To you who dislike Erwin Smith because he is "creepy", "abusive" or hate him for some other reason
[Don’t read if you’re not following the manga]
Let’s start with Erwin Smith who blames himself for the death of his father, who ”because of a foolish son” got killed by the government. Erwin probably wasn’t even ten years old when this happened, but since then proving right his father’s dangerous theory about the titans has been his mission in life. He most likely sees this as something he must do because of his shame, to give his father’s death something value. One hell of a meaning for a life.
Erwin’s father’s death wasn’t his fault. He was a child. It was his father who should have thought more carefully if it was a good idea to tell his theory to a child at all, or at least he should have explained to Erwin that it was not something that was allowed to discuss openly. Erwin’s father was killed by the government and his own carelessness.
Throughout his childhood Erwin was viewed as ”creepy”. We don’t know what Erwin’s childhood was like aside from his father’s death, but to think that you are a little human being who has lost his father, you blame yourself for your father’s death (he probably did even more as a child, because children tend to do that) and people keep telling you that you are ”creepy”. It’s hard to believe that he even properly understood what had happened at that time. This obviously leaves marks on someone’s personality.
As an adult, Erwin is still considered as creepy and dubious by many people because of his intelligence and secretiveness. Erwin Smith doesn’t trust people, so he doesn’t share his plans or theories. This is obviously an imprint from his childhood, Erwin fears that people will either betray him or get hurt if he opens his mouth. In chapter 55 when he tells about his father to Pixis, he assumably shares the reason he fights for the first time. Levi didn’t know about it, nor did Nile even if he used to be Erwin’s good friend back when they were training. Erwin has carried his purpose with him in silence for 30 years because he doesn’t want to die in vain like his father did, or get anybody else killed for knowing too much. It is so important to him, yet he has been very alone with it.
[Look at his face when he hears about his father’s theory being possibly right and realizes that just maybe his whole miserable life hasn’t been for nothing.]
About loneliness. So apparently, Erwin was in love with a woman when he was younger. A woman who Nile then married and made a family with, giving up joining the Survey Corps and joining the Military Police instead. No, Erwin most likely doesn’t think about Marie anymore, but think how it must have been for him then, to watch his friend choose the nice life with this woman. Being able to choose, to fall in love, which Erwin couldn’t allow himself because he has this mission. It isn’t a small burden. Who knows how much Erwin would like to have a relationship, to have children, to have a family, but he has abandoned these things to prove his father right. Erwin Smith is single because he doesn’t know when he’ll die, said Isayama. Erwin Smith still could have a family, but he doesn’t want to leave the same pain after him that his father did when he died.
I’ve read that some people dislike Erwin because of how he forced Levi into joining the Survey Corps, and that they view him as ”abusive”. Well. First of all, it was Levi who tried to stab Erwin before they had even said hello because Erwin was trying to catch him. Then Erwin tried to ask Levi some questions and yes, Erwin and Mike did dip his face in the mud, and yes they even threatened to harm his friends. But they most definitely wouldn’t have killed them (some people seem to think that Levi joined to save his friends). Levi joined to save their asses from the Military Police where Erwin said he’d take them if Levi refused his offer. Levi was a criminal you see, he was a thief and apparently also a murderer. Erwin said he wouldn’t ask what he has done, he saw fucking wings on his back, and gave Levi the choice to either 1) do something useful with his skill and potential by joining the Survey Corps or 2) take responsibility for his crimes. Levi held a grudge against Erwin for some time, but then deliberately decided to accompany Erwin because he seemed to have what Levi was missing. Despite his past Levi became a person people know, admire and hail as hero.
I also feel like I want to mention Eren here, because Erwin saved him twice. Many view Levi as some kind of savior to Eren, and Levi does look after him. But it was Erwin who decided that they should trust Eren and try to get him into the Survey Corps when Levi was still doubtful, it was Erwin who decided to go see Eren (who was afraid and alone and had no idea what was happening). Erwin literally fucking stormed to talk to him as soon as he was allowed, and he explained where Eren was and was very kind to him. When Levi was being an asshole, calling Eren ”a piece of crap”, Erwin got mad at Levi, made him shut his mouth and even explained why Levi was behaving like that. My favourite part is the part where people romanticize Levi kicking Eren’s ass in the trial to save it. He kicked it because Erwin saw that it could save Eren, and so it was Erwin who apologized for it. You can see how Erwin actually pampers Eren a bit after the trial, the way he is generally being nice, smiling and crouching to shake his hand like he was a child (you would never shake hands with an adult like that). Because Eren actually was a child who had just had a severe beating. Then there’s also the time when Erwin did everything in his power to get Eren back when he was captured, ending up saving him himself with his other arm bitten off. Erwin was ready to give his life for this.
That’s the funniest thing. Erwin doesn’t see himself as someone important or indispensable. He considers people like Levi or Eren to be those things, and he is willing to die for someone like them in a heartbeat if it is needed. Erwin realizes that freeing humanity is something bigger than him, something he has just dedicated his life to. And with this cause in mind he sees the potential in people, he gets aboard the dangerous thug and the titan shifter people fear and listens to the theories of a fifteen-year-old child when he has something in mind. Erwin’s strength is that he sees what other people are capable of and builds from there.
Many people have died under his command, for his ambitious dream of freedom. He doesn’t show it a lot, but he does feel guilt and holds himself responsible. When he lost his arm he said it was a small price to pay for all the death he has caused and that he still has his debts to pay in hell. He listens to people blame him, mock him, shout and rage at him on the street, and he takes it all in time after time. He sees all the blood on his hands and he feels grief just like anyone else would, and sometimes his regret even shows (like when he decides to torture the Female Titan after Levi has told him about all the people who died protecting the Levi Squad from it). Somehow Erwin still has managed to keep himself together for years (and without anyone to comfort him or to take away some of the pain), unlike for example the previous commander who we see falling on his knees crying and raging and screaming ”it’s my fault”. I think Erwin might be a little dead inside in a way that he has accepted himself as the devil and long before doomed, and now he is just trying to change the world for the better as much as he possibly can before his death.
Erwin Smith is not evil nor is he a saint. He is one lonely and troubled bastard, but I think he needs some love.