Mindless Power Fantasies Can be Fun

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 16 2021
Teen inc Mindless Power Fantasies Can be Fun

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage 

If you read many of the B-tier comics that don’t gain the attention of the mainstream readers, you would notice that a lot of them are ego-stroking, cheap power fantasies where the reader can escape their ‘mundane’ and uninteresting life and self-insert themselves into half-baked, boring characters. Many of such stories feature outcast personalities who live uninteresting lives in the modern world, but are magically whisked away to fantastical lands, or reincarnated into ones where it is up to them to save the world. I can’t say that I haven’t read a few of them myself, but I can say that hardly any such stories manage to keep me interested for more than a couple of chapters. 

Even so, I can’t bring myself to quit reading Solo Levelling. Solo Leveling, is a Korean novel written by Chu-Gong. After successfully being serialised in platforms such as Papyrus and later in KakaoPage, the story concluded with 14 volumes and 270 chapters. But it wasn’t long before a couple of talented artists, Hyeon – Gun and Jang SungRak would pick up the story and adapt it into a webtoon (an online comic series) by mid-2018. Mind you, Solo Levelling is not a ground-breaking story in any way. In fact, it follows many of the established narrative patterns we see in the usual power-fantasy stories. Solo Levelling’s story begins with an introduction to Sung Jinwoo, also known as ‘the weakest’ hunter. 

Turns out that Jinwoo lives in a world where mysterious cross-dimensional rifts called Gates start to appear throughout the world, which lay home to hordes of treasure, resources and of course, some horrendous monsters. Parallel to this event, a number of people started developing abilities and powers, who were subsequently called Hunters. Hunters around the world would enter such dungeons to hunt down the monsters to prevent them from entering this world, and to allow people to go in to harvest precious resources. Jinwoo is a young male and is one of the weakest of the hunters, with barely any ability beyond some extra physical strength compared to a normal person. 

Despite his weakness, and the ridicule of other hunters, Jinwoo continues to enter dungeons to help pay for his sick mother’s medical bills and his younger sister’s education. But, Jinwoo’s life is turned upside down when after a horrendous turn of events, he dies and brought back to life with the ability to ‘level-up’ as a hunter, and soon grows to become the strongest hunter in the world. In simple terms, weak unpopular main character gets special ability to become the most powerful person there is. Like I said before, nothing really new. What sets Solo Levelling apart from other, similar narratives is how satisfying it is to read as Jinwoo progresses up the power ladder. 

In my own opinion, I believe this is because of the proper framing. Jinwoo as a character is likeable, and immediately makes you want to root for him, and although he does lose some of his charm as he gains more power while levelling-up, doesn’t stop from being a likeable character in any way. Him, paired with a bunch of interesting characters who are able to keep you entertained, but lack any major depth manage to keep you engaged and scrolling down each chapter (manhwa is optimised for digital devices, so you scroll down rather than turn pages). But all that wouldn’t be able to keep my interest piqued if it weren’t for the gorgeous artwork by the two Korean artists. 

Each panel is intricately detailed, and merge together to create a reading experience I’ve rarely ever seen before. That doesn’t mean that Solo Levelling is without its weaknesses. You might find the constant raising of stakes and power levels somewhat repetitive, and the scenarios increasingly less tense because you know Jinwoo is going to come out on top at the end. However, the amazing artwork manages to compensate for it, and with all the momentum built up from reading from the beginning, you still can keep on reading, without losing interest too much. If you haven’t read Solo Levelling yet, I highly recommend you give it a try. Agreeably, it may not be for everyone, but it has been consistently good enough to garner a massive fan following. The story might not always keep you excited, but the art and delivery of story will keep you scrolling for more.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 16 2021

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