Solo Leveling Episode 2 was released a few hours ago, and the community has been nothing short of full of appreciation for it. Whether it be famous music director Hiroyuki Sawano’s beautifully crafted score, or A-1 Studios seamless animation. The episode is demanding a review, and Spiel Anime is here to write it for you. If you want a recap summary of what transpired in the episode, take a look at our Solo Leveling Episode 2 recap.
It will help to clarify from the get-go that I do not endorse, or attempt at comparing Solo Leveling to Attack on Titan. For reasons manyfold reasonable, one would see that the story of Solo Leveling is not nearly as complex and intricately woven as Attack on Titan. Neither is it riddled with similar levels of world-building, or philosophy. Other than a few moments of ‘Kakatte Koi’ (Bring it on, in Japanese) that the main hero Sung Jin-woo would spew, which he did in this second episode itself by the way, do not expect some grace-filled dialogues on the level of Erwin Smith.
While we are on the topic of Attack on Titan, look at this beautifully woven edit by Zurik23M. It is one of the most staggering Anime edits I have ever witnessed, fully grasping the glory of Eren’s perspective.
Why Solo Leveling Episode 2 does justice to the source
So now that this is put here, let me clarify: what exactly do I mean when I say that Solo Leveling Episode 2 is a masterpiece that shall remind you of Attack on Titan?
I mention this in terms of episode building, how the musical scores accompany the rising tension, the voice actor’s effortless performance, and the gore and grotesque setting of people being sliced in half and stomped to death. There are far too many elements that will only ‘remind’ you of Attack on Titan. As we dive into the review, I shall also point out scenes where one is reminded of AoT. Also, here is a review of Solo Leveling Episode 1.
The stone statue’s eerily creepy smile hints a sense of doom similar to AoT’s Titans
The stone statue, which seems to be the master of the double dungeon within the context of the story, seems impeccably strong. In the hunters’ estimate, they seem to boast at least the strength of an S-rank boss. Having to worship it literally, the statue seems to establish this domineering shadow of hopelessness. Heck, it even opens the door, puts on this ritualistic timer, and allows the hunters to escape. Which as Sung Jin-woo accurately pinpoints, is a facade. Those who leave die, anyway.
The smile, accompanied by the overwhelming power which the characters cannot even seem to comprehend, may take one back to Attack on Titan’s initial episodes. When the Titans were, for the most part, one of the most bone-inducing mysteries. At least for me, I was intricately fascinated by what these unparalleled in-strength beings are. The initial episode of Solo Leveling seems to draw similar awe or majesty towards its antagonist from the get-go.
Will a similar level of dungeon intricacy and brainstorming remain as we move forward?
Although I will clarify, at my own behest, that this level of masterfully crafted dungeon mechanics (praying to the god, praising it, letting a sacrifice) is rare as we move forward the story. If Shingeki no Kyojin is an Anime that retains its intricacy from the get-go to the end, it is feasible to say that Solo Leveling loses this form of tension the more it progresses throughout the story. While we are on this topic, here are Top Anime that starts amazing but then regresses near the end.
Although this is only true for the Manhwa, and the Light Novel as well. Unless the Anime department decides to venture otherwise, it seems unlikely that will change.
The beginning of Solo Leveling Light Novel always remained to me one of the most voraciously unsatiably good story beginnings of all the Manhwas out there. And this was the case even prior to the Anime. I would go so far as to say that the beginning of Solo Leveling is as good as it gets, and then it slowly goes through a decline towards the end. But do not worry, that will take time. You should be pretty invested in the story for at least a season or two.
The Animation, Sound, Opening and Voice Acting
I have said this before, but Solo Leveling Episode 2 really seems to not jolt itself down for a PG-13 Audience. With scenes of hunters being stomped to the ground, literally sliced in half, and Sung Jin-woo ritualistically being sacrificed, shredded, cut, and sliced into pieces at the altar. This coupled with the impeccable musical score creation of Hiroyuki Sawano, the individual animation segments really pull you to the edge of the seat.
The symbolism of the religious ritual is a brilliant idea of a dungeon system. Having to decode the commandments leads you into thinking that the story is going to be riddled with intricacies as it develops (you’ll think wrong, but the beauty of Solo Leveling is not its simplified plot).
The lead voice actor does not disappoint
Sung Jin-woo’s voice actor Taito Ban is not the most redeemed or seasoned VA out there. For all purposes, I had my doubts when I initially heard of him. But it seems to me that the work quality in Japan is so phenomenally well done, that even lesser-known VAs seem to be more than capable.
That would imply that although there is something special to the likes of Yuki Kaiji (Eren Jeager), Hiroshi Kamiya (Levi, Attack on Titan), and Kana Hanazawa (Mitsuri Kanroji Demon Slayer), it is not special enough that they cannot be replaced by another lesser known VA from the industry.
In the sense that if time were to be reversed, and one puts Taito Ban instead of let’s say Yuki Kaiji, it is likely that he would not have been a letdown. Implying again, that every artist that makes the cut as a voice actor is quite decently equipped with their skills. If not, they wouldn’t have made the cut in a place of fierce competition to begin with.
Getting back to the point, Taito Ban did not disappoint. If anything a performance on par with Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia was shown. The screams, the cry of war (Kakatte Koi), each and everything is inevitably beautifully performed. Even the supporting voice actors.
Along with the sound, and voice acting, one must also praise the Animation. This is especially true once I got to see the opening. Usually, it is difficult to judge an anime’s animation quality from just two episodes. But if you take a look at the opening, it easily has one of the most fluid non-CGI animations I have seen in a long while.
The emotions were quite uniquely captured throughout the character portrayal in the Anime. If I had to say, one of the things that I missed was the bowing down to god meme moment. For a tribute to the fans, that scene could have been framed as it is. Although we did not get that wide angle frame of everyone praying to the god statue.
Still, the pacing was absolutely right. As I had predicted in the earlier episode, the reason they had introduced multiple S-rank and other important characters from the get-go was to accommodate justified pacing. Now we can successfully begin Sung Jin-woo’s spectacular journey of levelling up, alone, in a world filled with hunters. All of this enticed me to reread the Manhwa once again. But, and this is the point which makes me say so highly of the second episode, is that I simply do not want to return back to the Manhwa.
For some reason, the Anime stands on its own, as its own thing. It is based on the source yet it does not make you want to revisit the source, primarily because the anime itself is here. And indeed it is.