Solo Leveling: Lessons Other Anime Should Learn
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Solo Leveling is an anime that has quickly gotten the anime community in a chokehold. It’s pretty obvious as to why. It started as a web novel before becoming an incredibly successful WebToon. After its success made it an obvious slam dunk, Crunchyroll pushed for the anime, and it was hotly anticipated for very good reason. From its dynamic artwork, rocking soundtrack, interesting world, and so much more, the series has managed to make an incredible impact in the short amount of time its anime has existed. It basically became a gateway series to get more people into Korean WebToons.




Of course, an anime that makes such a big splash is bound to be doing something right. It may, at first, seem to have the trappings of an isekai or a shōnen, but it is something far more complex and different. As opposed to being genre-defining, it’s genre-defying. While parts of it call to mind series like Attack on Titan, Goblin Slayer, or other similarly bleakly realistic shows, it also isn’t neatly recognizable as something that fits into those molds either. There is a lot that anime of all genres could learn from Solo Leveling — lessons that can help increase their stats.

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10 Solo Leveling’s Power System Is Easily Established, Making The Rule Breaking More Interesting

Essence Stones in a glass case in Solo Leveling.

In shōnen specifically, power systems are usually developed over time, so the audience processes how things work piece by piece. Demon Slayer and Naruto are great examples of this method. Alternatively, the power system is more of a framework to allow for pretty much anything to work. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and My Hero Academia are examples of the latter. While either system works, they tend to be a little vague, so that when the protagonist breaks through the upper limits, it is exciting, but not all that interesting. The systems are bendable on all sides and can change enough to allow for it just enough to make sense.


Jin-Woo Sung is, however, in a static system. In Solo Leveling, the Hunters, people with supernatural abilities, awaken into their powers and those powers will stay at that level forever. If you’re born weak, you stay weak. That is the rule. No exceptions up until Jin-Woo becomes a Player, capable of improving his skills and stats like in a video game but in his real world. The system for Jin-Woo is separate from that of the world around him now and that is interesting. Anime could use some more hard and fast rules that it is willing to break for the sake of a story.

9 Solo Leveling’s Stakes are Always High, Which is Great


Anime can have an issue when it comes to stakes. This exists across the board. Often, in the beginning, the ante is pretty high. Many series struggle, however, with keeping that tension. Shows like Dragon Ball don’t really have many consequences anymore and several others have a hard time committing to those consequences. Solo Leveling comes right out the gate with it.

Jin-Woo starts as the weakest member of the Hunters and the consequences are shown in graphic detail. He is often hurt and almost dies multiple times, and the only reason he does it is for the sake of his family. Actions have severe and swift consequences for Hunters and the audience is given a front-row seat to the many deaths that can be caused by losing one’s cool. This is extremely refreshing in a world where MHA‘s Eri can just rewind things away.

8 Solo Leveling’s Protagonist Isn’t Truly Useless In The Beginning

Sung Jinwoo looking out at an open door in the Solo Leveling ED MV


Anime protagonists tend to fall into one of three categories: bumbling beginners who have an untapped talent, utterly useless people who need to learn to stand on their own, and prodigies who need to prove their worth. Jin-Woo fits into none of these categories.

Jin-Woo is a survivor, first and foremost. His greatest ability is not dying. While this makes him sound like the second example, at first, his survival skills are crucial in the opening and are what ultimately allow him to continue forward. He is weak, but not useless. His ability to think quickly and keep himself alive saved others even before he got his power up. These new abilities give him an edge, but he could have kept surviving.

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7 Jin-Woo’s Power-Up Isn’t All Sunshine And Rainbows

Jin-ah looks weirdly at her brother Jinwoo because she can't see the quest log in Solo Leveling

Oftentimes, a power-up for a protagonist is something to be celebrated. In a world as unfair as Solo Leveling, something like the Quest Log is a literal godsend. It gives Jin-Woo the ability to improve and grow stronger in a world that demands stagnation. However, the Quest Log is a much darker thing, more akin to the Incubators’ contracts of Madoka Magica.

Jin-Woo is, in essence, enslaved to the demands of the Quest Log, lest he be punished with life-threatening situations. He is trapped in the quests no matter how he is feeling or what is going on. He has no active choice and, while this has been a theme in his life, this is even more incredibly rough as his autonomy is almost entirely stripped away. He only gets the choice of becoming a hero or a villain. Power-ups being a curse and a blessing is an interesting premise that anime could play with more.


