The first episode of Crunchyroll’s highly anticipated Solo Leveling, based on the South Korean web novel written by Chugong, is now available to stream. If you haven’t watched it yet, then we highly recommend just hitting pause on whatever you’re doing so you can check it out, because it really is fantastic. Over the past few months, we’ve been living our best lives with the amount of anime available to us, but Solo Leveling seemed to be one of the most anticipated shows. Everyone was talking about it. The level of excitement was off the charts, and I’ll be honest… I had no idea what Solo Leveling was until I watched the first episode, and part of me is glad because it made that first episode so much more special.
As my appetite increased, ravenous for more from this familiar yet new setting, I was hit with the inevitable… A cliffhanger. However, this is my time to shine because I’ve seen episode 2 ahead of its release. Before I crack on though, here’s a small reminder of what you can expect from one of Crunchyroll’s biggest shows.
They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but that’s not the case for the world’s weakest hunter Sung Jinwoo. After being brutally slaughtered by monsters in a high-ranking dungeon, Jinwoo came back with the System, a program only he could see, that’s leveling him up in every way. Now, he’s inspired to discover the secrets behind his powers and the dungeon that spawned them.
One of the things I loved most about the opening episode was how it established the rules of this new world, and how quickly it decided to crush them… Quite literally. In a sort of reverse isekai way, similar to a show like GATE, the modern world merges with the fantasy realm, and it quickly turns into a game.; seemingly formulaic and familiar. Characters are judged by their rank, gear and skill. Treasures are looted, and the competition evolves into something quite fierce. The strong are celebrated, while the weak are ridiculed, Despite being ridiculously bad, Jinwoo doesn’t give up and when you learn about his history, as well as his resolve, you instantly become attached to him. You root for him, regardless of the odds. Deep into this supposedly easy D-ranked dungeon, the unimainable happens… The Hunters are ambushed by a terrifying force, and only Jinwoo has the brains to solve the riddles of this dungeon.
Episode one does an outstanding job laying down the foundations of this world, while episode two storms in like a bat out of hell and flips everything around. The strong perish and cower, while the one weakling proves his worth. It may sound like this episode is Jinwoo’s moment of truth, but it is quite the opposite.
The carnage caused by this relentlessly cruel dungeon begins to reveal the selfishness of the Hunters and their inability to process information when things go south. They are so used to the taste of victory, that they never anticipated a stealth-like defeat at the hands of a cunning and merciless dungeon. Jinwoo is left to clean up the mess by solving various puzzles. These particular puzzles are genius, there’s a really nice blend between the obvious and the obscure, which really displays Jinwoo’s intelect. There’s a way out, and Jinwoo holds the key. Unfortunately, Solo Leveling uses this second episode to make one thing abundantly clear… Life is not fair.
Episode two revels in its ability to turn a very familiar genre on its head. We’re so used to seeing heroes rise effortlessly, but Solo Leveling erases that notion through Jinwoo and this trial. It has been a long time since an anime has gripped me completely, the second season of Jujutsu Kaisen had me from a visual standpoint, but Solo Leveling used an alternative method. There are plenty of shows out there recently that have treated their main characters unfairly, but Solo Leveling takes the cakes. Despite Jinwoo knocking down every obstacle single handedly, he is viciously punished and it was rather hard to watch. Not because of the intensity of it, or the visuals, but because of how it all unraveled. This second episode is a gripping and brutal introduction, and I can’t imagine it easing up at all, especially with the introduction of the enigmatic “System.”
It’s a very brief introduction. but the concept is utterly brilliant. In a way, it reminds me of Re:Zero, whereby there’s an invisible and conscious presence looming over a poor cursed soul. Once again, rules are established and an understanding is reached. As someone who has never experienced what Solo Leveling has to offer, I am so excited to see how Jinwoo levels up, and how the System works as a construct. This episode gives nothing away in regards to its potential. Instead, it uses the time to basically force Jinwoo to earn this power, and it’ll be incredibly interesting to see how he grows with it and what sort of limitations it has.
Episode two is a visually haunting ride that is unjustifyingly cruel, and that’s where it shines. The shocking nature makes for a tough yet intoxicating watch. It offers something different in a very familiar world, and sets up a fascinating twist that heightens the game-like feel of this show. With brutal visuals and unique sequences that’ll have you glued, this second episode acts like a huge statement… Solo Leveling is here.
Episode two of Solo Leveling will arrive exclusively on Crunchyroll on Saturday 13th January, 2024. Are you excited? Make sure you let us know in the comments.