Sung Jin Woo is a familiar name for anyone who has dipped their toes into the vast and wondrous world of Korean manhwa and webtoons. The medium has gained quick popularity thanks to apps like Line WebToon and Tapas, which have made comic consumption that much more accessible. And with a story like Solo Levelling that rivals some of the best fantasy-action manga and anime to have come out in recent times, it isn’t hard to see why people are so invested.
Sung Jin Woo happens to be the protagonist of the Solo Levelling series, also known as Only I Level Up. Written by Chugong as a web novel, it quickly gained popularity and got adapted into a hit webtoon series. It has even netted itself a future anime adaptation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing how well Korean manhwa-turned-anime has been doing in the global market. I mean, just look at the Tower Of God.
But I’d say Solo Levelling is a little more extensive than that. It is arguably the most famous in its genre, with a protagonist that’s almost instantly recognizable. Sung Jin Woo is your typical underdog main lead, but it’s his journey across this fantastical world as a Hunter that gets you invested. And while the setting might feel like it borrows from the many Isekai offerings we’ve already seen before, it truly adds its unique twist to the genre, making it a genuinely intriguing read.
But let’s say you’ve never tried Solo Levelling before and think the characters feel pretty one note on paper. Well, if you were searching for an Isekai-style main lead that feels less Gary Stu and more organic in their growth, then you’ve come to the right place. Sung Jin Woo might feel familiar, but here’s a detailed look into the character that shows us exactly why he isn’t. Let’s get right into it!
Table of contents
Who Is Sung Jin Woo?
As discussed previously, Sung Jin Woo is the central protagonist of the Solo Levelling series. He starts as an extremely weak Hunter, a human that possesses special power and abilities that they use to kill magical beasts. Usually, these Hunters are ranked by their power from S to E – with E being the worst of the worst. And our boy Sung Jin Woo barely even makes it as an E-Class Hunter, a Mage with barely any special skills to his name.
However, things start to change one day when the System, a magical program that governs this world, chose Jin Woo as its Player. This meant that previously closed-off opportunities were now open to Jin Woo and Jin Woo alone. No longer were there any limitations to his growth. Instead, he could keep on adding abilities into his arsenal infinitely, gradually becoming the most powerful Hunter in all the land, alongside being crowned the Shadow Monarch.
However, despite being someone who craved power, never did Sung Jin Woo let that power corrupt him. Instead, he is kind, even humble at times. He cares so much for the family and allies he has collected around him, those that believed in him before the miracle blessing upon him. Jin Woo is especially close to his mother and sister. But that love has only made him stronger, making him seek out more power so he can protect the ones he loves.
And now, he thrives on the top of the food chain but is never discourteous about it. Sung Jin Woo tries his best to help fellow Hunters, even taking harm upon himself, as witnessed by the Jeju Island incident. He has grown, not just as a Hunter, but as a person too.
Glowing Up Both Physically And Mentally?
Hey, it isn’t just his strengths that got an upgrade here. Turns out, when the System gives you a do-over, they mean it. And so, Sung Jin Woo goes through the transformation of his life. So, let’s discuss how he went from a scrawny loser to a cool hero!
At first, Sung Jin Woo was every average-looking man ever, basically an NPC (Non-Playable Character) in the background. He was not very imposing with his short height, and most of his features were hidden behind his long hair that looks ‘homeless NEET’ than ‘messy cute’. And couple that with a perpetual baby face and lackluster wardrobe, and you can see why he never stood out from the crowd.
However, once the System gets its mitts on him, things change drastically. His Gray eyes go from soft to fox-like, glowing purple when he uses his powers, and his dark hair gets shorter to show off his sharp and angled features. Gone is the awful hoodie-and-jeans combo, now his clothes are fitted with dark cuts and bellowing silhouettes, with one hand covered in a black glove to hide the scarring from the Antares Battle.
All in all, the man went through a second puberty to fit his new title of strongest Player alive.
Being Rigged By The System To Become OP?
