Solo Leveling: A Matrix-Inspired TV Series Worth Watching

Solo Leveling: A Matrix-Inspired TV Series Worth Watching

Discover how Solo Leveling creatively intertwines DnD elements to elevate Neo's Matrix-inspired journey, promising an exhilarating and captivating narrative minus the kung fu action.

Solo Leveling takes inspiration from The Matrix by combining elements of fantasy and sci-fi. However, Sung Jinwoo's story surpasses Neo's journey.

I recently revisited the first three The Matrix films and they still impress. While the sequels may have their flaws, the Wachowski sisters' universe, ambition, and creativity have stood the test of time.

After finishing Neo's story in The Matrix, I delved into The Animatrix, a collection of short animated films that explore different aspects of the battle against the machines. I have a deep love for The Matrix series, and I always wish there was more content to enjoy within the franchise.

Luckily, this winter season introduced me to Solo Leveling, an anime series that has satisfied my craving for more Matrix-like stories. Sung Jinwoo's journey with the help of artificial intelligence in a parallel universe resembles Neo's adventure, but with the twist of Jinwoo being an ordinary person who happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling

Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling


Sung Jinwoo is the One

In the first episode, Sung Jinwoo bravely sacrifices himself to rescue a group of heroes trapped in a dangerous dungeon filled with giant stone gods. These gods attack anyone who can't decipher their patterns. Sung proves his intelligence by outsmarting the gods, but it comes at a cost - his own physical well-being.

After being rescued, he miraculously wakes up in the hospital with no injuries and is able to see a strange interface that only he can see. This interface allows him to level up his rank by completing various quests. As he starts to grasp his newfound power, he begins to take on more dangerous and complex enemies.

There are echoes of The Matrix in Solo Leveling's DNA - a chosen hero, a fusion of our world with advanced technology, and a sense that there are deeper layers to the unfolding story. However, creator Chugong puts a unique spin on these familiar elements by adding a fantastical twist to the narrative.


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Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix

Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix

Warner Bros

The Matrix, but make it DnD

In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, the enemies that players encounter often take the form of simple creatures such as goblins, serpents, and werewolves. These foes emerge from mysterious gates that have been appearing for years, seemingly without rhyme or reason. Some individuals possess special abilities that enable them to pass through these portals, defeat the ultimate boss, and claim valuable treasures.

It puts a fun twist on the man vs. machine paradigm by giving the machine a creative streak in the enemies and obstacles it creates. Sung can purchase potions in a store and acquire keys from different bosses, all giving it the flair of a DnD session. Just one that’s deeply meta and gone totally awry. (Is there any other kind?)

Solo Leveling has the air of an episode of The Animatrix, and you can imagine the first two episodes making a condensed short: a gaggle of adventurers get lost, find some horrendous glitch, one survives with a mysterious tether to the simulation’s code. Chugong’s manhwa massages and contorts the concept using fantasy elements to make a story that requires more space.

The symbiosis of DnD and The Matrix flows seamlessly in Solo Leveling. Sung’s progression is clearly marked, but we are only privy to the knowledge he is given. We also get a clear idea of the enemies and stages he will encounter.

In Solo Leveling, we see a version of The One without the need for instantly uploading skills. This is not a critique of The Matrix, which I believe is one of the best action movies ever made. The concept of learning new skills through literal patches is a brilliant way to create grand scenes. However, I can't help but wonder what it's like for those without a Morpheus or Trinity.

A glitch in the simulation

Some people experience unexpected glitches that force them to adapt and think on their feet, placing them in challenging situations. Imagine the astonishment of the first person in The Matrix when they discovered they could leap from one high-rise to another. It must have been quite a surprise for the agents when their target suddenly displayed kung fu skills after just rounding a corner.

In Solo Leveling, we witness similar moments of daring exploration and pushing oneself to the limit, mixed with feelings of fear and excitement. There is a sense of progress intertwined with lingering mysteries. Sung navigates this world without a guide or any divine intervention, only relying on menus to track his growth and guide him towards what comes next.

Sung's choices are urgent because he is becoming stronger, yet he still struggles against his limits. After a tough battle with Cerberus, he decided to step back and work on improving before advancing to the next level. Although he may have had a divine encounter, his blessings do not shield him from his own humanity.

Despite his increasing power, Sung is still vulnerable to danger and must be cautious, especially since he often navigates through challenges alone. Even as he grows more formidable, he is still guided by basic instincts. This is the direction I have always hoped to see The Matrix explore - where a person comprehends all the underlying code but must master specific skills to progress.

The story revolves around a character resembling a Christ figure, but without any apostles or messiah. Instead, his scripture consists of popups for new quests and skill points. His tale is told with a touch of silliness and a strong sense of self-confidence. While not as visually impressive as The Matrix, I find that I can relate more to Sung than to Neo. Perhaps he is the chosen one I have been anticipating.

Editor's P/S:

The article delves into the similarities and differences between "Solo Leveling" and "The Matrix," highlighting how "Solo Leveling" takes inspiration from the latter while crafting a unique narrative. The author draws parallels between Sung Jinwoo and Neo, exploring how both characters navigate a blend of fantasy and sci-fi elements. The article also emphasizes the innovative blend of Dungeons and Dragons and "The Matrix" in "Solo Leveling," creating a captivating and imaginative world.

Overall, the article provides an insightful comparison between the two works, showcasing how "Solo Leveling" stands on its own as a compelling and original story while paying homage to the iconic "The Matrix" franchise. The author's enthusiasm for both series shines through, making for an engaging and thought-provoking read for fans of both anime and science fiction.