Potential Unlocked: ‘Solo Leveling’ Episodes 1-2 Review

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.

Crunchyroll, in collaboration with Aniplex, is bringing the world the eagerly awaited anime adaptation of the Korean manhwa sensation, Solo Leveling. The series will make its global debut on Crunchyroll’s streaming platform on January 6, 2024 and will reach viewers across 200 territories. A big thanks to Crunchyroll for the early access! Here’s a mostly spoiler free review for the first two episodes of one of Winter 2024 Anime’s most anticipated series!

Episode One:

The very first episode of Solo Leveling does not start with our protagonist but instead leans more into the camaraderie of the hunters–individuals who are blessed with battle prowess in fighting and defeating monsters in the dungeons that appear in this world after a gate opens. This decision was probably meant to help introduce audiences to the world building that is the world that Jinwoo, a hunter of the lowest rank, is considered the “Weakest Hunter of All Mankind“–resides. I felt this was an interesting choice in the narrative to make as audiences don’t get to connect with Sung Jinwoo, our protagonist first, but he is soon on screen about to go on yet another dungeon crawl with his usual team. Throughout the first episode, we get additional backstory to the difficulty of such a life of those who are hunters–immense payoffs and even fame through their own strength. 

But in Jinwoo’s case–each outing can become a life-or-death situation as he’s the weakest member in his hunter crew and often fills out the team as a member to make team quota. We see his failures to stand on his own time and time again and the many, many times he’s been saved from the brink in the easiest and low ranked dungeons. The animation studio uses this to their advantage, setting the foundation to the present day of the current dungeons he and his team are in. The rest of the episode is a brilliant way to introduce the double dungeon, a high-level dungeon hidden inside a low-level one. 

Our underdog finds it to be a place where lives are taken, others are severely injured, and Jinwoo’s other skills come to good use: his observation skills and his sense of danger. What really shines the most in this first episode of Solo Leveling is the real sense of danger and immediacy that hunters, especially our protagonist and the other hunters face. The uptick in violence and the way his hunter crew start dropping like flies ups the ante and makes the last minutes of the first episode ones where the audience will be watching in anticipation of what comes next and how folks will survive.

Solo Leveling
© Solo Leveling Animation Partners
Episode Two:

The second episode of Solo Leveling picks up where the first episode left off: Jinwoo and the other hunters in disarray in the double dungeon, a high-level dungeon hidden inside a low-level one. They have dead and wounded comrades surrounding them and they are trapped: the odds ain’t in their favor. Despite being the physically weakest member of the team, Sung Jinwoo isn’t a dummy. His brain goes into overdrive as he calmly starts evaluating their environment and the enemies around them: he figures that there must be a certain set of rules to follow, just like a game. Striving to help keep the surviving members of the team alive, he consults the leader and slowly but surely moves them closer to escaping and finding the way to open the exit. 

This second episode really helps establish not just Sung Jinwoo‘s character but also his drive to be better and do better despite his limitations. He has as much as anyone there, or more, to lose as he quickly becomes an asset to those in his company for once. His quick thinking moves everyone left alive into the next phase of the game set by the keepers of this particular dungeon. He may not be battle ready, but he’s been in enough dungeons to figure out survival tips through trial and error. The reveal of the boss character and how it changes is visually enough to send shivers down your back with its deadly nature and creepiness as it continues to deal death to the surviving hunters.

The rising action brings in a deeper feeling of psychological terror: hunters with much higher levels than Jinwoo continue to fall because they don’t use their heads or guess incorrectly on how to move on to the next step of the game of survival. The creative ways how these hunters leave the land of the living help make this an episode to watch: gory and sometimes unexpected! At the end, the tone of the action shifts with someone bringing gravely injured and talks of karma, sacrifice, accountability color the conversations as things continue to look grim. Nevertheless, Jinwoo continues to guide the remaining hunters to victory: leaving this cursed place with their lives. The ending of this episode features a dramatic musical score that will have you at the edge of your seat, wondering who’s going to make it out with their lives and who is finally out of time.

Solo Leveling, even with its choppy pacing in its beginning, still manages to present a fine adaptation of anime’s newest underdog. This new series with a protagonist who has to think two steps ahead will inspire you and entertain you if you like action packed anime with power rankings and lots of character development along the way.”

