Solo Leveling is a South Korean action and fantasy web novel written by Chugong. It was serialized in Kakao’s digital comic and fiction platform KakaoPage on July 25, 2016, and later published by D&C Media. It is currently being serialized in English on Tappytoon.
After a portal opened connecting two worlds together, creatures of all kinds appeared and a chosen set of people acquired the ability to fight them called Hunters.
The main character of the story, Sung Jinwoo is labeled as “the weakest hunter” as he is a part of the lowest classification of hunters, E-rank, which is not much stronger than a normal human.
Occasionally, dungeons open in different parts of the world, and hunters have the job to kill the monsters inside and get magical stones and remains for money. Jinwoo was able to remain a hunter despite being weak thanks in large part to his money.
One day, Jinwoo and a group of hunters get trapped in a rare double dungeon where very few of them managed to escape alive. Although Jinwoo “dies,” he is given a second chance at life because he completed all of the dungeon trials.
When he wakes up in the hospital, he notices that he is the only person who can see a certain interface that shows him game-like qualities like quests, inventory, and his level.
Throughout the story, we watch him level up and grow in strength to unknown limits. With every chapter, he takes on stronger enemies, both humans and monsters. He seeks to find the source of his powers, and the secrets behind the dungeons.
When I first discovered the manhwa and it’s premise, I thought of writing it off as a basic Isekai with a generic plot. Weak player turns strong and can suddenly beat everybody that he couldn’t before. Then I started it, and there was something about it that just kept me reading. I was not able to stop myself from going to the next chapter every single time.
First of all, it knows how to keep a reader curious. The world they live in itself is a huge mystery, and Jinwoo is somewhat a guide to unraveling everything as more questions come up.
The characters are presented well and also very interesting. It does an excellent job of showcasing the power dynamics between each of them, but so far none have really caught my attention like Jinwoo. He’s definitely an attention grabbing protagonist.
Also, the way each chapter ended always had me anticipating the next, and that feeling only heightened during the battle arcs.
The story plot feels generic, but it’s good nonetheless.
Sung Jinwoo felt fresh to me because I have not encountered many main characters like him.
He does not exactly have a sense of heroism. His only priority is the safety and protection of his family and loved ones. All his decisions dial back to that fact.
If an enemy gets in his way, human or not, he will go against them without hesitation, and kill them if need be.
As the story continues, I no longer questioned whether or not he would defeat the enemy. I just got excited to see how he would defeat the enemy. Sung Jinwoo becomes OP, and I feel like it was done right. As he grows stronger, he grows more confident in his abilities and makes constant use of his already developed wit to win every challenge and boss he faces. So far, there is no limit to how strong an enemy can be and I can’t wait to see who or what he faces next.
I really admire how well written the world building is. Most highly ranked hunters belong to guilds and are appointed high positions in the government, and it presents the political reality of their society well. There are power dynamics between the S-rank(highest class) hunters and there are the normal humans who can do nothing but watch and hope for the best. And it goes deeper into that in the story.
What really sells Solo Leveling is the stunning art style. There isn’t a single panel that lacks in detail and it constantly leaves me with chills. It makes sense that there is a lot of talk about wanting the manhwa animated.
Many readers say that Solo Leveling is a bit overhyped by the community, and while I cannot disagree, I can say that it deserves the attention it has, and some more. It is a thrilling story that gives all you could ask for from an action-fantasy, and there is no denying that the excitement and anticipation it constantly evokes are worth the read.