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Jean has short, blond hair, and wears a black Japanese middle school uniform.
Jean is shown to be a very cocky and overconfident boy, who considers himself to be above many of his classmates. He is also shown to be very concerned with looking cool in front of his classmates, and impressing the girls in his class.
During the first day of school, Jean is assigned to Class 4 with his friend Marco. When Eren reveals his dream to drive all the Titans out of the school, Jean stands up and wishes for a peaceful time at school; this immediately causes the two to face off with each other. Jean notices Mikasa and immediately becomes smitten with her; he then berates Eren for having her fight his battles for him.
Eventually, a dodge ball tournament is held between all the classes. Jean is the captain of the Class 4 team and is bewildered by the actions of Connie (who is an incredibly inept player) and Sasha (who is eating during the match). He remembers that Mikasa is participating but is dismayed to see her performing below par. He asks Armin about it and learns that she has not seen Eren yet and her abilities have dropped almost a third. Jean then curses Eren for not being here. Despite these setbacks, they are able to advance to the next round. However, Mikasa has become unresponsive and refuses to compete, wrapping herself in Armin's futon. Armin decides to have Jean take his place and the others disguise Jean as Eren to fool both Mikasa and Class 3 (who have been inquiring about Eren.) Neither Class 3 nor Mikasa fall for it but just then Eren arrives. He berates Jean, and then the match begins. Jean celebrates when they advance to the final round, but is horrified to see they are playing against a team of Titans; they are swiftly defeated.
After the events of a class trip to visit the Titan wing of the school, Jean begins to agree with Eren's view on Titans and join him and several others to try to seek out the rumored 'Survey Club' that exists on campus. He is later assigned to be part of the 'Wall Beautification Club' with his classmates as a cover. During a trip to Wall Rose, Jean and the other group members encounter three members of the Student Council and takes part in the game that decides the fate of the Survey Club. He faces off against Hitch and gets beaten; due to the method she used to beat him, Jean fights to reverse the ruling but Armin maintains that it counts. Fortunately, Eren is able to beat Annie and the Club is allowed to stay active.
Several days pass and Jean bemoans to Marco that everyone in school has started pairing up and he is all alone. Marco tells him not to worry about it, but Jean discovers a love letter in his locker. Building his confidence, Jean flouts it to his classmates and receives several more. Eventually, he begins to wonder who his admirer is; everyone later discovers Hitch at Jean's locker and believe her to be behind the love letters. Jean is notified to meet Hitch after school and is open to taking her on a date; however, Hitch insults him and reveals that she caught a glimpse of the true author. She points to Eren and Mikasa nearby, who told her to keep up the act. She then reveals an approaching Titan to be the one who wrote the letters to Jean. Unable to fully comprehend (or accept) the fact that his admirer is actually a Titan, Jean tries to politely refuse the Titan's advances but is quickly flattened by the disappointed Titan.
The school year advances and everyone does their club activities after school except for Jean. One day, Jean goes to Wall Beautification Club with Eren. When the club president, Rico, sees him, she gives him a dirty look and asks him why he has been skipping the club. Jean tried to come up with an excuse to answer her question. Rico tells him that he has not attended the club since first entering. Suddenly, a boy named Ian interrupts Rico and tells her that she is being unfair and not to criticize first years when they skip club days.He also tells her to save her energy for the Athletics Fair and school dance because they are finally dance partners.  Rico agrees to let Jean off after hearing Ian's words. When Jean sees Rico's interaction with Ian, Jean teases Rico saying he thought she only cared about the club and did not know she liked bony guys. After Rico hears this, she gets embarrassed and makes the first years wash all of the windows in the school.
The day of the Athletics Fair finally arrives. At the Tama-ire Ball Toss event, Jean says that he must carry the basket in order for his plan of crushing the upperclassmen in a decisive victory to work and vows to show the upperclassman the horror of utter defeat with his two hands. When the teams come to the field, Jean notices that his team is up against Rico's team. The game starts with Rico dominating, not letting one ball get into her basket when suddenly, everyone stops and sees that Jean is using a vertical maneuvering gear to fly. While dodging flying balls, Rico is able to throw a ball at Jean, hitting him in the face. When Jean asks why Rico hit his face with the ball, Rico answers Jean by telling that he has brought shame on the Wall Beautification Club. When Jean hears this, he gets upset with Rico and tells her to stop talking about the club. He then tells her that her lectures get to him and that he will come to the club if she stops preaching. Rico gets angry, tells Jean that she hates him and goes on a rampage, making the first years too afraid to put any balls in her basket causing them to lose the game. Eventually, the first years lose the Athletics Fair and are forced to attend the Folk Dance with the Titans.
- Marco Bott - Marco is Jean's best friend. The two are usually seen hanging out together during and after school.
- Eren Yeager - Jean initially held Eren in contempt for his radical ideas about driving out the Titans and would butt heads with him. Lately, though, they have become more civil with the other but still occasionally argue.
- Mikasa Ackerman - Jean became smitten with Mikasa on their first day of school and harbors a lingering crush on her.
- Rico - Jean is always skipping club days and teased Rico about linking bony guys after he sees her interaction with Ian. Rico admits to hating Jean during the Tama-ire Ball Toss event at the Athletics Fair.