Solo Leveling: Character +1

The greatest heroes aren’t always the ones with the greatest power. (At least, at first.)

Now available on CrunchyRoll, Solo Leveling reveals a world where the world is forced into an interdimensional war. Frequently attacked by vicious monsters, humanity’s last hope lies in warriors who have supernatural abilities. Each warrior is ranked and tasked battles that speak to their unique giftings and strengths. Everyone, that is, except Jinwoo. A military grunt with few powers, Jinwoo is viewed as a liability by his peers as he has little to offer the fight. However, when he faces off against overpowered beasts in a high-ranking dungeon, Jinwoo finds that there’s more to a warrior than the strength of his abilities.

Featuring strong animation, Solo Leveling drops the viewer in the grittiness of its world. Although the beasts may be fantastical in nature, Levelling keeps the series grounded with an emphasis on character development. Strongly written and executed the series knows what it ultimately wants to accomplish and keeps its story focused along the way. Although this is set in the middle of an interdimensional war, Levelling knows that the real drama happens within the lives of its characters.

Even so, don’t underestimate Leveling’s tenacity. This is a series that never skimps on the violence that stems from its otherworldly threat. Severed limbs and brutal deaths seem to be par for the course here as it wants the viewer to be immersed in the bloodbath. In doing so, Leveling ensures that the audience understands what’s at stake as these meta-humans do their best to protect the people from a fate that is far worse than their own suffering.

But underneath the fantastic world building and graphic violence, Solo Leveling seems weaves a tale about personal growth. Discounted by everybody else in the guild, Jinwoo knows that he is at the bottom of the supernatural food chain. People talk about him behind his back (and within earshot) constantly, reminding him that his role on the team is minimal. While everyone seems to like him as a person, no one takes him seriously as a threat to the beasts that they must fight every day.

To them, he is weak and futile. And he knows it. 

However, when faced with a collection of beasts more powerful than any that they have faced before, it is Jinwoo who seems to step up to meet the challenges. Suddenly, brute force is no longer the answer and he must use his mind in ways that others seem unable to do. While only the first two episodes could be screened at press time, the series highly suggest that this is only on the beginning of Jinwoo’s journey. If proven true,Leveling seems to be a series about more than simply discounting the little guy. This could be a tale that challenges people to unlock their true potential. While other characters have been granted powers based on their ability to kill, Jinwoo’s gifting lies more deeply within his character. Knowing that he doesn’t have the strength or weaponry of other hunters, he still steps into the fight. While others turn and run, Jinwoo stays in the heat of battle. 

For him, what matters most is being able to contribute to the cause, no matter what that may be. 

It’s this aspect of Jinwoo’s character that makes him instantly endearing. Though much of the talk will be about the show’s style and gore, Solo Leveling’s true power lies within the soul of its lead character. It’s him with whom we instantly connect. And it’s with him that we want to ride into battle with in the future.

Solo Levelling is available on CrunchyRoll on Saturday, January 6, 2024.

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