If you watch anime, you have probably heard of Attack on Titan. Even non-anime watchers have seen some content related to it. AOT is one of the most anticipated anime this year and is the most in-demand series in 2021. Considering that many anime fans do not think AOT be part of the “big three,” It is incredibly popular.
The manga of Attack on Titan was written last September 2009 and was finished last April 2021. The anime adaptation was released last April of 2013 and is now coming to its final arc. This anime series is known for its complex plot, fantastic plot twists, and well-written characters. AOT is one of the few series that do not sexualize women, play essential roles, and reflect society through symbolism and the plot. All that while tackling societal issues. That is what makes AOT unique compared to the thousands of animes. The characters are one of the most significant factors that really bring the plot to life.
This anime series is filled with characters with complex personalities and impeccable character development who show how human they are. In this article, we will talk about the top three best-written AOT characters.
Before we decide who is the best, let us first set a determiner. Being a great character means that you play a significant role in bringing the plot to life, have strengths and weaknesses, and are well-written. First, let us find out what makes a character well-written. According to J. Peats, “the best-written characters are the ones who bring humanity or depth to the story, without acting solely as a plot device.” With this in mind, let us discuss the first character, Armin.
Armin Arlert, one of the main AOT characters, is the best friend of Mikasa Ackerman and Eren Jeager. In the first season, Armin is a soft and timid character. He is the one who always gets protected, while Eren and Mikasa are his protectors. When they first joined the survey corps, Armin showed many human emotions. He had the most realistic reactions, and he was the most relatable. It can be seen several times that he is scared, which is what we really expect when we meet a titan. Another scene is where he shows how human he is after killing a person to save Jean. When the Levi team was chased by Kenny Ackerman, they were forced to fight back and kill them. This is a first for them since the only thing they kill are titans and not humans. When they learned that their only option was to kill or be killed, Jean hesitated to shoot and was almost killed. Armin, the softest on the team, was the one who saved Jean by killing the one who tried to shoot him. Once everything was settled, he vomited and was extremely terrified. That scene shows that even if they didn’t have much choice and that what he did was understandable, he still felt guilty and was traumatized.
It is clear that Armin is not the type to join brawls; he is the composed and seemingly innocent type. However, this changed in the following seasons, and In season two, we started to see how manipulative he can get, with a reason, though. He guilt-tripped Reiner and Bertolt to keep them from escaping. As the series continues, we see Armin becoming more like Erwin Smith. Though he is already smart, he learns to do what he must. Another scene where we can see how manipulative he can get is the dungeon scene with Yelena. Though Yelena is their enemy, he pretends to understand and agree with her point. He showed how moved he was and was even teary-eyed. After a disruption, we can see how his expression changes in the background. His once emotional face suddenly disappeared. This master manipulator uses his innocent face to control his enemies and Assisi with his plans.
One of the scenes where we can see his character development is when he sacrifices himself to save others. When Bertolt, the colossal titan, cornered Eren and his friends, he told Eren that he would distract the titan and pretended to stop once he was at his limits. However, he has already decided to sacrifice himself to let them escape. He allows himself to burn from the titan’s steam to let his friends run. This brave act shows how much he’s grown and how far he can go for his friends.
Since Armin has always been Erwin’s protégé, he wonders if he was worth it after Levi saved him instead of Erwin. He always thought that Erwin was the one who should have been saved instead. As the series continues, Armin continues to grow and act like Erwin. Here we can see his character development from the boy who was the target of bullying to the manipulative, brilliant strategist to a commander.
His character shows how humane he is. The way he shows fear and deception reflects some of the things that actual people do and feel. The way his morals, principles, and character change brings more life to the plot.
Reiner, one of the best soldiers in the 104th cadet corps, is very different from Reiner, the warrior. Reiner was originally a warrior and went to Paradis to fulfill a mission. During his stay with Annie and Bertolt, he became attached to the other cadets. He grew fond of them and acted as their big brother. Because of this, he became conflicted and was distracted from his original goal. This problem became apparent in the forest scene where he kidnapped Eren. Eren was mad at Reiner and started being hostile to him, but Reiner began to wonder if they would get promoted with their help. This confused Eren; Bertolt then explained what he’s been going through. After Reiner snapped out and returned to being a warrior, the difference between his personality was highlighted. Reiner as a soldier is protective of his friends and is motivated by a goal. Reiner as a warrior, however, is much more gloomy and depressed. He lacked passion and was basically following the commands to pay for his sins.
