In anime series focused on war, epic action scenes and general fighting badassery, there’s always that one character who’s seen as “the weak one”. It almost seems like they only exist for the sake of having someone to laugh at. If you’d ask anyone who reads or watches Attack on Titan, they would most likely tell you that Armin Arlert is the one who falls into that category.
(Spoilers for the anime)
In the first episode of the series, Armin Arlert is introduced as someone that Eren and Mikasa have to protect. Armin was prone to being bullied when he was younger and he even sees himself as someone weak who cannot do anything for himself. In fact, his self-confidence is so low that he only enlists because his friends do so. As expected, he graduated below the Top 10 in physical strength, but he was top of the class in theoretical courses. Why does nobody talk about that? Hm.
Armin has proved to be a very good strategist in many occasions during the course of the series. This is due to his high intelligence and tactician skills. What are those for, you ask? Thanks to his abilities, he…
- … saved Eren and Mikasa by warning Hannes during the fall of Shiganshina attack
- … came up with the plan that made it possible to take the supply depot to refill their gas tanks in Trost’s military headquarters
- … gives an emotive speech that prevents Eren from being executed (kinda)
- …. makes a plan to retake Trost and convinces Eren to fight when he’s in his Titan form
- …. notices that Annie has Marco’s 3D Maneuver Gear
- …. realizes that Annie is the Female Titan
And that’s only in the first 25 episodes of the anime. Armin has done so much not only for Eren and Mikasa’s lives, but also to advance the plot that it would be interesting to see where the Survey Corps would be if it wasn’t for his contribution at this point. In a show where the audience looks for strong warriors and epic fighting scenes, Armin often comes out as… not so appealing for viewers who want to self-insert. Instead, fans often look for strong characters like Levi and Mikasa. This is not exclusive to Attack on Titan, though. Characters who fight are, for some reason, much more appreacted than those who stay behind the scenes making the plans.
Armin’s low self-esteem and insecurity are also aspects that are often criticized by fans of the series. Why? Because they are not the type of character you want to aspire to be. But the thing is, if characters are supposed to feel human, then there is no such thing as a flawless character (although Levi is a pretty strong Mary Sue). Armin exists because there are people like him in real life – be it a Slice of Life, a Comedy or a story in which you have to fight for humanity’s survival. Having had the opportunity not to join the military, Armin chooses to do so because he still wants to do something. For his grandfather, for his friends and for humanity, and for his dream to see the ocean. In other words, Armin joining the military took a lot more courage from him than what it did from more determined characters like Eren. Armin is cowardly, yes, but at the same time he is also incredibly brave.
“As a soldier, I swore to devote my heart to the resurrection of mankind! There is no greater glory than dying for that belief! If we added his Titan power to the might of our armies, it might even be possible to recapture the town! For the glory of the human race, I beg you! In my final moments before I die, permit me to explain his strategic importance!” – Armin Arlert
Armin Arlert’s good heart and courage is one of the reasons why not only Eren and Mikasa, but even commander Pixis and captain Levi have him in high consideration. It’s OK to dislike a character, but you can’t deny Armin has earned his place in the Survey Corps just like anyone else. You have to wonder… if Pixis, Levi and Erwin believe in him, why shouldn’t you?