My second reason for liking Shingeki no Kyojin: the characters!
Eren Jaeger, the main protagonist, has a burning desire to get outside the walls and wishes to join the Survey Corps. After a Titan eats his mother, that passion becomes an obsession with destroying the titans. He joins the Survey Corps after finding out that he can transform into a titan that attacks other titans. Generally speaking, he seems compassionate, but the psychopathic tendency he displays both in the present and past is worriesome. At 9 years old he intentionally deceives a man so as to kill him and kills another man immediately after. He does this, of course, to save Mikasa, but the fact that a) he didn’t try to do it without killing and b) he had the will and intent to do that at 9 years old bothers me. It also makes me interested in his character: what made him that way in the first place? His home life as portrayed in the show gives no basis for his behavior.
I don’t really have much to say about Mikasa Ackerman because truthfully, I don’t like her very much. I know she had a traumatic experience in her past (seeing her parents killed in front of her and then killing one of her kidnappers herself), but she’s both obsessed with Eren and treats him like a little kid, and she’s just his age. Sure, she’s a lot stronger than him, but she mothers Eren entirely too much. I know we women do this sometimes (I accidentally mother some of my guy friends but I’m working on stopping because it’s annoying, to me and to them), so I know she does it out of love and respect for Eren and Eren’s mother, but I think that Eren needs to grow and make his own mistakes without Mikasa always there to save him. At times she realizes that her myopic focus on Eren can harm others–especially when Levi admonishes her for it–so she tries to curb it. Her interior monologue displays her view of the world: it is cruel and beautiful, but mankind should survive nonetheless. That’s that.
Armin Artlert is Eren’s best guy friend (and one of my favorite characters). He’s not physically strong, but he’s extremely smart. However, his lack of physical strength leads to bullying and feelings of worthlessness. Wanting to be strong and brave, he follows Eren and Mikasa to the Training Corps in hopes of eventually joining the Survey Corps. When they finally begin fighting, his natural strategic talents kick in just a few hours after the shock of seeing friends eaten by a titan; and later his friends manage to convince him that his intelligence is also a form of strength. He eventually gains the courage he sought and shows himself a seeker of truth–even identifying his friend Annie as a titan and fighting her. And even then he still has compassion for her. Young and small Armin is. But weak? No way.
Jean Kirschtein is an honest, selfish jerk who freely admits it. Originally he only cares about joining the Military Police to stay safe and fed. His friendship with fellow trainee Marco begins to change his view of himself and his desires: Marco points out that Jean has a talent for leadership and knowing what needs to be done. In some ways this skill horrifies Jean himself: he recognizes how ruthlessly he used his comrade’s deaths to his advantage. Clearly he’s not as spineless and selfish as he thinks. After Marco’s death, though very much against his sense of self-preservation, Jean joins the Survey Corps to make Marco’s death count for something and so that he himself can die in a meaningful way. I really want to see the evolution of his character. To be honest, he’s one of my favorites–he’s so real, so very human and three-dimensional, and I feel I can relate: a lot of the time I want to do what’s most convenient for myself, but sometimes things in my life forcibly point me in the better direction.