The world of Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack on Titan) is a vicious place. Characters have limited lifespans in this land. If they are fortunate enough to live then they’ve definitely got some baggage behind them. But that is what makes the characters of Attack on Titan so compelling. These are all people who are fighting to survive in a cruel and unforgiving world while learning about themselves and life in the process.
Many attributes can be contributed to young Eren Yeager. He’s vengeful, determined and will do anything for humanity especially his closest friends Armin and Mikasa. We are first introduced to him during the return of the Titans. In a scarring moment his mother is taken right in front of him and devoured by an unusual smiling titan. Throughout the rest of the series this moment has been a visceral memory in Eren’s mind. This gives him the resolve to try and do the impossible. Eren is a character who makes outrageous and compelling claims many times, but as a viewer you become inclined to believe that he will do what he says. Some of his greatest calls to actions are to kill every single Titan. He also has tasked himself with becoming the savior of humanity. In the next five years he works his way up into the military and joins the Survey Corps. Eventually he gets into the special operations of the most skilled branches of the military. Eren is constantly being put to the test. In one of the first early battles he sacrifices himself for his friend Armin. Even with so many high expectations for himself to destroy all of the Titans and save humanity, his love for his friends knows no bounds.
Eren’s passion manifests itself in incredible ways. In a contradictory turn of events for both the viewers and Eren himself, he comes to realize that he has the power to turn himself into a Titan. Prone to rage and rashness, Eren embodies this energy in his Titan form. Like many types of “super powers” there comes a risk with this. In one of the first times he has to use his power to help the military he loses control and begins to attack Mikasa, his closest friend and also adopted sister. This is indicative of the core of Eren’s nature. He is at the whim of his intense emotions, those being anger, desire for revenge and an incredible drive to do what is unfathomable to most of his peers. It’s almost a sort of naïveté that he possesses that makes him think he can do all of these incredible tasks. Eren is a dynamic character who cannot be pigeonholed by describing him in terms of negative and positive traits. His weaknesses are sometimes of use to him. The duality of Eren stems from his desire to learn the fundamental truths of the world outside of the walls. While at the same time having to contend with the ever present threat of the Titans. Having lived his entire life behind the walls he has developed an insatiable curiosity for the world.
This is another core principle of Eren's life. Theres a certain feeling for exploration, he wants to see what are past those walls. There's got to be more to life than just what they’ve been led onto believe. Unfortunately he learns more about the world through the violent reemergence of the Titans. He plays a big part in the mystery of his world and this series. Being torn between his two selves of Titan and human. Knowing Eren he will figure out the mystery as the rest of his story still has time to unfold.
Our leading hero in Attack on Titan has to face his shortcomings and act on his emotions. Eren is living in a dire world where at times his impulsive emotions could get him and his friends killed. It takes a few deadly incidents to realize how costly his actions can be.
Mikasa Ackerman is one of the last remaining people of Asian descent inside the walls. This makes her a distinct individual and also a target, which is where her story begins. A similar traumatic event occurred for Mikasa at a very young age. Three criminals broke into her home and killed her parents and then intended to sell her into slavery. Eren ended up killing two of them and having Mikasa kill the third. He activated something in Mikasa that has stuck with her ever since. She learns the harsh reality of the world and will never forget this view. It is what guides her to become one of the top fighters in the military and Survey Corps. Eren becomes her adoptive brother after the tragic event in her youth. Her outlook on life stems from Eren who has an incredible influence over her and she is highly protective of him.
Despite her traumatic upbringing with the killing of her parents, Mikasa is one of the most well rounded characters in terms of intelligence and fighting. She is considered a prodigy by many higher ups in the military. As Eren has his passionate fighting abilities and Armin his intelligence, Mikasa seems to have both of these qualities in equal measure. Making her a compelling asset to the group and the fight against the Titans.
She is constantly training and will do absolutely anything to protect her friends. Mikasa can sometimes be seen in contrast to Eren as a more level-headed and calm person. As Eren relies more on his passionate emotions to make decisions, Mikasa will go with a more calculated and cold approach. Though this calculated way of thinking all goes to the wayside when it directly involves something that puts Eren in danger. Her loyalty for him is unprecedented. When she hears of his supposed death her reaction is unexpected as she says that they must continue on with the mission. But really this was just a way to keep pushing forward Eren's ideals. These ideals are that the strong will survive and they must fight and keep fighting if they want to get anywhere in this world. Her dedication is first and foremost to her family which at this point includes Eren and Armin.
Armin Arlert is the most pragmatic and intelligent of the trio of friends. His analytic way of thinking about everything is both an asset and a liability to himself. This has led him to second guess himself many times. As a young child he was ostracized by many of his peers for his peculiar ways of thinking. Wanting to know everything there was to know, he would often think and talk about exploring outside of the walls. He shared this passion with Eren and this is one of the reasons they’ve bonded and been friends their entire lives. Armin must constantly be reassured that he is living up to the expectations placed on him by himself and others. When he made it into the Survey Corps he had great doubts that he had done well on his exams. His inferiority weighs heavily on him and is the root cause for him second guessing himself. The incredible traits he does possess are ignored in his mind because of his lack of physical prowess and perceived cowardliness. A devastating blow to Armin’s psyche was when he witnessed Eren sacrifice himself for Armin. At this point all of his preconceived notions of himself were confirmed in his mind and he went into a deep depression.