The pacing of the first episode really bothered me: starting with and injecting bits of pieces of the Hunter Association and certain characters who will be more important as time goes on really messed up the flow of things. Time and time again, it broke the immersion of watching and connecting with Jinwoo‘s character which is always so crucial for first episodes of any anime series, adaptation or not. While the episode is ultimately saved by the introduction to the dungeon that becomes a death trap and a place of salvation, this is not a perfect episode because of the choppy and unfortunate pacing.

I do love that the second episode leans into why the beginning of reading Solo Leveling is one that originally caught my attention: Jinwoo is a character that audiences will soon find themselves emotionally invested in following him and his journey. The world building that includes hunters and rankings and mysteries builds upon itself, and I have hopes the anime adaptation weaves it together in a concise way for a twelve-episode-run.

As amazing as it is to finally see Solo Leveling animated, I am left wondering about the glimpses of some favorite characters I saw in the first episode and how bigger plot events in the first arc will be handled. Come January, we’ll be seeing Jinwoo–anime’s latest underdog start his journey to unlock his potential and change the world as he knows it!

Solo Leveling
© Solo Leveling Animation Partners

Premiering on Crunchyroll

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Original Story by


Original Illustrations by

Dubu (Redice Studio)

Directed by 

Shunsuke Nakashige

Series Composition by

Noboru Kimura

Character Design by

Tomoko Sudo

Monster Design by

Hirotaka Tokuda

Art Direction by

Yasuhiro Okumura

Cinematography by

Masataka Ikegami

Music by

Hiroyuki Sawano

Animation Studio

A-1 Pictures

Japanese Voice Cast

Taito Ban as Sung Jinwoo

Genta Nakamura as Yoo Jinho 

Haruna Mikawa as Sung Jinah

Reina Ueda as Cha Hae-in 

Daisuke Hirakawa as Choi Jong-in

Hiroki Touchi as Baek Yoonho

Banjo Ginga as Go Gunhee 

Makoto Furukawa as Woo Jinchul

Opening Theme Song

“LEveL” performed by TOMORROW X TOGETHER and Hiroyuki Sawano

Ending Theme Song

“request” performed by krage

With ADR Direction by Caitlin Glass (Ranking of Kings; takt op. Destiny), see below for the English dub cast:

  • The main dual blade-wielding, shadow summoning, solo leveling guy Sung Jinwoo will be voiced by Aleks Le (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba)
  • Trusty rich sidekick extraordinaire Yoo Jinho will be voiced by Justin Briner (My Hero Academia)
  • The hard-working sister Sung Jinah will be voiced by Rebecca Wang (Aether Gazer)
  • The lovely, deadly S-rank hunter Cha Hae-in will be voiced by Michelle Rojas (Hell’s Paradise)
  • Flame-wielding, cool glasses guy Choi Jong-in will be played by Ian Sinclair (One Piece)
  • The beast mode with sick sideburns Baek Yoonho will be voiced by Christopher R. Sabat (Dragon Ball Z)
  • The silver-haired wise but strong chairman of the Korean Hunter Association, Go Gunhee will be voiced by Kent Williams (Dragon Ball Z)
  • Chief inspector of the Korean Hunters Association Woo Jinchul will be voiced by SungWon Cho (Ranking of Kings)
  • Sung Jinwoo’s hunter friend Lee Joohee will be voiced by Dani Chambers (The Ancient Magus’ Bride)

Adapted from the best-selling Korean web novel written by Chugong, Solo Leveling is animated by acclaimed A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online), with motion graphics by Production I.G (Attack on Titan; Haikyu!!). Additionally, the series is directed by Shunsuke Nakashige (Sword Art Online).

The Solo Leveling anime is scheduled to air on January 6, 2024 only on Crunchyroll.

Dubs for Solo Leveling will also be produced in other languages with premiere dates to be announced later.

UPDATE: Solo Leveling, will premiere Episode 1 of its English dub on Saturday, January 20 at 1:00 pm PST only on Crunchyroll – new episodes will be added each week.

01/19/24- Update- Added information about English dub cast and additional English dub trailer.

See more information of the anime’s official website.

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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