WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the entirety of Arcane’s first season, currently streaming on Netflix
The influence of Japanese animation on Netflix’s hit animation series Arcane is unmistakable. From the breathtaking opening credits that subtly depicted the season’s events to the painstakingly choreographed fight scenes, Arcane could be a love letter from the ever-expanding Western animation scene to its Japanese predecessors. Based on Riot Games’ League of Legends, the story of Arcane is certainly unique but it also incorporates a few anime tropes that serve to enrich it further, such as Vi’s iconic power-up scene in her fight against Sevika.
Long before Vi first donned the Hextech-powered gauntlets, they were still her weapon of choice. Vander’s hand-me-down cast iron gauntlets may not have packed as much of a punch as the pair she got from Jayce, but they were more than enough to deal with most of the foes Vi faced at the time. Using them, Vi tore through an entire platoon of Silco’s henchmen. However, against a single Shimmer-fueled opponent, it was clear they were obsolete. Even Vi’s combat skills were no match for the opposing raw power.
The Atlas Gauntlets Jayce developed were the perfect upgrade for Vi. Originally designed to help miners extract minerals faster and reduce the dangers associated with the job, the Gauntlets did much more than augment Vi’s punches. As Jayce demonstrated, they granted the wearer unprecedented grip strength as well as the option to regulate the amount of force expended with each punch. Using the Atlas Gauntlets, Vi could handle tasks as delicate as offering a handshake or as violent as shattering an enemy’s ribcage.
During the Atlas Gauntlets' debut fight, they were shown to fit Vi’s fighting style perfectly. Their greater surface area allowed her to block potentially dangerous punches and the strength they granted her was enough to send several significantly more powerful enemies flying, but she hadn’t tapped into their full potential yet. It wasn’t until Vi finally set out to confront Silco’s number one henchperson, Sevika, that she realized its true power.
Vi retained the upper hand for most of the fight. Even though Sevika was amped up by several vials of Shimmer, she was no match for the Atlas Gauntlets. The fight seemed to be heading towards an easy win for Vi until Sevika managed to disable one of the Gauntlets by stabbing straight through it. Without giving Vi any time to recover from the shock, she continued to press her, alternating between attacking with her fists and the very sword that had cut through Vi’s Gauntlet. Finally, Sevika launched herself off a table for an aerial slash attack that would have been impossible to dodge. Instinctively, Vi raised her remaining Gauntlet in a closed fist above her head to ward her attacker off and to her surprise, a force field manifested around her.
Seeing a character pull out a surprise new ability right at a crucial moment is an all-too-familiar occurrence to otaku, but Arcane’s power-up scene deftly avoids deus ex machina. Even though Vi’s new shielding ability was never teased before, it seems a natural addition to Gauntlets initially created for miners who’d have to deal with the occasional collapsing cave and other related dangers. Having just a bit of foreknowledge regarding the Gauntlets’ original intended use rationalizes the shield’s surprise appearance without ruining the shock factor. Thus, the already spectacular battle had an astonishing, and believable, climax which re-energized the classic power-up scene.