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Review: ‘Solo Leveling’ is a Groundbreaking Anime Phenomenon

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The highly anticipated anime adaption of Solo Leveling is finally premiering on January 6th on Crunchyroll, and fans worldwide are excited about the upcoming series. The franchise began as a Korean web novel written by Chugong, dating back as early as 2015. The novel was later adapted into a webtoon and Manhwa in 2018, with illustrations by DUBU. The series has garnered a massive following, as the story captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide. 

Almost a decade after the project’s inception, the Manhwa will finally be adapted into an anime series. Crunchyroll offered us the opportunity to review the first two episodes of Solo Leveling ahead of its release. I can already tell that the series is nothing short of a fantastic start for what promises to be perhaps one of the most popular anime franchises in the coming years. 

The story of Solo Leveling

Solo Leveling starts with a prelude set a decade ago, when the first pathway, called a “gate,” opened into the world, and creatures from another dimension started to pour in. At the same time, humans began to develop magical abilities, and using these abilities, they became hunters to take on these dangerous monsters from another dimension. As time passed, the Hunters became more organized, and missions started to be carried out to conquer the dungeons inside these gates and defeat the creatures before they entered the human world.

A significant element of the story is the use of the class ranking system to classify several different hunters. The ranking system ranges from the letter S to the letter E, with S being the highest ranking and E the lowest. Depending on your rank, you could be assigned a more significant and dangerous mission, which gains more income, higher standing, and more reputation among the community. The most important part is that once you are assigned a rank, it is nearly impossible to change your rank. It’s almost impossible because, of course, one character always breaks the mold.

Sung Jin-woo. Solo Leveling.
Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling. (Crunchyroll/A-1)

Enter our protagonist, Sung Jinwoo

Sung Jinwoo starts out as an infamous E-rank hunter. Due to his weak standing, poor weapon choice, and how often he’s brushed with near-death experiences, he’s gained a reputation as the “Weakest Hunter of All Mankind.” However, he chose this path due to the circumstances he lives in. His mother is currently in a coma, and with his younger sister to take care of, Jinwoo persists so he can make a living for himself and his family. He has been a hunter for about four years when the main story of Solo Leveling picks up.

One day, he is assigned to a D-Rank Dungeon raid, which seemed like a low-level dungeon where the stakes were minimal until it was revealed to be a “double dungeon”, a high-level dungeon inside a low-level one. What proceeds after the raid enters the higher-level dungeon is one of the most impressive and captivating sequences I have ever experienced, with the animation and the score combined with the increased tension and storytelling from the sequence.

Sung Jin-woo. Solo Leveling.
Sung Jin-Woo in Solo Leveling. (Crunchyroll/A-1)

While I will refrain from any spoilers regarding the sequence, needless to say, it’s a moment that will immediately draw in Manhwa readers and anime audiences alike. The episodes ended on a cliffhanger that most Manhwa readers will recognize, and just like Jin-Woo, we choose to accept the quest ahead and look forward to seeing more of this spectacular series.

The impressive crew behind Solo Leveling

The series is animated by A-1 Pictures, which has developed many renowned anime productions such as Sword Art Online, Black Butler, Blue Exorcist, and Fairy Tail, to name a few. Motion graphics are done by Production I.G, known for their work on Attack on Titan, Psycho-Pass, Vinland Saga, and Haikyuu!!, among others. 

The series is directed by Shunsuke Nakashige (Sword Art Online), with character design by Tomoko Sudo and monster design by Hirotaka Tokuda. High praise must be given to them for their stunning work and attention to detail when developing the animation for these episodes. The Japanese voice cast for the characters in the episode must also be commended for their voice acting. The emotion put into their voices truly makes you feel for the characters, and enhances the dangerous circumstances they found themselves in.

Among those credited for this series is composer Hiroyuki Sawano, best known for his work on the soundtrack for Attack on Titan. Sawano once again managed to enhance an anime work with the power of his compositions, and made the sequences of the higher-rank dungeon all the more ethereal with his incredible soundtrack.

Crunchyroll has a top rank anime in Solo Leveling

All in all, Solo Leveling fans will be pleased to know that their wait for an anime adaptation will be rewarded with a spectacular adaptation. This high-quality production will no doubt shatter expectations once again for the groundbreaking phenomenon. We at The Cosmic Circus look forward to the first season’s completion, and are already looking forward to reviewing the rest of the season later this year.

Solo Leveling season 1 releases on Crunchyroll this Saturday January 6. Are you exciting to experience this amazing new anime series? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or on The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

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