Another scene where we can see this seemingly Dissociative Identity Disorder is when he orders Annie to remove Marco’s ODM gear. Since Marco overheard his conversation with Bertolt, they cornered them and took his gear, leading to him getting eaten by a titan. When he gave the command to Annie, that was his warrior side speaking. However, while Marco was getting eaten by the titan, Reiner switched to being a soldier. He was shocked and confused as to why Marco was getting eaten by a titan, as if he was not the reason for that.
After it was revealed that Reiner, Annie, and Bertolt were traitors, Reiner lost motivation. When he finally arrived in his homeland, it was clear that he wanted to rest. He even attempted to commit suicide. He was tired of everything. As Eren continues his plan, Reiner repeatedly gives up and fights back. He had no resolutions when he first saw Eren in his homeland.
Though different from Armin, his character development and role in the plot made the audience enjoy him as a character. From being a warrior committed to his mission to being a soldier who wanted to defeat the titans to be a warrior again without a motivation to finally fighting again with a reason to save Gabi and Falco.
Despite Reiner initially being an antagonist, he did many heroic acts. These positive and negative actions and his strengths and weaknesses added depth to his character. The emotions, decisions, and even the mental illness Reiner was going through show how real it is in our society. His indecisiveness, depression, the act of treason, and even his reasons may not be justified but is understandable. This shows how the people in our society function.
Whether or not you really followed through with the story, it is hard to pick a stand if Eren was good or not. Eren is probably the most complex character in the series. It is hard to see if he is the protagonist or antagonist of the story. Since the anime itself is morally gray, this makes it even harder to see if Eren is good or bad. There is no black or white, but it is still hard to measure how good or evil he is.
Eren’s hatred for the titans became clear from the beginning of the season. He is constantly angry and easily agitated. His rage and anger towards the titans are crystal clear, wildly, since he screams, “I’ll kill them all! I’ll wipe every one of them…off the face of this earth!” every chance he gets. Though this is entirely understandable considering his backstory. His actions ideally make sense, and his principles align with his background. His violent personality matches the experience he has been through in his world.
One of the biggest influences on his character change happened during the awarding ceremony. When he kissed Historia’s hand, he saw everything. This shocked him and made a significant impact on him. After he could process what he had learned, his objectives and perspective changed. His friends do not understand what he is doing and the reason for it, but he still continues even when everyone sees him as a monster. He stuck to his beliefs and principles. This is what made his character more admirable.
As the story progresses, Eren gets more skilled but gets hated more. Each development comes with deep-rooted trauma. As he becomes more like a devil, he becomes more and more vulnerable. The rumbling is the final act that makes everyone hate him; even his friends turn against him. This monstrous change continues to happen until the real him is finally revealed. The real him may not be appreciated or seen by everyone, but he directly showed it to Armin, which proves Mikasa and Armin’s belief that even if he changed, some part of the real Eren is still there. He kept his promise to Armin about showing the outside world to him. There was also a scene wherein he broke down in front of Armin and admitted what he truly felt. That part shows that the Eren they knew when they were little is still there. He is still there; it just so happens that he went through so many unfortunate incidents.
Eren’s transformation from the protagonist to the antagonist plays a massive role in the plot. His change was still within the context of what he went through. Another thing that made his character more admirable is that he fought alone in the end. Everything went downhill after he learned the truth. He was forced to fight alone since the others wouldn’t understand. Eren is one of those characters whom we hate at some point but realize that he is just broken and did what he thought was right. He fought alone to keep his loved ones safe. He had to be the enemy and act like it was nothing to him, even when he was dying inside.
The way these AOT characters were written reflects how good the quality of the story is. The way each character has different principles and goals, but you still end up sympathizing with them. There is a point where you would love the same characters you hated. You would still understand the characters’ actions despite the difference in their morals and principles. Watching as the story slowly unfolds is genuinely a fantastic experience. The way each of the characters has complex personalities, how they reflect the issues in our society, the sad reality, and the fight for different goals shows the gray area in which the story is built.
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