But what does it mean to be that strong anyways? Well, as the world was before the System’s intrusion, you could only advance so much, even if you were an S-class Hunter. However, Sung Ji Woo advanced to full glory and beyond.
But that’s not all. When all your restraints are broken, the sky is the limit. You can just absorb powers and abilities without ever having to fear it is too much. And so, we see Sung Jin Woo take on some of the most arduous of tasks to steadily grow more powerful, with no end in sight.
If we talk about his normal abilities, you have your usual Immense Strength, indestructible levels of Durability, lightning-fast reflexes thanks to Increased Speed and the like. Those just come with the territory of being the Shadow Monarch though, so they aren’t that unusual. Even his Regenerative Properties, which means he heals much faster than other humans, and Stealth are things that you can excuse as by-products of his immense growth.
But things that come in clutch are the powers that he gained afterward when the System gave him a free-for-all. I’m talking about things like his Accelerated Development, which means that he grows stronger after each battle at an indecipherable rate, rather than getting weaker. This means he never stops advancing through the levels. And it’s through this that he gains his accessory attacks such as Ruler’s Authority (Code for Telekinesis), Dragon’s Fear (Mana bursts that throw the for into an intense state of mania), and all his Shadow Powers.
Sung Jin Woo also has techniques that end up heightening his already impressive base skills, such as Quicksilver which increases his Speed by 30%, or weapons-based attacks such as Dagger’s Rush and Mutilation. But this isn’t even scraping the iceberg that is his powers after he becomes a Shadow Monarch.
When the System said Sung Jin Woo was their Chosen OneTM, they meant it. Sung Jin Woo has only grown since that fateful moment, and he’ll likely keep adding more skills to his arsenal as the story goes by.
Making Second Chances Count:
So, how does this second chance work and why doesn’t the trope feel stale when it comes to Sung Jin Woo in Solo Levelling? Well, one of the best things about Sung Jin Woo is how he didn’t become immediately arrogant as soon as all the bets came off.
Because there was no more restraint, he rose to power at an unprecedented rate and ended up becoming the second Shadow Monarch as well, something completely unheard of before. What is a Shadow Monarch, you ask? Well, the world is divided into two factions, the Rulers, those who protect the realm, and the Monarchs, those who want to create chaos.
So, a Shadow Monarch is the King Of the Dead and the strongest Ruler alive. The first Shadow Monarch was Ashborn, the ‘Greatest Fragment of Light’. The second is our very own Sung Jin Woo. But despite this second chance at glory, it turns out not everything is as it seems. At the cost of becoming humanity’s greatest Hunter, he is now caught in the middle of a war he didn’t sign up for.
So, it isn’t all roses for Sung Jin Woo, because he’s the collateral in a power grab between the two factions. But he still tries his best, using his gifts for good instead of joining in on the dominance play. He is pragmatic and helpful to those who fight the good fight alongside him. He is truly selfless, and, like, I’ve missed that in Fantasy Isekai-style plotlines like these.
We have protagonists that are relatable and edgy or whatnot, but a truly good guy has been MIA in the genre for a while now. And Sung Jin Woo fulfills that gap pretty nicely. His second chance isn’t trying to get revenge, he didn’t ask for the System to pick him in the first place. But now that he does have this opportunity, there is no emotional grandstanding or anything.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want power. Of course, he uses this chance to its fullest potential, hungrily aiming to be the best. But it never feels overtly cocky or anything. Despite the power, he never feels greedy or ignorant. And I think that’s Sung Jin Woo’s main quality. He never ends up coming across as bland. He taunts his opponents during battle, even going as far as being disrespectful. But then he’s considerate to his allies, building them up as he goes along.
But his humbleness stems from insecurity before he became the Player. It’s because he had been through circumstances where greater Hunters wouldn’t show him any mercy, or even guide him, that he strives to be better. And honestly? I find that pretty cool. You don’t get to see modesty as a character trait anymore, especially in redemption stories like this. So, it’s easy to see why Sung Jin Woo works so well in Solo Levelling!