This is the first part in a series of character analysis from the anime and manga Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack On Titan). Now, this goes without saying, but this will take into consideration all facets of a character’s personality, talents, families, special abilities and past, and that includes the manga. So, if you are an anime watcher that hasn’t read ahead, be prepared for massive spoilers.
Fifteen-year-old Eren Jaegar is the main protagonist of SNK, known for his quick-to-anger temperament, but also his relentless drive and passion to purge the world of Titans, so that humanity can live without fear of them for the first time in one-hundred years.
Appearance: Eren is of average height, weight and built. He has short brown hair and turquoise eyes, though his eye color can range anywhere green to blue, depending on the lighting of the scene. Typically, however, they are turquoise. Generally, he wears the Survey Corps uniform, consisting of the standard brown coat, white shirt and pants, and brown boots with the Survey Corps emblem (a pair of blue and white wings) on his shoulders. In addiction to this typical military uniform, the Survey Corps also wear dark green cloaks on their back, which also bear their emblem.
History: Growing up, Eren was the only child of Carla and Grisha Jaegar. They lived together in the Shiganshina District, an outcrop of Wall Maria, until the Colossal and Armored Titans destroyed it in year 845. A year before that, in 844, Eren accompanied his father on a checkup to the home of the Ackerman family, where they found the residents murdered and their young daughter Mikasa missing.
Eren tracked down the kidnappers, who happened to be human traffickers, to a small cabin and managed to kill two of them. He was almost strangled by the third, but his inspirational words awoken in Mikasa the control and ability to fight that would later make her a perfect solider, and she killed the third. After that, Eren gave Mikasa the red scarf she’s always seen wearing, and his family adopted her.
Also while growing up, Eren’s best (and only friend, besides Mikasa), was a boy his age named Armin. The two were very curious about the world outside the walls, despite that topic being declared taboo, and dreamed of one day venturing beyond Wall Maria. This curiosity led Eren to express his interest to join the Survey Corps (also known as the Scouting Legion and the Recon Corps depending on the subtitles), a branch of the military that seeks to understand more of the outside world and the Titans by leaving the walled cities. After the fall of Wall Maria, their focus shifted to re-capturing it. His mother forbade his involvement in the Survey Corps, however, leading to a fight.
During the Titan attack in 845, Eren watched his mother be devoured by a Titan, and swore that he wouldn’t rest until they were wiped off the planet. Eren, Mikasa and Armin ended up in a refugee camp for two years, where they were some of the very few to survive a suicide mission to re-take Wall Maria, only because they were children (children were not forced to participate). During this time, Eren also recalled a vague memory of his father injecting him with some kind of fluid. When they turned twelve, they enlisted in the military, giving Eren the means to finally fight Titans.
Talents: As is established early on in their training, Eren is the only student to graduate in the top ten of their class that has no particular talents he excels at, according to the anime. The manga says that Eren was the most proficient student in his class when it came to hand-to-hand combat, second only to Mikasa. This is mentioned when he and Jean get into one of many fistfights and Eren keeps the upper hand until Mikasa drags him away from it. However, in both versions, regardless of his talents (or lack thereof), he possesses a passionate hatred of Titans far beyond the comprehension of anyone else, and he uses said determination to fuel his anger and Titan-killing rampages.
Early on in his military career, Eren unlocked an ability that sets him apart from everyone else. In his first fight, the Battle of Trost, he sacrificed himself to save Armin from being eaten, and his anger toward the Titans awoken his ability to transform into a Titan. However, this power, while great, has limitations. He can’t always control the body once transformed, he needs a clear goal for the transformations to be successful, and he needs to be focused on the task with no emotions conflicting it. Also, the Titan he becomes can change depending on what his current goal is.
Examples: In one case, he attacked Mikasa immediately after transforming.
On his first recon mission with Levi’s squad, Eren couldn’t transform when they wanted him to. He does so much later, when simply picking up a spoon, and the only thing to change is his arm.
After the Garrison tried to kill him, Mikasa and Armin, he transformed into a skeletal Titan in order to block the cannon fire.
Before the fight with Annie, Eren couldn’t transform, not even if it meant saving Mikasa’s and Armin’s life, due to his conflicted feelings. He pulls it off much later into the fight.
