This is the second 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 Mikasa Ackerman is the main female protagonist of SNK, most well-known for her calm demeanor that lacks strong emotions most of the time, her superhuman combat abilities and her undying devotion to Eren.
Appearance: Mikasa is of average height (while still being the second tallest female character), and weights slightly more than Eren, despite them being the same height, though, in her case, it’s all muscle. Mikasa is extremely built and in the manga, she’s depicted as having six-pack abs. She is half-Asian and follows the “look” Asians often have in anime: black hair, black eyes, and exceptionally pale white skin. At the beginning of the series, Mikasa wore her hair long, well past her shoulders, but after Eren suggested it might be a hindrance during training, she cut it. Also, after Eren unintentionally attacked her, Mikasa gained a deep scar on the left side of her face, just under her eye. Typically, she’s seen wearing the Survey Corps uniform: a brown jacket with the Survey Corps emblem on both shoulders, brown boots, a white shirt and pants, and a green cloak with the emblem on her back. A unique part of her wardrobe is a red scarf that she’s almost always seen wearing.
History: Mikasa grew up on a farm away from any city, somewhere near a mountain range in Wall Maria. She was the only child to her parents, known only as Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman. Mikasa and her mother were descended from one of the only clans of Asians left in the world, making them valuable targets for human traffickers.
One day, her home was invaded. Mikasa’s father was killed with the intention of taking her and her mother as prisoners. Her mother attempted to protect Mikasa from them, urging her to run, but she was too scared and in shock to react. Mrs. Ackerman was ultimately killed right in front of her, and Mikasa was kidnapped. Before Eren showed up, Mikasa listened to the men discuss selling her to perverts. Catching the men by surprise, Eren managed to kill two of them, but was jumped and strangled by the third.
Eren urged Mikasa to fight, helping her come to the conclusion that “this world is cruel” – words that have stuck with her and greatly influenced the rest of her life. Ever sense then, Mikasa has had perfect control over her body and emotions, making her one of the best fighters in the history of mankind. She easily killed the third man, and in the aftermath, Eren gave her the red scarf. It is very precious to her, and when she’s depressed or worried, she’s often seen bringing the scarf up around her mouth. To Mikasa, it symbolizes the hope that Eren “wrapped around her” and, in the manga, she even goes so far as to tell him that he brought her back from the dead.
Fun fact: it a common theory among fans that the scarf is a reference to the “red string of fate” – a metaphorical string that ties together two lovers or soulmates (because, let’s face it – the Eremika ship is pretty much canon as it is).
Mikasa was taken in by Eren’s family in the aftermath of being orphaned, and she lived with them up until the Titan attack on Wall Maria in Year 845. After the death of her foster mother, Mikasa lived with Armin and Eren in a refugee camp, until Eren prompted her to join the military. Since then, she has excelled as a soldier.
Talents: Mikasa is, in a word, a complete badass. She has proven time and time again that she is the one of the most competent fighters in the entire series, second only to Levi. She possesses a sharp mind, inhuman agility, a mastery of the 3D Maneuver Gear, physical strength, cat-like reflexes and she has been described more than once by her superiors as “worth a hundred other soldiers.” It’s hard to pick out moments where Mikasa excels at her art, because, to be frank, every time she goes into battle, she makes the other characters look borderline useless. She has taken down numerous Titans completely by herself, whereas most of her fellow trainees struggle to kill even a few (and in some cases, even one). She once hit an Aberrant so hard that it dulled both of her swords to the point of uselessness in one strike.
Mikasa also knows no fear, as she has put her life on the line for Eren multiple times without so much as a second thought; her only true moment of weakness came when she thought Eren had died, and therefore saw no reason for her to keep fighting. In one case, she threatened an entire brigade of Garrison troops that wanted to execute Eren. Mikasa is, essentially, a walking weapon with one goal in life: to protect Eren, making her lethal to anyone that stands in her way.
However, for all the skills and abilities that she has, Mikasa’s passion is nonexistent. Her entire point of living, in her eyes, is to be Eren’s bodyguard, and she couldn’t care less about fighting Titans. She will defend him against any foe, be it man or Titan. It just so happens that Titans are Eren’s primary enemy. That is, ultimately, where she differs from Levi: Levi has the skills and the drive to use them to benefit mankind, but Mikasa, who indeed has abilities on par with Levi, lacks his motivation.
Mikasa is always calm, always level-headed, and rarely shows powerful emotions. However, when she does get emotional, it is almost impossible for her to contain it. It is not uncommon for Mikasa’s personal feelings to overpower her judgement. There have been several cases of this, which leads me to the conclusion I reached in my review: she’s got a god-tier poker face, but is, in reality, emotionally unstable. Just a few cases of her instability:
When she thought Eren was dead, in order to suppress her grief, she riled all her hopeless fellow trainees into action (being probably one of the only people capable of standing a chance in their situation), then took off ahead, carelessly using up her already-low supply of gas. This rendered her gear useless, she found herself trapped in a alley with a Titan approching her. This is where she succumbed to her pain and she almost allowed herself to get eaten.