6 Solo Leveling’s Isekai Aspect Integrates Well Into The Real World

The Statue of God smiling in the Solo Leveling anime.

Solo Leveling takes a lot of cues from different isekai series. The show basically revolves around people repeatedly jumping into isekai portals as a job, clearing dungeons, and farming for loot. The real “isekai” of it all is when Jin-Woo wakes up from a near-death experience with the Quest Log, turning the fantasy world around him into a fantasy RPG instead.

Whereas most isekai rely on the stark differences between worlds, Solo Leveling turns its main world into its own isekai for Jin-Woo, who now works outside the established power systems. The folding into each other feels seamless in a way that other series actively avoid, and it would be very much worth experimenting with more.


5 Solo Leveling Makes Fantasy Crushingly Dark

Solo Leveling Antares 2

Western media has embraced the idea of dark fantasy far more readily than anime has. While there are examples of it, such as Goblin Slayer, anime doesn’t have a lot of dark fantasy to pick from. Solo Leveling leans heavily into that darkness, with even healing magic taking drastic tolls on people’s bodies and limbs flying quite readily.

Many anime fans would likely welcome the idea of more anime starting comfortably before getting a lot more darkness in their fantasy settings. Solo Leveling shows that there is an incredible market for the genre and anime has a lot of leeway when it comes to making it work.


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4 Solo Leveling’s Super-Powered People Are Still Human

Jo-hee Lee casts a spell in a brown dress during Solo Leveling Episode 4

Often in anime, superpowers take a lot of the fear away from the characters. Why be afraid of anything when you can throw fireballs at it, right? Solo Leveling, however, goes to horror anime levels of portraying encompassing fear. Lee Joohee, for example, is a B-Rank healer who is shown to suffer from shell shock due to her experience in the double dungeon.


Lee Joohee’s legs give out, and her ability to function shuts down. She is terrified despite, supposedly, being equipped to survive this career as a healer. This simple humanity is incredibly unique to non-horror anime and can inject a lot of tension that many action series end up missing.

3 Solo Leveling’s World Of Recruitment Is Just As Dark

Heroes for hire is one of those ideas that exist everywhere. The world of Solo Leveling is particularly brutal with this concept. While many other series make the idea of being recruited into a guild or society a good thing, this series shows the utter cynicism of it.

Scouts are ruthless in this universe to get hunters into their guild, knowing how incredibly dangerous the profession is. Despite paying people quite well, the guilds are ultimately exploiting people for economic purposes. An anime having the guts to show the horror that comes with the privatization of what is, essentially, a military force, is daring and worth exploring in other settings.


2 Solo Leveling’s Cosmology Is More Than Fluff

A collage of the False Rankers from Solo Leveling.

Fantasy anime often uses the cosmology of the series as a bit of fluff, or some sort of explanation for why the world exists as it does. Maybe someone is a descendant of a long-dead god or something similar. Unless the story specifically involves those gods, such things are usually just extra world-building.

Solo Leveling’s cosmological system, on the other hand, gets more complex as the series goes on in the novels, and is pretty consequential. It’s a great way to actually build a world and to make even ancient powers work in the modern world.


1 Solo Leveling Explores The Ramifications Of Great Power

Sung Suho with his gauntlet in solo leveling manhwa

With great power, comes great responsibility. For Jin-Woo, that power comes with great pain. Jin-Woo has no control, even as he grows stronger. His life is beyond his control and the Quest Log can feel like it is more of a burden than a blessing.

Jin-Woo’s journey shows the psychological toll of his new powers, often with very few moments of joy. This makes his development more complex and painful, creating a protagonist that stands out because the audience can wonder if he would have been better off dying the first time. It is worth it for other anime to explore the darker sides of their protagonists and their abilities, it opens up so much more in terms of possibilities.


Jin-Woo Sung and Other Warriors Pose on the Solo Leveling Promo

Solo Leveling

In a world of gifted hunters and monsters, a weak hunter Sung Jin-Woo gains extraordinary powers through a mysterious program, leading him to become one of the strongest hunters and conquering even the strongest dungeons.

Release Date
January 7, 2024

Cast
Aleks Le , Taito Ban

Main Genre
Action

Seasons
1

Studio
A-1 Pictures

Creator
Chugong

Writers
Noboru Kimura

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