Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Review: a spectacular start reflects a near-perfect adaptation of the Manhwa

Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 just premiered, and while it is too early to say if it matches the ‘god-like’ quality of the Manhwa (At least the beginning portion of it), it isn’t unspeculative to say that this – among all the possible ways it could have turned out, it is one darn good of an Episode.

Adapted from the Manhwa of the same name, the upcoming episodes of Solo Leveling Anime, also called Ore dake Level Up na Ken” (Only I Level Up), shall focus on how Sung-Jin Woo attains a near-god-like game ability to level up, conquering the world dominated by a hunter-dungeon-monster system. You can watch episode 1 in here.

Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Review and Recap:

Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Review
Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 opens with scenes of Jeju Island, and Chimera Ant monsters. These scenes actually appear much later into the Manhwa.

The first episode sets in quite a precedence, going above and beyond what the Manhwa originally contains. In the Manhwa, the initial chapters do not dive much into the hunter dynamics. By no means do we see Cha Hae-in (our soon-to-be female heroine for the MC) so early into the story in the manhwa, nor do we see the Korean Hunter Association chairman Go Gunghee? (Both these individuals are S-rank hunters, strong on their own dimension.)

That which remained the same and that which didn’t

Solo Leveling Korean Hunter Association Chairman
The hunter association chairman describing to the audience the basic stuff about the world, image rights belong to A-1 Studios.

The point is that A-1 Pictures has taken a splendid approach to the first episode. It is likely that the opening story of Sung jin-woo getting his powers will draw a close by the third anime episode maximum. In all likelihood, it could wrap up in the upcoming second episodes as well, which is a whopping 7 days away from the time this article is being written.

Nonetheless, much of the opening story in the Manhwa itself is wrapped up in the first 2-3 chapters as well. Yet scenes of Cha Hae-in helping a young girl get her stolen purse back, or the Korean Hunter Association chairman so casually explaining why Hunters have to retrieve magical stones and items for the economy of the real world, all of these are cherries that Manhwa fans did not expect.

Why getting the pace right mattered

Cha Hae-in in Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1
Cha Hae-in as seen in the first episode, similar to the Chimera Ants, her appearance too is not something that happens so early in the Manhwa. Image rights belong to A-1 Pictures, via Crunchyroll.

Yet it sets quite a beautiful pace for the story. The story directors for the episode were probably concerned about which point exactly to end the episode in, leaving just enough to hook people in but also giving enough information so the plot is carried to its audience adequately. They seem to have found the most serene balance by introducing multiple aspects which weren’t originally part of the beginning of the Manhwa, becoming food content for stretching the episode long enough. Also check this one out: All the Solo Leveling Voice Actors and Their Previous Work Listed

If the manhwa was followed as is without initiating the larger world from the get-go, the first episode may have found itself hung in an awkward place. Unless they did a 40-minute premiere, in which they probably could have adapted til the point Sung Jin woo faints and wakes up with his powers.

Episode 1 beginning starts with Jeju Island Chimera ant monsters

Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Review
Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 opens with scenes of Jeju Island, Chimera Ant monsters. These scenes actually appear much later into the Manhwa.

The opening few minutes are heavily dedicated to a 3-year early period, where the chimaera ants of Jeju Island and hunters fighting the same are shown. All of these seemingly set the foreshadowing that Jeju island will be a huge arc for the coming Anime episodes. Although it is likely Jeju Island will need more than/or 2 seasons or at least 48 episodes to be covered in its full glory.

  • The opening pretext sees the appearances of Cha Hae-In and the likes of Go Gunghee, along with additional information about the hunter world being spoon-fed to the audience by the latter. All of these set a certain flow to the Anime, perfectly aligning with the goal of finding that one sweet spot where the episode could end.

The duty of a good adaption towards its audience

Park and Song in Solo Leveling Anime
Park and Song in Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1
  • One of the primary ways that an adaptation should appeal to its audience, especially when the source is such hugely appreciated work – is mainly to make the adaptation in a way that appeals to both the newcomers who have no idea of the source, and also to hard-earned source fans.