Despite these instances, there have been many cases where Eren displayed control over his Titan abilities (such as when the death of Levi’s squad sent him into a murderous rampage), though they severely weaken him after emerging from the Titan’s neck. Also, Eren has recently discovered an ability to control Titans, even when not in Titan form. This is known as the “Coordinate”, according to Reiner. It is unclear how much control he has over it, as it was discovered purely by chance when he and Mikasa faced certain death at the hands of the Titan that killed his mother.
Eren’s Titan: Often referred to as “Rouge Titian” by the fandom, Eren’s primary Titian form differs greatly from others. It is rather large, being a fifteen-meter class, and while most Titans are just fat, Eren’s is made up entirely of muscle. It has pointed ears, and two defining features that somewhat resembles Eren: brown hair the same style as his, and expressive green eyes. His Titan does not appear to have any special abilities like the Female Titan, who can harden her skin at will.
Personality: Eren’s personality is, in a word, angry. He almost always seems to be frustrated, aggravated or upset. However, this anger is also a huge part of Eren as a whole, as he uses his anger to drive his passionate desires to exterminate the Titans. Eren’s rage can be considered borderline psychotic and it’s not entirely known why he’s so violent. His first act of bloodshed was when he was nine years old, as he murdered two people to save Mikasa’s life, which was long before his mother’s death, so it cannot be assumed that her death is what made him so savage.
Despite this, Eren has also been shown in having the moral high ground in this case. After his father found him and Mikasa, he scolded Eren for being so reckless. Eren was completely unabashed, stating that he wanted to save her as soon as possible and if he hadn’t, the police wouldn’t have been successful in rescuing her.
Eren also sacrificed himself to save Armin’s life much later on, so it can be argued that, despite his violent personality, Eren is also selfless, as he frequently goes out of his way to help people by putting himself in danger. While bullheaded, Eren does show some level of reasoning, proven when Petra is able to convince him to trust the Special Ops Squad and hold off transforming, despite the Female Titan killing dozens of fellow soldiers. It is usually a powerful emotional event that sends him into his rampages (being eaten, the death of Levi’s squad, a desire to protect Armin and Mikasa and his anger toward Annie were all circumstances that triggered this).
It is interesting to note that the one time he transformed for a reason not related to combat, to move the boulder and seal Wall Rose, he immediately attacked Mikasa. This might suggest that his Titan acts more on instinct than Eren’s actual desires, and he possesses less control over it than even he is aware of.
Despite the bloodlust that dominates Eren as a character, he does have a rather solid sense of morality, and possesses many human emotions, one of the most apparent being guilt. He tends to blame himself for disasters frequently, such as when Levi’s squad all die (he blames himself for not trusting his own abilities more and not transforming sooner), or when Mikasa ends up with fractured ribs while spearheading the effort to save Eren from Reiner and Bertholdt. He also cries. A lot. However, they are mostly tears of anger and frustration.
For all his lack of reasoning that his anger can cause, Eren is fairly intelligent, selfless, and possesses an unbreakable spirit and resolve, which motivates him through all this trials.
With Armin: Armin and him have been best friends (seemingly) since they were very young, and it’s implied that they grew up together. Eren is reasonably devoted to protecting his friends, seen when he found the strength to stand up, despite his leg being bitten off, and jumped into a Titan’s mouth to save Armin’s life. Eren respects Armin, and recognizes that he is extremely intelligent, even going so far as to put his and Mikasa’s lives on his faith in Armin’s ability to persuade the Garrison not to kill them all. Together, the two express a deep curiosity of the world and have dreams to see it together. They share a deep lifelong bond, and continue to be best friends.
With Mikasa: Although he hasn’t known Mikasa nearly as long as he’s known Armin, she means just as much to Eren. Mikasa is the only family Eren has, and he recognizes that, but she also tends to get on his nerves quite frequently. Mikasa is extremely protective of Eren, which irritates him, and in one case he even snapped at her, saying that he “wasn’t her brother”. However, when he and Mikasa came face-to-face with the Titan that ate their mother, Eren came to realize that Mikasa sees him as far more than a brother. He promises her that “from now on, we’ll be together”, leading to some fan speculation that a romantic relationship between them is now canon, though it hasn’t been confirmed yet. However, even before this Eren has shown that he possesses, at the very least, brotherly love toward Mikasa. Before the fight with Annie, Eren is reduced to tears when Mikasa and Armin both gamble their lives for him, and is disgusted with himself when he is informed that he unintentionally attacked her while in Titan form.
