‘Solo Leveling’ Review — 2024’s First Must-See Anime Will Leave You Stunned


The Big Picture

  • Solo Leveling is a compelling fantasy anime that showcases the hardships and dangers of fighting monsters.
  • The series introduces intriguing characters and a dungeon setting reminiscent of Elden Ring and Sword Art Online.
  • The animation is stunning and immersive, but the supporting cast lacks depth in the first few episodes.

The world of Solo Leveling is one where the strong dominate the weak. Based on the most successful manhwa (Korean comic) of all time, the fantasy anime was produced by A-1 Pictures (Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Sword Art Online) and threw us into a story of discovery and terror. Here, modern-day society is forced to fight off monsters to preserve the peace we all know and love. The protectors of humanity are called Hunters, ranked from strongest to weakest and ranging from S-ranked to E-ranked. Our protagonist, Sung Jinwoo, is one of the weakest sitting in E-ranked, and there is no hope of getting any stronger. Solo Leveling showcases the hardships of fighting these creatures — as once you meet a monster of a higher rank than yourself, you will inevitably die a gruesome death, making for a heartwrenching drama where viewers don’t know what will happen next.

Solo Leveling

In a world of gifted hunters and monsters, a weak hunter Sung Jinwoo gains extraordinary powers through a mysterious program, leading him to become one of the strongest hunters and conquering even the strongest dungeons.

Release Date
January 7, 2024


A-1 Pictures


What Is ‘Solo Leveling’ About?

The first two episodes of the Solo Leveling serve as an introduction to the world and the threats of these monsters. While it can be very exposition-heavy at times, seeing different people of different ranks interact with these threats makes for a compelling story. Jinwoo is clever, and in just a short time, we can sympathize with his struggles. He can’t make money through monster hunting and has to take a high-skill job in order to make a living. Much like other fantasy shows, we’re introduced to a number of new characters, and while some range from intriguing, like Mr. Song and Joohee, to canon fodder, the show attempts to flesh out the world just enough so that the impending doom has stakes. While it makes a valiant attempt at giving these supporting characters life, they simply feel like they exist to help Jimwoo survive — especially Joohee, who serves as the party’s healer but lacks much depth beyond her utility.


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As they soldier on, Jinwoo and his comrades find themselves in an Elden Ring-like dungeon where they have to think fast or die horribly. This is an excellent setting because it forces these characters out of their comfort zone and plays into Jinwoo’s strengths. His intelligence makes up for his lack of physicality and combat training. It also brings the viewer into the mystery as we attempt to decipher the clues on how to escape. Sword Art Online heavily inspires the series, and that influence is clear throughout. It inherently feels like a video game with dungeons, a leveling system, and boss battles where you need to have specific stats to survive. A good series premiere should get the viewer invested in the story, have a fondness for the main character, and make the world a place you would like to return to. Solo Leveling does this fairly well, but the series is being held back mainly because of what happens leading into Episode 3.

Jinwoo Is About to Level Up in ‘Solo Leveling’

Jinwoo holding a blade in Solo Leveling
Image via Crunchyroll

Adventures are on the cusp of truly beginning, and that’s what makes the Episode 2 cliffhanger so impactful. A new game is about to start, which only adds to the tension of this premiere. The uncertainty elevates the stakes because no one is safe, not even Jinwoo. In the end, he’s given a choice that will change the course of his life forever, and while we don’t quite know where that will take him or who he’ll meet along the way, it’s a journey that you’ll want to see through to the end.

That intrigue carries Solo Leveling, and its sense of tension is elevated by its gorgeous animation. A-1 Pictures continues to prove that it is one of the best studios working today, using 2D animation with CGI elements. The mix of the two styles doesn’t always work in some shows, but Solo Leveling uses it well by letting giant creatures and statues take up space, making the human characters feel minuscule in comparison.

All of this is to say, Solo Leveling is off to an excellent start. As one of the most anticipated anime of 2024, it lives up to expectations and merely scratches the surface of what’s to come. The only major complaint to be had is the fact that the supporting cast lacks depth, and Jinwoo’s actual journey won’t really start until Episode 3. Thankfully, we’ve yet to meet all the show’s major players, and viewers won’t have to wait too long to see where the story goes from here.

Solo Leveling poster

Solo Leveling



  • The series does a fairly good job of immersing us in the story and its central character
  • It boasts gorgeous animation that combines multiple styles to stunning effect

  • Much of the supporting cast lacks depth in these first couple of episodes

Solo Leveling is available to stream on Crunchyroll in the U.S. starting January 6.

Watch on Crunchyroll


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