Somehow Solo Leveling Anime does perfectly that. I, a hard-going Solo Leveling fan who finished the Manhwa about months ago, wanted to return to the Manhwa and relive the finest scenes of the story from the beginning. By the way, here are Top 5 similar Manhwa that you can read as Solo Leveling Anime releases today.

Yet I stopped myself from doing so, primarily because I felt what I would be getting would not be this amazing first episode that I witnessed. Sure it will be the source of this Anime, but not this story itself. Although the same, the Solo Leveling Anime in front of me is quite different from the Manhwa (At least for now). Full points to Solo Leveling Episode 1 for being able to pull this one off, with its pacing and world-building from the get-go.

Diving into Sound, Animation, Characters of Solo Leveling Anime Epiosde 1

I have rather taken a disproportionately huge chunk of my overall word count just to explain a subtle point about pacing, so let me dive into the technical stuff as well.

A certain flow seemed not established
Cha Hae-in summersaulting into the air was a quite flawless animation

Although the story adaptation in itself is quite nice, the flow of how each scene fits into each other was not the best. Simply said, I have seen better. Take for example the first episode of Attack on Titan, which also ended itself on a similarly beautiful cliffhanger – leaving you wanting more but also establishing the world.

Yet the music scores, the frames, and the voice acting, all seemed to fit in with enough lubrication. Such is not the case in Solo Leveling Episode 1. Some frame changes and cuts seem to be abhorrent and not fluid.

The music never seems to bother you much, it fits quite harmoniously, although it does not stand out on itself. Attack on Titan, for one comparison, stood itself out in the music department phenomenally. And coincidentally, Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 music direction is led by the same man who did wonders for Attack on Titan – Hiroyuki Sawano. 

But perhaps I am steering too much into mundane things, the music does not disappoint, even by any small margin. Maybe the ‘kick’ that I am looking for is better reserved for when Sung Jin Woo first speaks ‘arise’ – a moment that is holding itself for goosebumps and awe-stuckness to be conveyed to the audience.

The character building is quite strong

Sung Jin woo in The Solo Leveling Anime
Sung jin-woo in Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1

The characters too seemed to retain their Korean names, at least in the Crunchyroll variation. But if sources are true, the Japanese TV release for natives will see each character being referred to by their Japanese names.

Luckily the Anime successfully introduced the world, the soon-to-be major characters, and even the protagonist quite skillfully. As a reader of the Manhwa, one realizes that the true essence of Solo Leveling story lies in the weakest of the weak climbing the power hierarchy and the pleasure that the audience derives from it. As such, a natural milestone to achieve is to establish just how helpless and weak the character (in this case the protagonist) actually is.

  • As Sung Jin-woo recounts why all his life he has been analysing situations just so he could have an escape route, we get to know that such ‘weak’ demeanor of his so far gives him quite an experienced insight whenever danger lurks near.
  • And sure enough, as soon as his instincts go all spider-sense, the statue lazer beams the heck out of his crew hunters. Part of the entire beginning portion of the story, as it seems from the Anime’s well done adaptation, will focus on establishing that even while being powerless, Sung Jin woo is a man of character. As such, he is deserving of this huge power privilege that he shall soon be bestowed upon, in the coming episodes.


Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Review
Solo Leveling Anime Episode 1 Animation seems impeccable.

The animation was quite breathtaking for what it was. For what it’s worth, the beginning scenes led me to compare the animation style similar to some ero-anime. (Ahem). Yet when the action flew in, and I witnessed how the Anime did not refrain itself from showing crimson red blood and heads being axed and flying of, I was immediately impressed. The scene where the statue fires incinerating lasers was quite colourfully vivid. The smooth flow of animation without relying even an ounce on CGI makes things a hundred times better as Cha Hae-in does a beautiful summersault high in the air.

How did you like the first episode of Solo Leveling Anime? Was it up to your expectations?

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