Luckily for Armin, Eren had survived and he slowly began to realize he wasn’t a nuisance, but could be a good fit to the group. He began to use his highly pragmatic way of thinking and analyzing things to the groups' benefit. Some examples of this is when he negotiated to have Eren’s life spared. As well as becoming braver and facing up to the challenge of battle like when he stopped to take on the female Titan by himself. Armin also serves as a wise confidant to his two friends Mikasa and Eren. There are times when the two of them are about to do something drastic and then Armin intervenes being the voice of reason. During Eren’s trial, Eren was being beated by Levi to demonstrate that the Survey Corps would be able to control him. Mikasa was close to attacking Levi, that could have jeopardized the entire situation and ended up with Eren, and maybe even his comrades, being sentenced to death. Luckily Armin stepped in and stopped the conflict from escalating. He has also been of great assistance to Eren when trying to help him with his Titan transformation powers. His words of encouragement and wisdom inspire Eren to be in more control of his Titan form and get the job done.
Levi Ackerman is young man who is an absolute superstar. As an elite member in the Survey Corps, he is the leader of a small squadron of elite soldiers. "Organized" and "authoritative" are two words that can be used to describe Levi. He keeps a neat and orderly appearance. He’s top tier in everything he does and has a knack for being the best. Levi is a dream come true for military leaders and commanders everywhere. He is self-sufficient and entirely focused on the task at hand. A model soldier, who’s discipline and excellence is of the utmost quality. This can put him at odds with other members of his group. Unlike many new soldiers, Levi does not entirely fear the Titans or he doesn’t show it when fighting them. He is prone to making insults and mocking them as he kills Titans. Levi’s skill is unmatched by any one in the Survey Corps, he knows this, but does not go around boasting.
Levi’s personality is quite unique. He only treats individuals the way he thinks they should be treated regardless of their rank or status. In day to day life Levi is unapproachable and has a brusque way of speaking to people. Though underlying the superstardom and skills is a deep respect and protective nature for humanity. In his many battles against the Titan’s his concern is to absolutely annihilate all of them.
During a Titan attack Levi comes across a wounded soldier. After easily killing the Titans he goes and consoles the dying man. The soldier spoiled with blood raises his hand to Levi and asks him if he will die in vain. Levi usually one to avoid dirtying himself takes his hand without a moments notice. As the man passes away Levi assures him that his spirit will live on in him as he takes the fight to the enemy. Like Eren, Levi is put into a perilous position. He is one of the best there is to offer from humanity and this can weigh on him. Levi knows that if he does not keep pushing forward and halting the Titan’s advance then there will be no one else to do it.
Commander Erwin Smith, the 13th commander of the Survey Corps. An imposing man, he is the epitome of an excellent leader. Stoic would be an accurate way to describe Erwin. As a leader he does not show his emotions out in the open, no matter what the circumstances are. He isn't afraid to take risks. An example includes the ambitious mission that risked many peoples' lives for the greater good of mankind. There was also the time he vouched for Eren and took him into the Survey Corps after his Titan transformation ability was revealed.
One of the greatest examples of Erwin's leadership was when they were in the forests pursing the female Titan. There are a few reasons why this demonstrated stellar leadership. Erwin's plan the entire time was to lure out the traitor amongst their ranks. He knew that after their two captured Titans were killed that there was a traitor in their midst. Erwin also had formulated the idea that this spy had a similar ability to turn into a Titan just as Eren could. When coming up with this plan Erwin did not disclose the details of it to anyone. Not even his closest military command or friends knew of it. They were all ignorant to his true intentions on capturing the traitor. Even though this was a good plan it ended up failing and losing many lives in the process. During their capture they lost the female Titan in the forest. But did this deter Erwin? No, Erwin continued with the plan risking his reputation and life in the process. In the end his instincts payed off and they caught the Titan Spy in the capital.
Being dedicated to his principles is what has served him as such an effective leader. One of his goals is for humanity to be the dominant species again. Similar to Eren, he craves to know the truth about the world inside the walls and out of them. That is also why the two of them have a mutual understanding between each other.
Reiner Braun & Bertholt Hoover
Reiner and Bertholt are rarely seen without one another. These two are looked up to by many and have taken the role as the upper classman role models. Both of these guys display typical dominant behavior. When Eren first approaches them he is met with hostility. That is until they learn of his bravery for entering the Survey Corps after his town had been destroyed.
Reiner graduates second in his class right behind Mikasa. During the Battle of Trost is when he really comes into his own. He aids Eren when he first transforms into his Titan form and fights off the other Titans. Reiner takes a very serious interest in his transformation. During the pursuit of the Female Titan, Reiner has to sit on the outskirts of the forest standing watch. He is quite incensed with his position and curious as to whats happening inside.
Bertholt was another skilled soldier who graduates third in his class. At first he wanted to join the Military Police so that he could hide away in the depths of the capital. But, he changed his mind when seeing the courage that Eren constantly displayed in front of him. He was also one of the first to learn about Eren's transformation. Reiner and Bertholt both are codependent on one another and come from strange and mysterious backgrounds. Their origins will be explored the further the story progresses.
All of these characters will play pivotal roles in the upcoming Season Two. It will be quite an interesting story as we watch these characters develop and grow alongside the secrets of the world. We will see where these characters all reside and if they can reach their goals and if their principles will stand up to the cruelty and mystery of this world.