Whatever Valve does, Riot Games seems to follow suit, and this is true for television series as well. Approximately eight months after “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” hit Netflix, the League of Legends animated series “Arcane” premiered on the platform. Both series have their own appeal and bow to the fans for their loyalty to the title through fan service. And, in the case of “Dota: Dragon’s Blood,” it is a character’s introduction into the game itself. But, how do the two shows compare to each other in isolation?
For starters, “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” comes off as traditional and rooted in its contemporaries, while “Arcane” feels more grounded and stylized through its first three episodes.
Comparing the animation
The two shows are created by two different animation houses and could not differ more than if one was live action.
“Dota: Dragon’s Blood” was animated by Studio Mir, a South Korean animation studio behind shows like “The Legend of Korra” and the recent animated movie, “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf.” It has the trappings of anime-inspired animation and a smattering of 3D effects to highlight certain fights and set pieces.
“Arcane,” on the other hand, is animated by French studio Fortiche Production, and is more in line with previous LoL animation from Riot’s shorts and music videos. Every frame appears like an oil panting, at least in its first three episodes.
While one show is not inherently better than the other, the contrast of styles is apparent when they’re watched back to back. The DOTA 2 inspired show is a flurry of violence and cuts rapidly across scenes, which doesn’t allow the viewer to get a good look at each set piece or scene. It can be kinetic at times, but fans can tell which episodes had a bigger budget and which were written around developing characters and the story. So far, in “Arcane,” the animation has been consistent and stylized. Unlike its DOTA 2 counterpart, it seems willing to linger on fight scenes and stills of its wider world.
The two shows have differing goals when it comes to how they are animated, and it shows. “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” showcases fast-paced fights, gore and a traditional aesthetic. Meanwhile, “Arcane” allows viewers to fall into the world the animators have created, and feel each fight’s weight with slow motion and a sprinkling of stylization.
Story in relation to lore
Both shows play decently fast and loose with some elements of their original text. But “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” is more concerned with setting up other plot points from the game’s lore and explaining the larger backstory of its world, Ancients. “Arcane,” by comparison, is focused on a story set in the League of Legends universe, rather than an introduction to a decade-old text that is already loosely cobbled together.
The DOTA 2 lore feels like a relic of past games. It focuses on knights, dragons, gods and the medieval, while LoL has expanded to include warring nations of varying technological advancement, magic and stages of ghostliness. Knowledge of each games’ backstory and their hundreds of characters is not required to enjoy these shows. However, it definitely helps with “Dota: Dragon’s Blood.” This is because the first episode gives a quick rundown of the Ancients and the creation of its world that might make new viewers dizzy.
“Arcane” does not dwell on the wider world of Runeterra and it doesn’t feature asides or gods explaining the different factions of the world. Instead, it is much more grounded in the narrative behind its two principle characters, Vi and Jinx, and the socioeconomic tribulations of its two cities. The stories that these shows are inspired by are from two different eras and it shows in their television adaptations.
Maturity of their story
Both “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” and “Arcane” are mature stories that feature blood and depictions of violence, but one seems more tame than the other. While “Arcane” features kids punching each other, and adults, in the streets and does not shy away from blood, “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” often has characters engaging in sex and cursing. The DOTA 2 show even features an elvish foursome that ends with three of its participants getting sliced to death in gruesome fashion. While “Arcane” does deal with heavy themes and depicts burning bodies and death, it shies away from the guts and gore that its counterpart revels in. “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” isn’t afraid to show its hero waking up naked next to a woman he doesn’t know, and then showcasing his new powers as he rips bandits in half, their corpses spewing blood. “Arcane” stylizes its depiction of death in the background, or cuts away as rubble squashes beloved characters into the ground, rather than showing a man’s guts falling from his stomach.
Both shows certainly sport mature themes, from family and class dynamics to love and duty. “Arcane,” at least its first episodes, is about finding family and the burden of being a role model (insert you favorite superhero show here). “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” features elves and their story as an analogue for racism, featuring a brave knight falling in love with a princess (insert your favorite fantasy series here). They both obviously have more to them than that but, when boiled down to their base parts, these shows are another entry into their chosen genres of choice.