One of the most influential shonen anime and manga series in modern times is Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama. The show contributed to the worldwide popularity of the medium experiencing a new upswing. Attack on Titan is a violent, gory, and overwhelmingly dark television series without many highlights. Even within its cast, significant comic relief characters have been eliminated, and the majority of fan favorites have undergone such extreme hardship that they have undergone a fundamental change.
One character, though, has consistently maintained popularity since his series debut. In a recent Goo Rankings poll, Levi Ackerman came out on top, beating out characters like Satoru Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen and well-known mascots like Pikachu or Doraemon. Nobody was shocked by this given how heavily Levi has influenced the Attack on Titan fandom's conscience.
Why Is Levi So Famous?
On the surface level, it may seem hard to understand why people gravitate toward someone like Levi. He's cold, vulgar and keeps everyone at an arm's distance. However, that's precisely why everybody likes him so much. Compared to the rest of Attack on Titan's cast, there's something about Levi that feels extraordinary yet inherently human in a way that the other characters just can't capture. He's not a comic relief character in any sense of the word, nor are his flaws on full display at all times. Still, Levi's strength and popularity lie in his role in the story and his unavoidable charisma.
There are a few contributing factors to Levi's popularity in the Attack On Titan fandom. The most simple reason is that fans appreciate a well-designed, visually appealing character. He fits a certain archetype to which certain types of fans naturally gravitate. Many AoT fans find Levi attractive, and he fits the stereotypical "bad boy" role popular throughout various fictional media. Fans like the idea of a character who is cold to everybody around them but has a soft spot for a select few. This is why tsundere love interests are so popular in the medium. However, that's not the only reason Levi has such a stronghold on anime fans.
Levi's dry sense of humor isn't properly represented in the anime. Levi's crude humor was featured prominently in the manga as one of his most endearing personality traits. Sadly, the anime has only given viewers a small sample of his wittiest one-liners. But it worked well enough to convey Levi's personality to viewers who only watch anime. The fact that he is a clean freak and dresses in full cleaning gear when it's time to tidy up is an added bonus. Another amusing contrast to Levi's typically stern demeanor is that he is a stickler for cleanliness.
Levi is also an extremely well-written character with a tragic backstory. He grew up in the Underground, a poverty-stricken region under Mitras. He watched his own mother die before Kenny took him under his wing and trained him to fight. As fans saw in No Regrets, Levi clawed his way out of the Underground. He didn't want to join the Survey Corps at first, but he came to respect the organization's mission and became humanity's strongest fighter in the process. Perpetually snarky and a badass fighter, it's easy to root for somebody like Levi. He started from zero and ended up near the top through sheer hard work and perseverance. Fans love characters with tragic backstories, especially those who fit the same archetypes as Levi. Adding in his unmatched fighting skills and likable personality only makes it more obvious why Levi is so popular.
Levi Has a Likeable Personality and Is a Charming Fighter
Few characters from Attack On Titan are as charismatic and endearing as Levi Ackerman, despite the fact that many are memorable. Even though he doesn't say much while he's in the spotlight, Levi always has the audience's full attention. Levi's personality doesn't feel forced or as though he's just there to play a part in the narrative, which is in contrast to most stoic characters who read as trying too hard. It would be simple to dismiss Levi as an emotionless soldier, but that is utterly untrue. After all, without some semblance of conviction, he would not have been able to claw his way out of the Underground.
Despite having no qualms about resorting to violence, Levi has a strong moral compass and never lost sight of why he started fighting in the first place. He understands what it means to preserve humanity while protecting his own people, so it kills him a bit each time he needs to kill another Titan. In fact, Levi expressed immense distress and remorse upon discovering that the Titans weren't the monsters everyone was led to believe.
Unlike Eren and the rest of the leading cast, Levi is much more fleshed out and charismatic. It's easier to find redeeming qualities in Levi than Eren. He's not the typical "badass" often seen in fiction. Most fictional fighters are surface-level characters who don't express emotions because it's expected based on their role in the story. However, Levi is not the average stoic character. He is immensely traumatized and more desensitized to his surroundings than most. Not only has he battled alongside the Corps for years, but he fought his way out of a poverty-stricken hellscape to prove himself. This is why he talks to his comrades in the spirit of tough love and doesn't have patience for self-pitying behavior. Though he can sympathize with their struggles, Levi always offers sound advice -- even if it comes out a bit harsh.
One more justification for Levi's popularity is his fighting prowess. Everyone else in the series is largely unable to match his proficiency with ODM gear. It's impossible not to respect his abilities because, unlike the other Scouts, he didn't receive formal training in it. He learned the ropes on his own and advanced through the ranks, earning the respect of everyone in the process. Since he has seen the worst of society, Levi doesn't bow down to anyone and shouldn't be expected to. In addition to his unrivaled fighting skills, Levi is famous for having an unstoppable charisma that none of the other characters have ever been able to match. In the best way possible, Levi's involvement in the narrative cannot be avoided.