Jean had a fantastic character arc that showed the gradual development of his best attributes, but to be balanced, he had lesser traits too.
Part of what makes the cast of Attack on Titan so thrilling to watch is how human-like the characters are written. Everyone feels fleshed out, and even incredibly intelligent or strong characters who excel in one field have others where they don’t perform as well, to keep them from feeling unnaturally overpowered. For example, even though Mikasa is an incredibly gifted fighter, she loses her cool and can become blinded when it comes to matters involving Eren.
This is true for characters like Jean, as well. He starts out as an arrogant character who doesn’t seem to care much for anyone else, and this side of his personality is tested and eventually changed as time goes on and he has more tragic real-world experiences, such as the death of Marco. He turns into a competent leader who’s able to strategize well on the fly, but he still possesses enough weaknesses to feel balanced.
He Can Be Pessimistic, Believing That Humanity Has No Hope Against The Titans
When he first begins training, and for a while thereafter, Jean doesn’t believe that humanity has any hope of winning against the titans. He isn’t even training in order to fight them, either, but rather to live a cushy life within the Inner Walls as part of the Military Police.
He goes as far as to openly mock Eren and his ideals, causing the two to clash quite often. Thankfully, this is a weakness that improves over time as he continues to watch and actually starts to be inspired by the conviction Eren has.
He’s Unable To Hold His Tongue In Situations Where Speaking His Mind Gets Him Into Trouble
It’s one thing to talk back to one’s superior when they believe they’ve been wronged, because every now and then, such a defiant attitude is necessary to weed out potential corruption. However, it’s another to be unable to hold one’s tongue in situations where conflict is entirely avoidable and unneeded.
A great example of this is how Jean finds it impossible early on to keep his cool around Eren. The two often end up bickering or worse, and Jean never seems to be able to hold back his opinions, even going as far as to revel in annoying others who he disagrees with.
Although romance is far from the focal point of the series, there are still a few unrequited couples throughout the series. The earliest is Jean and Mikasa, with Jean being smitten with her instantly upon seeing her.
This isn’t a problem in itself, and he doesn’t act disrespectful towards Mikasa due to his feelings – but the same can’t be said for his treatment of Eren. Because Mikasa is so fixated on protecting Eren and keeping him safe rather than giving Jean attention, the latter ends up holding an intense grudge against Eren for quite some time.
He Doesn’t Take Training Seriously, Slacking Off Early On
During initial training, it doesn’t take long for Jean, along with other cadets, to realize that they don’t actually have to give their best effort to rank high. Not every part of training matters, so Jean is among a group of cadets who begin slacking off during training sessions they deem unimportant, such as hand-to-hand combat.
Jean does eventually get a fire lit under him that makes him take training more seriously, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. After he and Eren get into a physical altercation and he’s flipped onto the ground by the other, Jean decides that he wants to become as strong as possible in order to beat Eren, not to reach his goals or benefit humanity.
He Lacks The Mental Fortitude To Be Able To Handle The Weight Of His Actions As A Leader At Times
Jean is certainly intelligent and empathetic enough to make a great leader, but those aren’t the only two characteristics that are required. A leader also has to be able to make the tough decisions when they’re called for, even if it means using a few deaths to prevent many.
This is the case during the struggle for Trost, as a soldier runs out of gas and ends up stranded with Jean leading the pack. He advises against trying to help him, but a handful of soldiers don’t listen and end up dying trying to help him. Jean is able to capitalize on their deaths to get everyone else to headquarters safely, but it weighs incredibly heavy on him and is almost too much of a burden for him to bear.
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