Solo Leveling

Title:Solo Leveling
Ore Dake Level-Up na Ken
Keywords: , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - A1 Pictures
BAN Taito
GINGA Banjou
UEDA Reina
Over ten years ago, a series of gates linking our world to an alternate dimension appeared. The other side of each gate teemed with bizarre creatures known as 'magic beasts', immune to conventional weaponry. Those who have awakened the abilities necessary to fight these beasts are known as 'Hunters'. Based on the amount of magical power contained within their bodies, they are ranked, in descending order, as S, A, B, C, D, and E-rank. However, once these powers are awakened no amount of individual effort can ever result in greater strength. Jinwoo Sung is an E-rank whose nickname is 'The weakest Hunter in all mankind'. He is often injured and recovers few of the 'Essence Stones' that Hunters sell to make a living. He keeps trying because his mother is in the hospital and his sister needs college tuition. Jinwoo is about to discover that there are some exceptions to the rule that a person's rank is set in stone..
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Unevaluated Stretch [series:4783#628]
Six episodes watched):

Early on, this show seemed very predictable and unoriginal. About the only unusual feature was that characters and monsters could move back and forth between the isekai world and the real one (but of course the monsters couldn't just be shot, they had to be killed with magical bladed weapons). That, and the fact that this seemed to be a Korean anime, judging from the names of the characters. With time it seems that this show is taking the usual 'what if life was like a video game' premise more seriously than most—real world people venture into the isekai one every day or so to hunt for dangerous beasts because they need the money they get from the stones or crystals that felled monsters transform into. We get the details, like how a party is assembled, and how it takes a vote when a dangerous and unexpected option arises. We meet the chairman of the Hunters association, and learn how 'mana crystals' are valuable because they can serve as an excellent source of green energy. There must be a reason why these details are being included. We get to know Jinwoo, who is mocked by some but keeps at a job where 'the risks may outweigh the rewards' in his own words. He is armed with nothing more than a cheap magic knife, which is all he can afford. We also meet Joohee, a B-rank female healer who looks after him. Character designs were good. When Jinwoo and his companions enter the Final Boss' chamber, we all know that the heavy gates are going to swing shut behind them and the fearsome statues on the walls are going to come to life. The fight was wild and exciting, and this is definitely a dangerous business, not one of those shows where somehow everybody walks away safely at the end. This was supposed to be a relatively easy dungeon to master, but somebody had forgotten to tell that to this boss. By the end, with the situation seeming hopeless my thinking had changed to this being pretty cool, and I felt I absolutely must know where things were going to go. So much had been packed into one episode that I was sure it had been extra long, but no, it had been the usual 23 minutes.

Whereas the first episode of several new series this season had seemed good to me but the second was a disappointment, episode two of SL was just as good as the first, if not better. 'Damn, this show is still looking hot!' I jotted down at one point during it. SL is truly on another level compared to most Isekai anime. It is both clever and gruesome as the adventurers find themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation and must think their way out of it, since for once sheer force won't do the trick. Though he's not much of a fighter, Jinwoo takes the lead in making sense of the exact meanings of a set of commandments chisleled on the wall. The episode was genuinely tense and gripping and the despair is palpable. We also meet Jinah, Jinwoo's sister, and and learn how 'gates' take a week to fully open, which would allow monsters to reach Earth, so adventurers try to strike first and finish them off while still in their home territory. The basic premise of this show is what if another world which really, really did function much like a video game existed, and humans had no choice but to go play by those rules or risk being destroyed. I wonder if it is based on a video game. At the end a mauled Jinwoo gets a curious message: "Secret quest: 'Courage of the Weak'. You have acquired the qualifications to be a player. Will you accept?". I think this may well be my favorite anime of the season. I noticed that in early February fans at ANN were rating it as the fourth best show of the season, which it deserves.

In episode three Jinwoo, who last remembered being mauled and in agony and despair in the dungeon, somehow finds himself uninjured and in a hospital bed. He is told that he was found unconscious and has remained that way for three days. His life has been transformed into a sort of video game, complete with game displays that only he can see. Who could possibly be behind it? Five others, including Joohee, also survived the mission, though they have not been miraculously healed. The rescue party that brought Jinwoo back found some confirmation of the survivors' stories but the temple chamber had disappeared. The Hunters Guild takes interest, and we wonder whether they can be trusted or have some ulterior motive. It turns out that once in a while a Hunter experiences a 'second awakening' which can greatly enhance his/her capabilities, but that doesn't seem to be what has happened to Jinwoo. Whereas most isekai series have pretty simplistic plots here there are all sorts of intriguing questions. It's sort of like the basic premise of isekai--people find themselves in videogame-like situations--is taken much more seriously and delved into much more deeply than usual.

In episode four Jinwoo goes on a one-man adventure and finds that he has become much stronger and more skillful. Is he still an 'E' rank Hunter? You would think he would have ascended a good deal. The pace of the series seemed to slow down somewhat as he fights various monsters that he would never have dared face before, and wins. I'd have rather learned about what's going on with the guild, who is behind this second chance he has gotten, why he was given it, etc. It's easy to make an anime where the protagonist has a dream come true as he becomes someone who everybody else admires and respects, but much more difficult (but more rewarding) would be one which has a continually developing main character and a genuine mystery behind it. In episode five we see how ripped Jinwoo has become as he consistently exercises (as whoever was behind his resurrection had demanded). He looks like a different person now. Jinwoo is finally released from the hospital and joins an adventuring party only to be betrayed and left (along with one other victim) in a seemingly hopeless situation in a dungeon in which they must fight a giant spider. No doubt we will see just how much stronger he has gotten, and indeed we do. Jinwoo comments that he has been 'levelling' continually--is there any connection between your level and your rank as a Hunter? He also mentions that he believes it's the 'system'--presumably the computer-like system behind this video game-like situation of gates and monsters--that was behind his resurrection and is now behind the sometimes ugly things he is called upon to do. He does summon video game type displays fairly often. Is some Godlike power forcing humanity to play a deadly videogame? It had seemed to me that the basic premise of this show is 'what if an isekai-like system really did exist?', but how is the software behind it explained (I'm having a hard time putting this into words)? We meet (or have we already met?) several high ranking female Hunters who will surely play a part in the story at some point in the future; I hope I won't be totally screwed by the fact that I'm struggling to keep track of them.

Last updated Thursday, February 29 2024. Created Sunday, January 21 2024.

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