I think part of the reason I like Shingeki no Kyojin so much (other than awesome plot, awesome female characters, and beautiful anime adaptation) is the fact that the main characters, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin…
…all have issues.
I’m not gonna lie, Eren as a kid scared the shit out of me. Without fear or remorse he murdered two adults as a 9 year old embodiment of rage. What was even more scary was that immediately afterwards he was normal and nice as he freed and helped Mikasa. Because in his point of view his actions weren’t of a murderer, but of someone disposing of vermin. Now I don’t like throwing around terms I’m not an expert of, but I’m very tempted to use the word ‘psychopathic’ here.
Mikasa shows quite early on that if anyone hurts Eren (and probably Armin and her other friends too, but Eren’s more likely to get into deep shit), she won’t care who you are she will kill you without remorse. She wasn’t acting when she threatened the guy blocking the gate with his enormous cart in Ep 6, I believe she was fully prepared to kill him.
Armin is a bit more subtle, and I really wouldn’t say he has issues per say, but during (and probably due to) his life in the military he gains the rather ruthless but efficient mindset of a commander - in that he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his soldiers for the good of the people. (seriously I think he’s becoming Commander Irvin 2). What he said to Jean during the Female Titan Arc chilled me; that commanders of a military with such high death rates must be willing to through away their humanity.
Like holy shit these kids are 15.
And really, I love this manga because these kids have gone through so much shit, and all this has changed them into these characters who at times can be legitimately frightening and monstrous. They aren’t the typical shounen heroes who fight for the greater good and hope. Eren’s primary objective is revenge (the fighting for humanity thing is pretty much just a consequence of this), Mikasa went with him to make sure Eren doesn’t kill himself, and Armin may have initially joined the military to stick with his friends and see wtf kind of system ordered the death of 1/5 of the human population, but the military changed him into someone who I actually find more frightening than Mikasa or Eren.
Actually if you think about it, if you placed these characteristics in a typical shounen manga or anime; these kids would undoubtedly be villains.
And I like this. This crapsack world they live in would have indeed changed and affected them, even before the Titans broke through the wall. I honestly think Eren’s upbringing might’ve been a bit strange because - well, he killed 2 fully grown men without remorse at the age of 9 - and he has the mindset: If you win you live, if you lose you die. (Grisha wtf did you teach to your son). Mikasa’s ‘awakening’ isn’t brought on by new information or shock, but something she’s known for a long time and simply never thought about - the world is cruel and merciless, and is ruled by the concept of the strong oppressing the weak. And Armin was a very thoughtful child whose wisdom and curiosity just made him depressed as he realised that days of peace and prosperity never last, and that something must change eventually.
This is even before the goddamn Wall Maria gets broken through.
However Eren and Armin also have hopes to see the outside world, and Mikasa wants to stay with Eren, her last family. As frightening and dark at times these characters may be, they’re not one dimensional characters with single motivations or facets to their character. They’re also kind and caring, and are willing to place their lives on the line to protect humanity. This crapsack world hasn’t fully taken away their hopes and dreams and turned them into heartless killers.
And I think that’s the main thing about humanity really. You can be one of the kindest people in the world, and yet be willing to kill without remorse. Something which Armin said once struck a chord in me, that good or evil are terms people used to call those whom are convenient to them, and that therefore you could be a good person to some people but a bad person to others.
tl;dr : Eren, Mikasa and Armin scare the shit out of me. They’re chilling characters who are also kind and willing to fight for humanity; and these ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traits should be considered together, instead of one being ignored in favor of the other.
I don’t know if I made any sense because I literally just threw up my thoughts without any coherency but yeah. Here you go.