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Jean is seen to be slightly taller than his Attack Junior High classmates and has short, light brown hair. He usually is seen wearing a traditional 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 trying to eat 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 as punishment.
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.
Some time later, Jean and the other Survey Club members go on a weekend trip with the club's advisor, Mr. Smith. When Eren mocks Mr. Smith for his benevolence to humans and Titans, Jean speaks in favor of Mr. Smith and recalls a time he assisted him before the start of the school year. As Eren continues to badmouth him, Jean starts to argue with him until both are reprimanded by Levi. Jean goes back to sleep but is woken up that morning by the sound of shaking due to Mr. Smith beating several Titans to save Eren. During the summer, Jean learns that Levi has stolen Armin's blanket and is asked to help bring it back; Jean is resistant to help, but agrees after Mikasa makes a backhanded remark about him. Jean suggests Mr. Smith might know and they call him; the group learns Levi is living at the student dormitories on campus and they all go to confront him. Jean is soon caught in one of the many traps hidden around the student dormitory, but it presses Armin to continue on and retrieve his blanket.
After the summer break ends, Jean and the other students arrive back to school and are surprised to see that several new rules have been implemented on the human students. While Jean does eventually adapt to the new rules, he is stunned to hear Mr. Smith claim responsibility for the attacks. He sees Eren tear up the resignation letter and eventually the school principal is sated, allowing Mr. Smith to stay a faculty member and the rules to be lifted.
When the school's yearly Cultural Festival arrives and all the classes are to participate in the Battle of the Bands event; seeing several of his classmates join Eren's band, Jean decides to join as well. Jean soon tries to take charge of the group and assigns everyone their respective position while promoting himself to lead guitar and as the group's front-man: Mikasa sees through this and suggests both Eren and Jean share duties. The two begin to have creative differences and things get heated enough that Jean soon quits the band; however, he begins to have second thoughts and wished to come back but kept this to himself. When Eren and Mikasa ask their teacher to join, Jean overhears this and assumes they are talking about him; this causes him to leave embarrassed. Soon, Jean is asked by Eren to return to the band, and he agrees, still believing they needed him to succeed; he is then told they would be disqualified if all the original members were not present, severely bruising Jean's ego.
The day of the competition, Jean and the others perform after two other groups fail spectacularly; they are able to win the crowd over and has a chance of winning. Despite this, the group after them (consisting of Hange, Mike and Levi) win for the second year in a row. Eren decides to help the group's chances of beating the Titan band by sabotaging the Titan's efforts using wasabi; Jean assists but is quickly taken out. After Eren proclaims victory after taking out the Titan singer, Jean berates him before they are thanked by Hange (who quickly afterwards berates them for thinking about next year's battle). Jean goes with the others (excluding Eren) and enjoys the rest of the Cultural Festival.
After Eren gets recognized by several other classmates as being friends with the group No Name, Jean begins to pity himself over how he is generally ignored by others. He notices a flyer announcing a race for class president and, after hearing a speech from Eren, decides to announce himself as a candidate. He ignores a passing insult from Eren and goes to sign up, along with trying to bribe both Hitch and Marlowe to vote for him. Enlisting both Connie and Sasha to help him gather up votes, he tries to pass out leaflets but is surprised when no one takes any. Sasha warns Jean that he is encroaching on parts of the school already claimed by other candidates, but Jean ignores her. He moves from a part of the school Rico has claimed to a portion controlled by Oluo and is subsequently attacked by both. Jean dismisses Connie and Sasha while he rethinks his strategy; recalling how Eren became popular for being friends with The No Name Band, he decides to announce that he has been endorsed by the group.
This, coupled with a rousing speech during an open forum, allows Jean to continue rising in the polls; however, he is dismayed that a fellow candidate named Flegel Reeves remains in first place. Determined to beat Flegel and take his spot at the top, he goes to the student polling location and manages to overhear a second year student named Ilse comment about how Flegel remains atop the polls too. He is confronted by Ilse that Flegel has done nothing in terms of the election and yet, he remains in first place; when offered to help expose Flegel, Jean considers it a waste of time and declines the offer. When Ilse threatens to write a report on his faulty claim of being endorsed by The No Name Band, Jean changes his mind and agrees to help. The two manage to track down one of the business factories run by Flegel's father; they are shocked to learn that it manufactures many of the treats and products sold to the school, possibly using subliminal advertising to keep Flegel atop the race for president.. This is confirmed upon Jean spotting a large banner posted by the CEO of the company, encouraging the workers to help with Flegel's efforts. Even with proof, the school newspaper refuses to run the story, as it is run also by Flegel's father. Jean then overhears Flegel boasting about how he has the election won and will resort to banning all foods in the school except for donuts. He meets up with Ilse and the two manage to capture Flegel after school using a donut as bait. After they try pressuring Flegel to drop out of the race, Jean reveals that his true motivation for running for student president is due to insecurity and wanting special treatment; this causes Ilse to free Flegel and beats Jean over the head with her notebook. Ultimately, Jean loses the race to Ilse herself and along with the other students, becomes horrified when she installs an all healthy diet for students at the school.
- 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.