Humanity’s Strongest: Levi Ackerman

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a huge fan of Attack on Titan; and not because of the hype train and the fact that it’s so mainstream. To be honest I got into AoT a bit late; it’s a bit embarrassing but I was living in Japan the summer it came out. I was more interested in living in  and exploring Tokyo that I didn’t really indulge with anime. My roommate, however, who was also studying abroad with me from my school was tuning into it every week he’d tell me huge spoilers but I didn’t really mind. Flash forward a year after that and I finally watched it. I was completely hooked and the standout character from my first watch of it was: Levi Ackerman.

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Levi Ackerman is the Squad Captain of the Special Operations Squad, a smaller more distinct branch of the Survey Corps. Levi is my absolute favorite in the series for a number of reasons: he’s a kick ass soldier, I mean he is given the nick name “Humanity’s Strongest Soldier” for a reason. He’s a natural when it comes to killing and fighting (but I’ll have to save that for some other AoT post because his lineage is a HUGE factor). I find his bluntness and dry sense of humor something to relate to; sarcastic comments and retorts are usually the way I like to talk with close friends. And while he’s usually found to be frowning or expressionless, he’s a natural genius when it comes to moving around in the 3D-maneuvering gear and on top of that he’s OCD clean-freak. He’s got so many distinct sides to him; that it just works cohesievely. I don’t want to go into too much of his lineage because it’d be headed into spoiler territory for the upcoming season and beyond; so I’ll try to keep this discussion from season 1 and his OVA’s. Levi’s OVA is clearly my favorite spin-off/side story to the whole AoT franchise because we get to see another side of Levi we’ve never seen before.

 

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Levi hails from the underground city where he was born and raised. He has a checkered past as he was basically a thug in the underground city; a robin hood of sorts. He’s quick to resort to violence and it’s clear he marches to the beat of his own drum and doesn’t resepect authority. It’s actually in the underground city that Levi gains his knowledge of the 3D-maneuver gear. He acquired it illegally somehow and uses it to traverses the underground to steal. In the underground city, it’s hard for anyone to gain passage to the surface and one can actually pass through life without ever seeing it.

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Levi has two friends in the underground city: Isabelle and Furlan. They are his comrades and essentially the only family he has, make a plan to one day live on the surface. An opportunity presents itself and they take it on because if they succeed they gain citizenship on the surface. The job he’s been hired to do is to assassinate Erwin Smith. However, Erwin comes looking for Levi on behalf of the Military Police because of the rumors he’d heard of someone in the underground city who was able to use the 3D-manuever gear so effortlessly. He offers them to join the survey corps in return for overlooking their crimes. When they actually go on expedition Levi separates from the two in an attempt to kill Erwin; he’s wary of leaving them alone since this is the first time above ground and their first real experience with titans. Levi is hesitant but he decides to push on with the plan. He somehow gets lost in the rain and decides it’s too dangerous to pursue Erwin and goes to regroup with his friends. But, he’s a little too late. The group they had been in was already decimated; his friends included. Levi goes berserk and kills the titan upon seeing his friends’ body parts strewn across the field. I’ve brought it up before in my 30 Day Challenge for Most Badass Scene from any character and I’ve linked the below video before; but it never gets old:

We see a new side of Levi as he mourns the death of his “family”, he’s actually sobbing near the end of this and is inconsolable as he goes berserk. Erwin makes it a point to tell him how pathetic it is that Levi is the sole survivor; causing Levi to react violently with a blade to attack him; Erwin grabs it with his bare hands and Levi rants on about how he had planned to kill Erwin all along. Erwin confesses that he already knew what Levi and his friends were up to; and as Levi starts to regret his decision to believe in his friends choices – Erwin interrupts him and says,

“Don’t. You’ll regret it. If you begin to regret, you’ll dull your future decisions and let others make your choices for you. All that’s left for you then is to die. Nobody can foretell the outcome. Each decision you make holds meaning only by affecting your next decision.”

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It’s in this moment that Levi decides to move forward and accept Erwin’s words for what they are. The only form of authority that Levi is shown to have ever given in to. Clearly Erwin was able to earn the respect of Levi in this moment, and was the start of an incredible friendship based on trust. The OVA ends with Levi’s internal monologue:

“I don’t understand. I’ve never understood. Even if I believe in my own strength…even if I believe in the decisions of my trusted friends, even in the end nobody. But, this man is gazing up at something I can’t even see. Fine. I’ll follow you, Erwin Smith. I will never regret this decision for as long as I live.”

Despite his cold exterior, he has a deep sense of morality, loyalty and empathy. One of his best traits is his high regard for human life. Levi doesn’t like the idea of unnecessary casualties. And due to what he has experienced with his friends’ deaths he has gone on to adapt that everyone should use their own judgement and act according to their own will or trust in him and the survey corps- something we’ve seen him tell Eren when they’re in the forest luring the female titan further in and he’s telling Eren to make the choice.

Levi was someone I highly respected in the first season of Attack on Titan, but upon watching his OVA, there was another layer to his character that created me to enjoy his character even more, and with further back story that has developed in the manga; we’ve learned that his life is far from perfect. He started off incredibly arrogant, cocky and above the law at the beginning. He thought he knew what was best for him; until this tragic day where he felt complete loss and he was alone yet again. Something he’s had to cope with his entire life. He’s fought through so much pain and unfairness in his life that to be where he is now is short of a miracle. He’s lost so much; but was able to find hope in the survey corps as long as he kept believing and moving forward; but never really losing sight of where he came from and what decisions brought him to his current point.

 

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