‘Solo Leveling’ Initial Review
It’s safe to say at this point that anime and manga have gone mainstream in Western Culture. More and more anime based on popular manga, light novels, and the like are coming out of the woodwork. But now, what the West considers anime (Japanese animation) is expanding its scope to works beyond Japan’s borders; specifically, to Korea, home to a plethora of webtoons and manwha. And right now, the one everyone’s talking about is the bloodiest since Attack on Titan, Solo Leveling.
This isn’t an exaggeration. Solo Leveling might be one of the bloodiest anime of the year.
A Bottom-Feeder Gets RPG Superpowers
Ten years ago, portals and gateways opened up on Earth that led to other dimensions. And in those dimensions were monsters and entities straight out of a fantasy MMORPG. With conventional weapons useless, people started gaining the ability to hunt and kill these monsters, giving rise to the Hunters. There’s one catch, though: once you awaken your abilities, your stuck with whatever rank you get; no leveling up or getting stronger. Which stinks for those at the bottom, like Jin-Woo
Sung Jin-Woo is an E-Rank Hunter at the bottom of the barrel and is called the weakest ever. He can barely do any damage, he goes down too fast, and regularly comes close to death every time he fights in a Dungeon. But he keeps at it to support his family, until the day the inevitable happens. The party he’s in gets caught in a dungeon that starts slaughtering them in ways that haven’t been seen since Attack on Titan! And when the survivors can escape, he has to get left behind, thinking its for the best…until he realizes that this is a horrible way to die.
That’s when he gets this little notification like from a video game saying he qualifies to be a “Player.” Next thing he knows, he’s waking up in a hospital, completely healed. There’s one catch, though: he’s now being forced to do daily activities to get stronger or risk dying. The upside to that? He’s now able to level up like in a normal RPG. And he’s the only one who can do this.
Jin-Woo has just entered a real-life RPG.
An Interesting Take on a Premise That’s Been Done Before
As far as premises go, the concept behind Solo Leveling isn’t what one would call unique. Other anime have revolved around a similar premise.
Supposed weakling gets thrown into situation that can kill them.
Weakling gets a lucky break/special skill that helps them to survive and level up.
Weakling goes from being bottom of the barrel to OP as heck.
For reference, look up Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest. It’s like Solo Leveling, but an isekai and not as good.
I’ve never read the webtoon or web novel versions of Solo Leveling, so I wound up going into this anime blind. After what I saw, though, I can see why it’s so popular and breaking the Internet with it’s hype. The animation is dark, bloody, and beautifully well-done. The story (which is only four episodes in) doesn’t skimp on the details of how dangerous being a Hunter would be, either. While the first episode is lighter on it, episode two sees people in Jin-Woo’s party dying left and right. Limbs get blown off, a man gets crushed to death by a statue’s foot, and one guy got split right down the middle! It’s horrifying, yet you can’t look away. And Jin-Woo’s near-death experience rivals Eren Yeager getting eaten by a Titan in terms of horror!
Speaking of Eren Yeager, Jin-Woo has a few traits in common with the wielder of the Attack Titan. Like Eren (at first), Jin-Woo is a good person put into horrific experiences that harden his heart. Yet Jin-Woo can’t quit being a Hunter, no matter how dangerous it is. Firstly, Mother is on life support due to being poisoned by mana from the Gates. Secondly, his sister needs the money for school. But he’s so weak that he can barely make ends meet, and his new status can help change that.
Don’t Underestimate RPG Mechanics
At first, the gains aren’t that noticeable, but anyone whose player an RPG should know better. Upgrading stats even a little can make all the difference, as seen in Jin-Woo’s first solo dungeon. While he once struggled against the weakest enemies, he gets strong enough to take down a snake the size of a house. With his bare hands, no less! And then he pierces the defense of another Monster a group of low-ranking Hunters were barely holding off with a broken Sword! The man is like a Korean Kirito meets Deku!
I’ve been reading Manwha and Webcomics for years on Webtoons, but Solo Leveling might be one of the most interesting and exciting that I have seen to date. And after spoiling myself by finding out what’s going to happen, I know I’m going to enjoy this show. Might even make it a weekly review.