Solo Leveling Has Just Started and is Already One of the Best Anime of the Year

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hello world!
Thomas Richards
| January 18, 2024
hello world!

A new year means a whole bunch of new anime to watch, talk about and eventually crown one as the best anime of the year. It hasn’t even been a full month yet, and I already think we have a serious contender for anime of the year. It’s called Solo Leveling, and it’s a banger of a show. Animated by A-1 Pictures, they’ve brought their A-game and are giving us all of the action, gore, and sweet sweet particle effects. Based on the manhwa of the same name, the story is interesting, the characters are engaging, and it looks fantastic. Thanks to Crunchyroll, I was able to check out the first two episodes early, so let’s jump right on in.

The Weakest Hunter

He’s trying to be brave. (A-1 Pictures/Crunchyroll)

The first episode of Solo Leveling did a great job introducing the world and its characters while doing an excellent job of showing the stakes at play and the power hierarchy of the world. Instead of starting with our main hero, we instead see a raid on an island. This is a group of hunters, people given special abilities to fight demons that are entering the human world through dungeons. A hunter’s job is to stop these demons from reaching the human world and kill them if they do. But they’re not invincible, and Solo Leveling ensures you know it. Within the first five minutes, people get stabbed, ripped in half, and just messed up in every way possible. I was a little shocked, but it helped establish that in this world, people can die at any moment. It also helps that the carnage looked amazing (dying in style). Weirdly enough, the style reminded me of the later seasons and films of Sword Art Online, which would make sense because they’re animated by the same studio. Regardless, this was one of the better intros to an anime I’ve seen.

From the massive battle to the baby’s first dungeon raid, we’re introduced to our main character, Sung Jin-Woo. He’s an E-Rank hunter, otherwise known as the weakest of the weak. This is where we get the explanation of the power system in this world. Hunters are ranked in power from S being the strongest all the way down to E. Having the main character be the weakest isn’t anything new in anime, but what sets Sung apart is their stubborn determination to keep fighting, even though he gets hurt from a paper cut. Throughout this first “easy” dungeon, we also get a lot of exposition and world-building to help us understand this world. I won’t go into detail here because there was a lot, but it’s presented in a way that makes it easily digestible and didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the episode. The first episode ended in an insane way as well, with the dungeon party getting trapped in a room with a bunch of giant creepy statues that kill you if you try to escape. What a fun day at work.

The Story of the Weakest

When you hear the garage door open. (A-1 Pictures/Crunchyroll)

Episode 2 picks up right after Episode 1 and keeps the momentum going. After seeing one of their party members get sliced in half (shit looked gnarly), the remaining party members have to figure out how not to die. Instead of one of the higher-ranked hunters figuring out what to do, Sung is able to piece things together and start the process of escaping alive. Sure some people don’t listen to the weakest guy there, but they’re quickly killed by the giant statues (I reiterate, shit is gnarly). I enjoyed seeing Sung piece things together to try and save himself and the others. Watching him use his experience with being close to death to know how to dodge attacks was a neat detail. It was also cool seeing the higher-ranked hunters break down as soon as things weren’t going as planned, giving more insight into how these people think. We also get a few more snippets of world-building, which is always fun. There wasn’t much, but it wasn’t the focus, which is fair enough. The ending of this episode got me all kinds of stressed. With people dropping like flies, I wasn’t sure who was gonna survive. And just when the answers are almost revealed, it ends. GOD DAMN CLIFFHANGERS SUCK.

Only Getting Started

He’ll be right. (A-1 Pictures/Crunchyroll)

After these first two episodes, I’m very keen to see more of Solo Leveling and how the story will progress. After two episodes, I’m already overflowing with curiosity as to why things are the way that they are. Why are demons invading the human world? Why do only some people have powers? Why is there a creepy statue that kills people for gits and shiggles? I’m hoping these questions are answered throughout the season. I’m also interested in how they’ll keep the series fresh. If the series follows a formula of find a dungeon, enter the dungeon, kill monsters, repeat, I’ll be a little disappointed (I don’t think they will). I’m also excited to see more of this gorgeous animation. A-1 Pictures knocked it out of the park, and I can’t wait to see even crazier fights animated soon. I was also really impressed with the voice cast, especially Sung Jin-Woo’s voice actor Taito Ban. He did an excellent job of showcasing the determination, fear, and desperation you’d expect from someone who’s always a second away from death. I’m excited to hear the rest of his performance throughout the season as as Aleks Le’s performance in the English dub, which will also air on Crunchyroll starting January 20th.

Cool guys know to walk away from fire. (A-1 Pictures/Crunchyroll)

I was incredibly impressed with the first two episodes of Solo Leveling. The story was interesting, the characters were unique, and it looked bloody fantastic. I might be getting ahead of myself, but I think that if A-1 Pictures can keep this same level of quality for the entire season, Solo Levelling very well could be the best anime of 2024. You can catch Solo Leveling each week on Crunchyroll in the sub right now, with the English dub (and other dubs) coming soon.

Have you checked out Solo Leveling? What did you think? Would you fight demons for money? Let us know in the comments where we can talk about what powers we would want to fight demons.

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