1990s anime shows with breath-taking 3D graphics. Maunoury states that all the characters were created with 3D models and props, with 2D animation utilised to provide texture and effects like mist, rain, and fire. While the two-dimensional painted backdrops are what makes the sequences look fantastic, the compositing team on the series is what really makes it all come together.
Since its release, Arcane has received numerous accolades, including nine Annie Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards, cementing its status as a critical and commercial success that encapsulates the finest of 1990s anime.