Solo Leveling Season 1 Review: Sets the Stage for Jinwoo’s Shadowy Ascent

Solo Leveling was a groundbreaking manhwa that shattered many records to become the highest-rated manhwa of all time. Even with all the accolades attained by the manhwa, it wasn’t sufficient for the fans as we desired a worthy anime adaptation. That long-lasting dream came to fruition in January this year with A-1 Pictures at the helm, sending the fandom into a frenzy. Solo Leveling’s first season ended its run this weekend with a total of 12 episodes. So, if you’re curious about how good the anime is in comparison to the manhwa, find out in this Solo Leveling review.

Brilliant Recreation of the Fascinating World of Hunters

Sung Jin-Woo with his dagger in Solo Leveling anime.
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling by A-1 Pictures (X/ @sololeveling_en)

The first and foremost highlight of the anime was its phenomenal animation. The manhwa had supreme art that kept me hooked chapter after chapter. It was also one of the major reasons for its success. So, A-1 Pictures was tasked with a huge responsibility from the beginning: reproducing the mystifying world of hunters and doing justice to Redice Studio CEO Dubu (RIP).

To my surprise, A-1 Pictures did a flawless job of recreating the intriguing journey of an E-rank hunter that levels up in a world filled with daunting dungeons, stunning characters, blood-curdling monsters, magical creatures, etc. However, my only gripe with the animation was how the studio handled the character designs. This isn’t a huge issue at all, but I simply loved the manhwa’s art style more, and Jinwoo’s character design didn’t meet my expectations.

Apart from that, the animators have meticulously crafted each scene with care, and it is evident in the plethora of fight scenes. The way those moments were storyboarded, along with the dynamic camerawork and super smooth animation, is nothing short of astonishing.

Ultimately, the ferocity of the hunter’s conflicts with lethal weapons inside those scary dungeons was perfectly captured and portrayed on our screen. The action scenes were beyond a visual feast and left me wanting more. Thus, action anime lovers don’t miss out on this one!

Faithful to the Source with No Pacing Issues

The architect in Solo Leveling anime.
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling by A-1 Pictures (X/ @sololeveling_en)

Together with the animation, the staff remained faithful to its source material and adapted the first seven arcs of the series neatly. While a few moments have been lost in translation (condensed), it’s all done for the good so that storytelling feels fluid whilst transforming the manhwa into a fastened and engaging ride.

The studio has done a fantastic job of retaining the core story and properly streamlining it with the emotional beats so far. As a result, the whole experience was entertaining and thrilling as it evoked the emotions that the creator intended.

The staff also didn’t shy away from incorporating more anime-only scenes such as the hunters’ introduction in episode 1 and extra scenes for side characters that help enhance the world-building and flesh-out character stories. However, I did not like the fact that the animators switch to some secondary storyline in the middle of an intense fight or action sequence. This is an issue, especially highlighted in the Jinwoo vs Igris fight in Episode 11 where we go to Go Gunhee for some reason.

Apart from that, A-1 Pictures has figured out the perfect way to adapt the source material without leaving out anything. I hope it remains the case for upcoming seasons (Solo Leveling Season 2 has already been confirmed) and if they do so, there is no stopping it from becoming the best manhwa adaptation of all time.

Stellar Voice Acting and Electrifying Soundtracks

Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling anime
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling by A-1 Pictures (X/ @sololeveling_en)

When the cast of voice actors was first revealed, I wondered how fitting their voices would be for my favorite characters like Jinwoo or Cha Hae-in. However, to my surprise, the voice actors did a great job in their roles, but there was one who stole the show.

That is none other than Taito Ban (VA of Sung Jinwoo) who gave his heart out to extract Sung’s character and breathe life into it. His tremendous performance reminded me of Yuuki Kaji’s in AOT as both the MCs had to battle with death every day to survive and move towards their dreams. In his career, Taito has lent his voice mostly to supporting characters, however, this time he hit the nail on the head as the MC of Solo Leveling. This should undoubtedly be a breakthrough in his voice-acting career.

Hiroyuki Sawano is a big gun in the industry known for renowned works in Attack on Titan, Bleach, Kingdom, etc. From the day I knew he was going to compose for Solo Leveling, I was sure he would deliver a phenomenal soundtrack, and he rightly did so.

With an insane revitalizing soundtrack and incredible sound design incorporated into all of the exceptional action scenes, the result was bloody sweet. It pulled me to the edge of the seat multiple times. I added my favorite tracks to my playlist to jam to throughout my workout sessions, they are that good!

Final Verdict: Anime Does More than Justice to the Manhwa

Sung Jinwoo in anime
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling by A-1 Pictures (X/ @sololeveling_en)

So, does the Solo Leveling anime surpass its source material with its first season? A big yes, indeed! Solo Leveling Season 1 is a marvelous adaptation that pushes the boundaries of the source material to unreal levels. This is what happens when the cast & crew understand and love the source as much as the fans do. Without a doubt, Solo Leveling Season 1 is a colossal success and a new feather in the series as well as A-1 Pictures’ hat.

This is the adaptation fans like me (and my Editor) dreamt of, and we will proudly cherish it for ages to come. With A-1 Pictures spearheading the project and many more seasons set to come out, we can continue to feast on Jinwoo’s leveling up dungeon after dungeon.

Every single person involved with the show has leveled up their game (just like Sung Jinwoo) and elevated the experience to a whole new level in nearly all aspects. That wraps up our Solo Leveling season 1 review, let me know your thoughts about the anime in the comments below.

Pros and Cons
The Pros
Marvelous animation quality
Fight scenes are a visual feast
Well-paced with no filler content
New anime-only scenes elevate the experience
The Cons
Anime slightly failed to capture the aura of Jin-Woo
Anime cuts-off to secondary storyline in between
Final Verdict
Solo Leveling Season 1
Solo Leveling Season 1 is a marvelous adaptation that pushes the boundaries of the source material to unreal levels. Right from the well-paced adaptation of the manhwa and the new anime-only scenes that add depth to the fight scenes to the voice acting and sound design, Solo Leveling ticks all the right boxes with its debut season. Time to Arise, and wait for the shadow army now!
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