This week’s episode of Solo Leveling brought a notable change to Sung Jinwoo’s character design, some comedic moments, and bit of buildup…and not too much else. This is one of those episodes where I can’t help but be a bit frustrated as I walk away from it. A decent portion of it was dialogue that wasn’t immediately advancing the plot and the action that was there wasn’t too much in comparison to what we saw last week. If anything, the amazing scenes from last week’s episode kicked off a feeling of plot adrenaline that I expected to get at least some continuation. I’m able to enjoy it and I certainly have things from the slower moments to think about, but, like with the premiere, I feel like I would enjoy the Solo Leveling anime a lot more if I watched episodes in 1-hour bursts of two.
Despite the fact that this episode was quite literally the prelude to something hopefully much better, there was some upside. Jinwoo encountered a sort of bastardized version of his experiences early in the season and reacts in an entirely different way, showing his growth. A lot about him has changed, and perhaps it’s how that shows up even in mundane scenes that is the takeaway for the episode. (Spoilers ahead for Solo Leveling episode 5: A Pretty Good Deal)
Leveling Up to a Six Pack
Obviously, from promotional material, artwork from the webtoon, and really anything about Solo Leveling, I knew Jinwoo’s glow up was coming. But, I didn’t expect the change to be so drastic and so quick this early in the series. But that aside, he’s just hot now as the episode begins, giving up a decently funny intro sequence where everyone at the hospital reacts to his suddenly shredded physique. Personally, I found this sequence to be a bit at odds with something later in the episode. One thing Jinwoo makes sure of is not making a scene by asking for his powers to be re-assessed by the Hunter Association. He knows his powers are abnormal and that extra scrutiny could make him a target of some kind. But realistically, he’s grown significantly taller and muscular during the course of a single hospital stay, enough that every nurse noticed and his sister remarked about it immediately. Surely some hunter would notice the so-called weakest hunter in history wasn’t puny? Who knows.
One rather significant change was the first application of a skill point to something other than strength. Nothing going to intelligence or magic-involved skills yet, but Jinwoo did add some points to agility and perception. While trivial at first glance, this was a nice thematic touch in my opinion, as it represents Jinwoo at some level deciding that he’s now strong enough to move on with his life and not dwell on his prior weak existence.
Long Walk to a Cliffhanger
The middle portion of the episode was, to me, the most sluggish moment of all of Solo Leveling thus far. I personally don’t mind it; action isn’t everything in shonen anime and I actually enjoyed seeing the different types of hunters interact as they walked through the dungeon. The rich first time hunter with shiny gear and no skill was a nice juxtaposition to Jinwoo who had to work for all of the gear he now has. But, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to go read the manhwa to see the fight a bit earlier. That aside, there are two interactions I think are especially worth digging into: Jinwoo and his sister and Jinwoo and the 6-person party.
Jinwoo and his sister have only interacted a little bit so far in Solo Leveling, with much of her dialogue being expressing worry toward his safety. The scene where he forces an umbrella into her bag and wishes her off felt meaningful because it was probably the first time in a long time he felt confident he would be able to care for his family, and it shows in his attitude. While I was shocked to see a landlord so willing to accept late rent, even that portion of the scene let us see Jinwoo switch quickly from his deferential, usual persona into a problem solving, confidant persona — immediately tackling things. For the hunters, his suspicion and constant observation of them actually sparked a lot of curiosity for me, enough for me to start trying to figure out exactly what the betrayal would be (though the rich kid’s not-so-subtle mention of fleeing and embezzlement gave it away). Even then, his reasoning of every situation they all walk through radiated confidence. In his mind, his guaranteed payment is the rent he needed and he isn’t in fear for his life at all, so he can nonchalantly let the side characters do their little scheme. It’s peak main character energy and I’m here for it.
The combat in the episode was adequate and I was happy to see some flashy magic thrown about, but I expect the real action to come next week and I can accept the anticipation for now. It was fantastic to see the flash of electricity surround Jinwoo before he calmly declared he’d beat the boss himself. We didn’t see any sort of name for it (it’s unclear thus far if text boxes only appear in special instance dungeons or in all of them for Jinwoo) but I’ll laugh if everyone was terrified of this boss just for it to be pitifully under Jinwoo’s level. Hopefully next week will have plenty of payoff for this week’s buildup.
If you enjoyed Solo Leveling episode 5 then be sure to vote for it in our weekly poll! The series is streaming on Crunchyroll with new episodes airing on Saturday. As of January 20th, Crunchyroll is also streaming the English dub of the anime.
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