With Annie: As trainees, Annie taught Eren some hand-to-hand combat techniques that he successfully uses when in Titan form. Apart from that, they don’t seem to be anything more than graduates from the same trainee squad. However, in the manga, there is a scene where Annie legitimately smiles while remembering Eren. Although Eren and Annie rarely interact with each other after the Titan attack on Trost, mainly due to the fact that he joined the Survey Corps and Annie joined the Military Police, Eren is heavily impacted by her betrayal when she is revealed to be the Female Titan that killed Levi’s squad and numerous comrades of his. His shock and denial is so great that he can’t even transform to save Mikasa and Armin, leading them both to have to gamble their lives for him. Despise all the horrible things Annie has done, Eren still has some memories of their past together, shown when he hesitated to kill her off after the final fight, which gave her the chance she needed to encase her body in crystal.
With Jean: Eren sees Jean, at first, as a rival and a bit of a coward, due to Jean’s very openly expressed desires to join the Military Police for the sole purpose of living far away from the outer walls. Eren is disgusted by this, due to his bloodthirsty desire to exterminate the Titans. This tension between them led to numerous fights while training together, and even one during the Battle of Trost. However, Eren’s passion eventually rubs off on him, and after losing his best friend Marco during that fight, Jean, in the end, joined the Survey Corps. However, this hasn’t improved their relationship all that much. Jean is highly skeptical of Eren’s powers and his lack of ability to control them, and has expressed many times that too people die protecting Eren, or that Eren isn’t worthy of him to risk his life for.
With Reiner, Bertholdt and Ymir: Eren never had much of a relationship with Ymir at all, besides being acquaintances with her. Reiner and Bertholdt, however, helped him though an emotional time during his training, and he seemed to hit it off with them fairly well. He looked up to Reiner specifically and trusted him very much. When it is revealed that Reiner was the Armored Titan that destroyed the gate to Wall Maria, and Bertholdt was the Colossal Titan that let the Titans in to begin with, Eren immediately developed a strong hated for them, blaming them for his mother’s death.
With Levi/his squad: Eren has always admired and respected Levi, seeing him as the perfect example of what he wants to be: a Titan-killing machine. It can be assumed that he even fears Levi to a point, due to Levi kicking the shit out of him at his trial to prove that he could control Eren. When he finally got a chance to accompany Levi and his special ops squad on a trip outside the walls, Eren also realized that they were all brutal when it came to following orders, due to the fact that the entire squad threatened to kill him when he accidentally changed into a half-Titan form. He came to trust them over time, even to the point where he allowed other soldiers to die so that they could protect him. Eren was devastated and thrown into murderous rampage when the Female Titan killed Erd, Petra, Auruo and Gunter, though Petra’s death impacted him the most.
Final Thoughts: In summary, Eren Jäger is anything but a typical hero. For a main protagonist, Eren is admirably dark and twisted, and has his own set of flaws that make him seem far from invincible. Although he possesses an immense power, he can’t always control it, which leads to complications more frequently than resolutions. His personality is violent and bloodthirsty, and I’m pretty sure he’s the first character I’ve even seen kill adults at nine years old. He’s also selfless and determined, and, while he can be a bit of an ass (mainly to Mikasa), Eren is a kind person deep down, he’s just too strongly influenced by vengeance and anger most of the time for it to come through clearly.
To me, there is one scene that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Eren has a strong sense of compassion, despite his violent exterior: even after Eren saves Mikasa from the human traffickers that murdered her parents, Mikasa, mentally, is no better off. She’s alone and lost, and tells Grisha that she is cold. The next thing Eren does is give her his scarf. It is a small gesture, but absolutely immense in developing a relationship between Eren and Mikasa. As much as Eren gets angry at Mikasa, I feel people that say Eren hates her are very ignorant. They have a tight bond, born of Eren’s initial kindness to her when she needed it most.
Eren, for all his faults, is a very interesting character, and perfectly suited for his role in Shingeki no Kyojin.
Next up: Mikasa Ackerman.