Solo Leveling Episode 6 – The Payoff

In what has now become a pattern, Solo Leveling followed up on its slower, premise-setting episode with incredible action, animation, and direction in the following one. While this is only making me wish these episodes came out in hour long bursts (like how the premiere was available for some), I do appreciate what the show is doing with pacing.

Complaints aside, the anime is fantastic and doing a solid job of adapting the source material. The Solo Leveling comic moved a lot more quickly through more foundational aspects of Jinwoo’s powers and had fewer moments of characterization due to how much text might get blazed through in a couple of panels. In contrast, anime episodes have been elongated certain scenes, adding emphasis to dialogue, and of course making use of Taito Ban’s legendary voice acting as Jinwoo.

Episode 6 was interesting and entertaining for a lot of reasons. For one, this is (obviously) the episode where Jinwoo fights the boss that appeared in episode 5. His party just left him to die, and what was originally a relatively simple job has become a life and death one. But, as we saw at the end of last episode, Jinwoo’s reaction wasn’t colored with much fear.

Instead, he seemed excited for the opportunity to prove his strength to himself and see the results of his recent leveling up. This episode built on that shift in characterization in multiple respects, making this an episode with both constant action and narrative development. (Spoilers ahead for Solo Leveling episode 6: The Real Hunt Begins)

A Beautiful Boss Fight

For me, the spider boss fight easily takes the number one spot for Solo Leveling in terms of animation quality thus far. Jinwoo’s newfound skills involve lots of high speed movement and the boss he’s taking on is quite large. This means that a lot of his movement is darting around and looking for a weak point, something this episode communicated quite well. Shots from Jinwoo’s perspective dashing toward the boss were followed by shots of him readying an attack from above.

Unlike a lot of shonen, the in-between frames are quite detailed. Even more, mixtures of normal and slow motion made it possible to include these detailed scenes in the slow motion while using it to emphasize things. In this way, slow motion made the fast scenes faster in comparison. It’s no wonder Jinho is shocked the entire fight.

This fight is the earliest point in the episode where Jinwoo’s loss of soft characteristics and seeming loss of humanity begins to trickle in. From the jump, his main concern is whether he is strong enough to beat this boss. Unlike just before the mission, where he was thinking about taking care of his sister and having enough money for rent, his entire inner monologue now relies on strength.

As he fights the boss, his eyes turn dark and his voice turns to a rasp; in the comic, these moments are represented by dark text in speech bubbles and the Solo Leveling adapted that just right thanks to Taito Ban. He’s not even particularly worried about the fact that an entire team of people have just declared they want to kill him. This of course could be because he senses he could take them all down, even before leveling up from the boss, but I get the feeling he was too focused on taking down the opponent in front of him to even consider it.

Loss of Humanity in Solo Leveling

The second half of the episode pits Jinho and Jinwoo against the rest of their dungeon party. This moment gives three things in particular I want to dive into. One, more broadly, Jinho and Jinwoo are natural foils for one another and Jinho is a good representation for how a normal, though slightly idealistic, person might react in this situation. He’s terrified of the others but more terrified of Jinwoo, and he chooses the response that both fits his morals and maximizes his chance of survival.

Two, for Jinwoo, he finally gets a chance to be on the giving end of the jungle mindset he feels is everywhere in the world. The strong take advantage of the weak, and the weak can do nothing. It’s a philosophy the other Hunters agree with, something Jinwoo himself notes, but they look decidedly more evil, even in comparison to Jinwoo’s darker, edgier moments during the boss fight. Three, the most important thing, is how Jinwoo reacts to the urgent quest to, quite explicitly, kill the 6 attacking him.

When asked directly if he’s ever killed a human, he has zero reaction. Instead, he steels himself for a fight, not for the implications of winning that fight. Like with the boss, he became immediately short sighted once there was a prospect of battle for him. The urgent quest does shake him, and that’s probably because it made it clear that he needs to kill someone to “win” in this case.

He was distracted enough to not notice someone blasting him in the face, despite his improved sensory capabilities. This is a section of the episode where Taito Ban (I’m never gonna stop the praise) does an amazing job, as did those behind the audio engineering for Solo Leveling. Headphones really made this scene different as the directional audio and mental tirade from Jinwoo combines with the blurring screen to really drown you in his despair.

Unlike the first episodes, where he swallowed the reality of being weak and let others escape the double dungeon, he projects it outward to fuel the sextuple kill streak he’s about to get. His first kill provokes a reaction from him, but it’s quickly stymied. It almost seems like he’s more surprised at how easily he killed someone than shocked at the implications of doing so.

There was no hesitation before he decapitated someone. His eyes, which had just been dark before, are obscured for almost the entire duration of the fight. Even the possibility that he was killing the brother of someone extremely important didn’t make him pause. He became ruthless with only the tiniest bit of prodding.

The finishing scenes in the rain were an excellent bracket to the rest. The Hunter Association reacts so calmly to the bloodbath inside. Even the false version of the story where almost the entire strike team perished, the representative calmly smiles and even cracks light jokes. It reinforces the weight of what Jinwoo had said and agonized over.

While he didn’t voice it, he was probably gaining an understanding of how those 6 were able to so reliably trick and kill so many people. No one questions if a weak person dies. But, at the very least, Jinwoo feels glad he gave his sister an umbrella for the rain, hinting at his remaining humanity.

I’m very excited for where the series is headed and I’m getting much more used to the pacing (even if the slower weeks make me pick up the comic). Next week it looks like we’ll see some consequences for Jinwoo and some more worldbuilding using the brief moments of S rank hunter action and guild explanations midway through this episode.

If you enjoyed Solo Leveling episode 6 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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