When she finally found Eren alive, she broken down in literal sobs.
When Mikasa witnessed Annie’s Titan attempt to kidnap Eren, Mikasa gave into her rage and aggressively tried to fight Annie herself. Even when Levi arrived to help her get Eren back, Mikasa was unable to let go of her unconscious need for revenge. Despite him warning her not to attempt to fight Annie, she did so anyway, and would have been crushed to death if Levi didn’t save her, injuring his leg in the process.
Finally, Mikasa seemed to reach her breaking point. In the manga, after Eren was kidnapped by Reiner and Bertholdt, Mikasa was reduced to tears. Later, she was the driving force behind the efforts to recover Eren. She made her way to Reiner’s back, where Eren and Bertholdt remained just out of her reach, and was more than ready to kill Ymir for getting in her way. Even when Christa begged Mikasa to show Ymir mercy, Mikasa, too locked in her murderous rampage, informed her that she had no more mercy to spare (she blamed herself for not killing Reiner and Bertholdt before they transformed). She finally convinced Ymir to back down by telling her that, if she didn’t get out of her way, she’d kill her.
As for her actual personality, she is very withdrawn and rarely speaks to anyone besides Eren and Armin, unless the situation demands it. Mikasa’s flashback to her past suggests that she wasn’t always like this; she seemed very close to her parents, very talkative, very eager to please them, and just a happier person overall. Watching them both be murdered before her very eyes seemed to have sent Mikasa into shock that she never fully emerged from, seeing as she is just as quiet as a solider as she was when Eren first found her.
Eren is the core of her universe and everything she does is centered around him in some way. She had absolutely no desire to join the military as a child; she even got Eren in trouble with his mother for bringing up that he wanted to join the Survey Corps. However, after the loss of his mother, Eren set his sights on the dangerous life of a Survey Corps scout, and Mikasa followed him, knowing full well that he wouldn’t survive a single fight without her. The full extent of Mikasa’s love toward Eren becomes painfully clear when, after Armin told her that Eren died, Mikasa tried to drown out her pain by taking it out on the Titans. However, she got reckless and soon found herself trapped in an alley with no way to climb out, and a Titan approaching her. Mikasa decided that she wasn’t going to start over again, having lost her family twice, and almost let herself be eaten.
She was revived, perhaps too late, by her memories of Eren. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Eren, in his Titan form, saved her life. When Eren finally emerged from the Titan unharmed, Mikasa loses all her composure and hugs him while literally sobbing. These few episodes add an interesting new dimension to Mikasa’s character. Up until this point, she’d been a monster in battle, and almost annoyingly protective, but it wasn’t clear why she was so devoted to Eren. It becomes obvious that, for all the ruthlessness and eerily calm demeanor that defines Mikasa as a character, she is, in reality, emotionally unstable and in constant fear of losing the only person she has left in her entire life.
*For a moment, I’m going to drop that whole “formal analysis format” and rant, because there’s something about Mikasa that I need to get off my chest. Mikasa is not only my favorite character from SNK, but also my favorite animated character of all time, period. If there’s one thing about this fandom that really pisses me off, it’s those people that think she’s annoying solely due to the fact that she’s clingy. No, she’s not clingy. She’s protective. There is a huge difference there.
Now, imagine that you were her. Imagine that you, as a child, watched your parents be brutally murdered. Imagine you watched your mother have her head split open with a fucking hatchet. Imagine that, one second you’re joking with your father, and the next thing you know, your entire life has been destroyed. You get kidnapped, told that you’re going to sold into sex slavery of all things, then, right before that happens, this kid your age comes around and saves your life. In doing so, he teaches your how to defend yourself and others. He gives you a gift, then accepts you, who has nowhere else to go, into his family. A year passes, and you never fully feel that you’ve paid him back for all he’s done for you. Then suddenly, you watch your mother get killed, yet again, only this time, you still have someone: the boy that rescued you in the first place. Imagine you were that person, then sit there with a straight face and tell me that Mikasa’s devotion to protecting Eren is unjustified. Oh, you can’t? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Moving on.*
With Eren: A core part of Mikasa’s entire character is her devotion to protecting Eren from harm in any way, even if it costs her her own life. Her entire point of existing, at first, is to be his bodyguard. However, she has proven that she could manage to cope if anything were to happen to him, when she is snapped out of a suicidal state of mind by her memories of Eren. She never hesitates to stand between Eren and danger of any kind, be it a Titan or the military.
This devotion was born when she was very young, when Eren saved her from a life of slavery, and it has evolved into something far greater than gratitude. There are several instances where is is made extremely obvious.
During the Battle of Trost, when Mikasa and Eren were assigned to different groups, one of her superiors tells her that she can “go and protect her boyfriend”, referring to Eren, and Mikasa blushed.
After Levi helped rescue Eren, levi asked her “Eren is a very dear friend, right?” and her response was “No, I…” (Let’s complete the sentence: “No, I… love him.” “No, I… want to be the mother of his child.” “No, I… dream of making sweet music with him.” Yes, in case you didn’t notice, I ship Eremika. I’m pretty sure that’s obvious by this point.)
