Armin Arlert

Written by @EllieDangerous
‘Attack on Titan’ is a breathtaking colossus of an anime, and little Armin Arlert is there at its beating heart. There are brave go-getters, there are cowardly deadbeats, and then there's Armin. He's a cowardly go-getter. Voiced by Marina Inoue and Josh Grelle, he is perhaps the most divided character this side of Wall Maria. And that’s saying something.

Spoiler Alert
It starts with his ambitions, and those are unmistakably brave and go-getting. He inherits from his parents a desire to go beyond the Walls and there discover the spectacular landscapes of legend. “Far beyond these Walls, there's flaming water, land made of ice, and fields of sand spread wide. It's the world my parents wanted to go to.”

But in a culture whose safety relies entirely on hiding behind Walls, dreaming of the world beyond them is heresy. Young Armin is bullied for his dreams, but keeps tight hold of them even when they lead to the death of his parents.

It seems brave to retain his ambitions after all that, but he’s hopeless at defending them. Sure he uses his eloquence and authenticity to sway his best friends Eren and Mikasa, but neither of them attack him for it. When Armin is properly challenged for his “heretic” beliefs, he falls flat. He freezes. This young orphan is timid and frail; his ambition is not backed up with nerve.

At least, not to begin with.

Armin’s self-proclaimed cowardice stands in opposition to many of his most admirable traits. He’s the most open-minded of the lot, but is too quiet to inspire the same in others. He tries his hardest in the Scout Regiment, but doesn’t have the confidence to push his puny body beyond its limits. He really would give his life to save another’s, but he’s just too scared to make that move.

So our boy is extraordinary in heart and mind, but he can’t get the world to notice. That’s where his friends come in. Armin borrows valor from Eren and Mikasa, and in doing so finds just enough audacity to get out there and fight. If it weren’t for the inspiration they give him, Armin would probably be safe at home right now. And by safe at home I mean dead, because no one’s safe any more.

It’s his friends who push him, who amplify him and make him heard. He’s a mouse on his own, but with Eren and Mikasa’s faith he can roar like a lion. When they look to Armin and stand with him on even ground, he realises he has it in him to be a strong and sacrificial leader like those he admires. Their belief in him drives him onwards.

And when he does finally roar, its echoes reverberate and change him for the better. He saves Eren’s life, he persuades him to fight on when all others have failed, he harnesses dangerous power for good, and all the while he keeps his moral compass in tact. He will always be a good person to us.

“I don't like the terms ‘good person’ or ‘bad person’ because it's impossible to be entirely good to everyone or entirely bad to everyone. To some you are a good person, while to others you are a bad person.”

On his own, Armin would be trapped in himself. But with his friends, and to his own astonishment, he can be a catalyst in the final liberation of humanity.

You can't change anything unless you can discard part of yourself too.
There's nothing wrong with valuing your own life.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 19 November 2015
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