Light novels have always been a thing but with the recent uptick in Korean-based web novels and manhwas, they’ve seen a rise in popularity. Isekai works such as Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint and Shonen adventures like SSS-Class Suicide Hunter have become cult favorites, even among manga traditionalists, and for a very good reason.
Web Novels are easily accessible, widely available, and extremely binge-able. The world-building in most of the works I’ve read is rich and colorful, with an honest focus on character development. And a lot of themes are familiar to the regular anime enthusiast.
And clearly, there is potential to be found in light novels. We have seen some get made in manhwa or webtoons. Some are lucky enough to get an anime adaptation, such as Tower Of God by author Lee Jong Hui.
One of the most ubiquitous genres in these light novels is Action Adventure i.e. Shonen. And while there is a variety of titles to choose from, I’d like to talk about a specific light novel that pulls comparisons to the likes of Overgeared and Solo Leveling: SSS-Class Suicide Hunter by creator Shin Noah.
SSS-Class Suicide Hunter: Story Breakdown
The story follows Kim Gong-Ja, a weak Hunter and orphan from Korea. He would look up to other top hunters that would raid the Tower, which is a fantastical structure filled with intrigue and the promise of fortune for those strong enough to climb it. Of course, that awe turned to envy when saw others like Yoo Soo-Ha aka The Flamethrower advancing while he remained stuck on the lower ranks. Often the Tower bestows rising hunters with an S-rank skill, something Gong-Ja lacks and resented himself for.
But by some miracle, his prayers are answered when the Tower suddenly presents him with an S-Rank skill known as I Want To Be Just like You! But here in lies the kicker: it’s a skill where he can copy other hunters’ skills upon being killed by them. So, dying is the only way Gong-Ja can make use of it.
And to make matters worse, he gets to test out that theory pretty quickly when he stumbles upon Soo-Ha murdering a fellow Hunter. Soo-Ha openly admits that he’s been culling his kind for years now and decides to kill Gong-Ja so that dirty secret dies with him.
It is at that moment, however, that Gong-Ja’s luck finally turns. Upon being eviscerated by Soo-Ha, he gains the Returner’s Clockwork Watch skill, an ability where he can basically reset the world by 24 hours before he gets killed. Angered by how his idol turned out to be nothing more than a butcher, Gong-Ja decides to go back in time so he can stop Soo-Ha from ever gaining power in the first place.
Of course, for that, he must rewind reality by 10 years. This means Gong-Ja will have to commit suicide over 4000 times, just to have a chance.
Is SSS-Class Suicide Hunter Worth Watching?
I feel like this novel did something different with a trope that is very commonly found in Shonen-style light novels. Like all the stereotypes are there. You have a strange mysterious world. You have a ‘loser’ protagonist gaining superpowers. You have ex hero, but he is now an arch-nemesis. The pattern forms quickly once you start consuming more novels.
It starts slow. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t take me a while to get through the first 20 chapters or so. The reason for that is Gong-Ja who is insufferable at the beginning. He is whiny, spiteful, and just so miserable, honestly. The man hates himself and it shows.
So, when he does get character development, it’s done extremely well. He is no longer envious, he’s shrewd and cunning. His obsession is less messy, more earnest. His heart is finally in the right place, and we see this internet troll of a protagonist become someone willing to take the weight of the world on his shoulders.
And it’s not just him. The character growth is impeccably well done with the entire cast. They are multi-faceted individuals that hold their own in a world so heavy in action and plot. The comedic timing and heartfelt moments are immaculate, leading to an overall entertaining read.
The world setup is balanced as well. The whole ‘Tower’ thing means you get a different genre of action every arc. Which transforms the main drive from depending on skills and power-ups to being determined by Gong-Ja’s intellect and how far he is willing to go. This pushes the plot onward, leading to conclusions that you wouldn’t expect.
Do I think this novel is perfect? No. It takes a while to reel you in, and in some places falls flat and the plot is dragged on from there. But patience is rewarded when it does pick back up and goes into directions that take you by surprise.
It’s a unique take on something so overdone and for that alone, I think it deserves a read! If nothing, you will have fun.