After Eren emerged from his Titan form alive, when Mikasa hugged him, her expression said it all. You can literally see the relief in her eyes, and the fact that she has realized her life has meaning again. It is an extremely powerful moment.
As of chapter fifty of the manga, a romantic relationship between them is 99% canon . Eren, who was still waiting for his hands to regenerate, and Mikasa, who was too badly injured to pose any threat against a Titan, found themselves surrounded by Titans, and, more specifically, the one that ate their mother. Mikasa, realizing that death was upon them both, thanked Eren for teaching her how to live her life and for giving her his scarf. They nearly share a kiss until Eren, whose hands regenerated in the meantime, tells Mikasa “for now on, we’ll be together”, and tries to fight the Titan himself.
Eren is, essentially, the driving force behind everything Mikasa does, the only person she needs to be happy with life, and the last remnant of a family that she feels she can’t afford to lose.
With Armin: Mikasa has a fairly close bond with Armin, mainly because he’s Eren’s best friend. As children, Mikasa helped Eren save Armin from bullies numerous times, and there was even one case where she punched Eren for insulting Armin. She has proven that she values and respects Armin, as she has put her faith in Armin’s plans frequently, and when Armin told her that he had led to Eren’s death, Mikasa, rather than get angry with Armin, tried to comfort him.
She seems to care about protecting Armin to a point, seen when she refuses to leave him alone to fight off Titans during the Battle of Trost. There are also several scenes in the manga where Mikasa and Armin are seen talking to each other, cementing the idea that they are indeed friends, and Mikasa likes him as a person rather than just seeing him as Eren’s best friend. The standout is after Eren is kidnapped by Reiner, Mikasa gets depressed and even starts to cry, and Armin tries to comfort her.
With Annie: Mikasa’s relationship with Annie is half rivalry, and half violent hatred. As trainees, Annie expressed a strong dislike for Mikasa, simply because Mikasa was a better fighter than her, even going so far as to call her a beast in the manga. However, Mikasa wasn’t really bothered by this; it wasn’t until Annie attempted to kidnap Eren as the Female Titan that Mikasa developed hatred for Annie. Mikasa aggressively tried to take Annie on by herself, but it wasn’t until she teamed up with Levi that they were able to rescue Eren.
Even then, with the combined abilities of both Mikasa and Levi, they weren’t successful in defeating her. Later, when the Survey Corps attempted to arrest Annie, Mikasa lost her patience and confronted her with open hostility, effectively ruining any chance to reason with her and prompting Annie to transform in the middle of the city. Admittedly, this was a dumb choice on Mikasa’s part, as Armin probably could have talked some sense into Annie. In the end, Mikasa was the one that prevented Annie’s escape by cutting off her fingers when she attempted to climb the wall, albeit at the cost of many lives.
With Levi: Mikasa’s relationship with Levi began as, and continues to be, fairly negative. She first witnessed Levi beating the hell out of Eren at his military trail, and if Armin hadn’t stopped her, Mikasa would have started a fight with him right then and there. After Eren was kidnapped by the Female Titan, Mikasa gave chase, but realized that she would need Levi’s help to save Eren. Their truce, in her mind, was temporary, and even as they gave chase after Annie, Mikasa criticized Levi for his squad not doing their job and protecting Eren, like they were supposed to. Levi’s reaction to her accusations was to merely say “you’re Eren’s close friend, aren’t you?” They haven’ t interacted much since then. Despite Levi overhearing Mikasa threaten him to Eren, Levi is willing to work with Mikasa. However, Mikasa holds a grudge against him for hurting Eren and wants nothing to do with him. Interestingly enough, Mikasa seemed to have learned a great deal from watching Levi fight, as she has begun to incorporate his spin technique into her own battle style.
Final Thoughts: On the surface, Mikasa Ackerman is just another typical, repressed, quiet badass that makes everybody else look bad and possesses skills that outshine everyone else around her by a mile. However, when you stop and take a look at the simply amazing character development she has received, Mikasa becomes one of the most admirable, and by far the most tragic, characters in the series. With Mikasa, we have someone whose entire character is built around loss, which, to be frank, is very depressing, but part of the reason I love her so much.
Look at it this way: How did Mikasa come to meet Eren? The loss of her parents. How did Mikasa become such a complete badass? The loss of her parents. How did she come to join the army? The loss of her foster parents, and not wanting to lose her brother. What kind of events spark a strong emotion in her? The possibility of losing Eren. What makes her cry? Losing Eren. What almost made her commit suicide? The loss of Eren. Loss, loss, loss, loss loss. Everything that motivates Mikasa, is partially to prevent even more loss in her life, and partially because she genuinely cares about Eren. To be honest, Mikasa is possibly one of the most tragic anime characters of all time.
While, for some reason I will never understand, many people seem to dislike Mikasa, to me, she is the most fascinating character by far in Shingeki no Kyojin.
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