Ah, Solo Leveling (Ore dake Level Up na Ken)… We’ve been waiting for you. In an instance that has become far too common for me these days, I’m in the process of reading the comic (manga, manhwa, whatever you would like to call this) and reviewing it for Yen Press, so I’m pretty far ahead in the story. Typically, I end up dropping these shows because no matter how good it is, I’m watching something brand-new, and yet, it feels like a repeat. It happened with so many other shows to where I get satisfied with hearing how the characters sound and then the will to watch the next episode is all but dead.
That’s just me, though. I’m here to tell you if it’s worth YOUR time… so, is it?
First Episode Synopsis
They’re big, they’re mean, and they’re coming for your land! Typical weaponry is ineffective against them so you opt for Plan B… send out humans with superhuman powers, known as Hunters, to kill them. Hunters are ranked as S, A, B, C, D, and E. After our action-packed introduction, we are given a glimpse at someone so bad, that he could be F-Rank if there was such a thing: Jinwoo Sung. He signed up to tag along on a D-Rank dungeon but he shows up in tatters as he had just come from an E-Rank dungeon where he almost died.
Throughout the land, portals (or gates as they call them) open up and magical beasts that can only be killed by hunters are inside. The job of the hunters is to kill them and close the gate, taking any spoils for themselves. Jinwoo is doing this because he has a family to take care of. He has a sister who has her dreams and aspirations and their mother who is in the hospital with some sort of disease. Their father seemingly went out for cigarettes and hasn’t come back either so it’s up to Jinwoo to be the man of the house and the primary breadwinner.
So, he does this by risking his life inside of dungeons because being a hunter is supposed to be more lucrative than selling Family Mart fried chicken. In the D-Rank dungeon, he kills his first goblin and gets a shard. Then, he gets attacked by another one, and his cheap dagger breaks on him. Thankfully, Joolee is there, has an obvious crush on him, is a complete tsundere, but knows healing magic and saves his life… not without a stern talking to, though.
Once the dungeon is cleared, they notice that the gate isn’t closing. They find a tunnel down to a hidden boss room. Our first episode ends with most of the party getting completely annihilated. It’s time for our main protagonist to AWAKEN… well, actually, he doesn’t. The episode ends with him nearly pissing himself and realizing that he’s next!
YES – Yeah, I’m giving this the YES vote as one would expect. Sure, this is the big shiny thing that everyone will be talking about this season and it’s for a good reason… it’s really good. Having read several volumes published by Yen Press, this is a series that’s going to satisfy a LOT of fantasy, LitRPG, (kind of) isekai, and action fans all at the same time. The artwork in the comics is great, the artwork in the anime is even better. Plus, you got Hiroyuki Sawano, one of the holy trinity of anime composers, providing the soundtrack!
But, I know it’s good because I know what’s going to happen. What about judging it on a first-episode basis?
If I knew nothing and based it on just this first episode, I’d still watch this. It introduces us to the hunters, shows off a few S-Ranks to see what our main character could potentially become, then it contrasts that by showing how pathetic Jinwoo truly is. It subconsciously sets a goal for the main character and delivers it to the viewer. Plus, as I alluded to in the episode synopsis, this show dares to be different and DOESN’T have the main character awake and become overpowered in the first episode. Truly a lost art in this day and age.
It left you wanting more by shattering your expectations. It actually makes you wonder if the main character will pull through by putting him in peril without a solution. The ONLY downside to this is that it indicates that this series could be a slower burn than most series, which would have been perfectly fine if this had 25 episodes to work with.
It has 12.
That in and of myself blows my mind. One of the most popular light novels/manhwas out there today, a massive budget for this show, all of the hype, all of the anticipation, all of the fans who know just how good this show is… and we get a single cours instead of two.
But it’s good. Go watch this one.