Thanks to a recommendation from a dear friend of mine, I finally got around to reading Solo Leveling and thought I should write up a short blurb on my opinions. I have only read the first volume so I am still very much at the beginning, but I hope to continue reading this series. However for those that don’t know: what is Solo Leveling?

AuthorArtistGenreWhere to ReadChapters (at time of writing)Prognosis (Terrible, Bad, Good, Great)
Chugong Dubu (Jang Sung-Rak),
Gi So-Ryeong
Action, FantasyTappyToon
(Physical volumes published by Yen Press in the US)
COMPLETE!
179 Episodes with 21 Epilogues (yes, you read right)
Great (of course!)

The Story

From the back cover of the first volume: Known as the Weakest Hunter of All Mankind, E-rank hunter Jinwoo Sung’s contribution to raids amounts to trying not to get killed. Unfortunately, between his mother’s hospital bills, his sister’s tuition, and his own lack of job prospects, he has no choice but to continue to put his life on the line. So when an opportunity arises for a bigger payout, he takes it…only to come face-to-face with a being whose power outranks anything he’s ever seen! With the party leader missing an arm and the only healer a quivering mess, can Jinwoo somehow find them a way out?

Jinwoo, this anxious baby-faced lil guy is our protagonist. Don’t judge.

Review

So the description here just describes the events of the first volume and no further than that. To be honest, for me, it wasn’t too compelling of a description which isn’t a jab at whoever wrote the description. I will admit, it read to me like a bit similar to isekai stories where a rather normal, or dare I say, generic, male protagonist is thrown into another world or they gain some power special to them to take them above the ordinary to the extraordinary because they’re the “chosen one.” I don’t tend to read or watch a lot of isekai stories due to that. Though I recently had to read Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint for some freelance work and I will say it does remind me of Solo Leveling given both having rather weak protagonists who have an ace up their sleeve to survive in a crumbling world of monsters. I’d recommend that series as well if you like Solo Leveling.

Volume 1 of ORV with the protagonist, Dokja Kim.

But I slightly digress. While I wasn’t taken in by the description, a lot of people sing praises for the series so I still gave it a shot. The opening is a bit slow for me as we’re introduced to Jinwoo and the main cast of characters for this volume. We meet the leader of the ill-fated expedition, Chiyul Song, our healer, Joohee Lee, and another hunter who is C-rank, Songshik Kim. There’s also a rather sweet fellow, Mr. Kim, who has come back to the hunting life after his wife has just become pregnant with baby number 2 and probably needs the extra money. So far, the cast has a good enough variety despite the fact I felt that someone had to die before the end of the volume, right?

Jinwoo with Joohee as seen in the anime.

Well, I won’t divulge anything. However, going back to the characters, what about the star of the series: Jinwoo. I always say for me personally what keeps me reading a story are the characters. Their personality, their growth, their goals and such are important details to flesh out very early on. I will say that while Jinwoo has grown on me a bit as his quick comprehension of solving problems under duress as the others panic is commendable. On the other hand, him also acting selfless at times and leaning not on strength but smarts alone is relatable to me and most readers.

These days when it comes to stories, and to an extension, characters, readers will easily switch off if they’re not quickly hooked in. For every single person, it’s different. Although, I’ve found in this particular genre despite tropes existing in the protagonists and plot, if you as an author can reimagine and reinvent these tropes and storylines in a way that feels familiar yet fresh, then you can most likely find success in this competitive field. I think Solo Leveling and it’s protagonist, Jinwoo, has potential and I look forward to continue to read how both progresses in an upward arc.

But what really hooked me to continue reading this manhwa were the stone statues.

The Hunters cowering in front of the stone statues.

Yup, these creepy guys is what the team of hunters find through a hidden gate they find after finishing their job. Now, this gate was not on record and thus they never should have gone through it in my opinion because really now, a secret unrecorded gate that goes to who knows where with who knows what? Please, let me turn in my Hunter I.D. card or whatever they have before you drag me down there.

Anyways, the crew has to face off against the creepy stone statues with the mightiest of them all acting like God himself with three commandments they must follow. The commandments themselves are rather simple but foreboding and quite chilling personally.

  1. First, thou shall worship God
  2. Second, thou shall praise God
  3. Third, thou shall prove thy faith

If you don’t follow them, you simply perish. But what exactly does each mean? How do you worship or praise these stone statues? And how in the world do you prove your faith? I won’t spoil anything since I implore you all to read it yourself but just know when the stone giant smiles, the little game of life and death begins.

This guy…this guy haunts my nightmares.

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Overall, I will say that I will continue to read Solo Leveling as I can. I do know there is an anime that exists and I plan to get to it after I finish reading a bit more of the manhwa. I did hear they made some questionable decisions with the anime but it also sounds good so perhaps when I do get around to it, I can review that too.

Anyways, thanks for reading and I will leave a quick summary of my thoughts below for those who just want a quick read. See you in the next manhwa or manga review!

Reasons to Read:

  1. Shows a very promising start even if it feels a bit tropey (i.e. isekai, shonen)
  2. The potential for good storytelling and character development in a genre that is easy to be repetitive in characteristics.
  3. Creepy stone statues and imagining what other horrors awaits Jinwoo.
  4. Darker storyline for those who like that.
  5. Anime adaptation exists for those who want the best of both worlds (manhwa AND anime? Yes, please).
Not going to lie, when I saw the cover I thought: Who is this?? This isn’t Jinwoo, right? What happens???

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