|Everybody I've met...was all the same...Everyone had to be drunk on somethin' to keep pushing on. Everyone...was a slave to somethin'.|
|— Kenny reflects on his life|
Kenny Ackermann (ケニー・アッカーマン Kenī Akkāman?) was the captain (隊長 Taichō?) of the Anti-Personnel Control Squad in the Military Police Regiment, an ironic contrast to his former life as a serial killer of the MPs, earning the title Kenny the Ripper (切り裂きケニー Kirisaki Kenī?) for how he slit his victims' throats. After meeting and befriending Uri Reiss, he worked for the crown, but secretly desired the "God-like power" that the Reiss family possessed for himself. He was the maternal uncle of Levi Ackermann and raised him for a number of years after the passing of his younger sister.
Kenny had shoulder-length brown hair with sideburns, a thin beard along his jawline, and piercing gray eyes bordered by crow’s feet. Tall and slim, he sustained an athletic build well into his middle-age years and remained as nimble and strong as persons half his age. His attire consisted of a simple white shirt with a black vest overtop, black pants, and a dark fedora hat. When not wearing his specialty APM gear, he sported a fashioned, black trench coat, but he always carried a short blade with him. Kenny usually maintained a stoic expression, only showing emotion in the form of a wide, maniacal grin when excited or cracking a foul joke. In his youth, Kenny had a smooth, defined face with slightly longer hair. He wore a tan trench coat, dark trousers and shoes, a white buttoned shirt, and his fedora hat.
Despite his dark hobby as a serial killer, Kenny appeared to be rather jovial and took pleasure in taunting his adversaries during battle. When fighting, he became animated and lively, sometimes making a scene or otherwise throwing insults and witticisms. However, he also fought with control and was able to effortlessly sneak up on his targets when they least expected him.
Sometimes perceived as a comical character, Kenny was in fact very cold and calculated, sparing little emotional attachment or loyalty to anyone, save a few. Even when confronting Levi, he had no qualms about trying to kill him, despite having raised him. Kenny’s bottom line was power and renown and he did not hesitate to act ruthlessly if need be to get a job done. Operating with precision and professionalism, he never showed remorse nor did he express regret for the things he had done.
Kenny expressed a desire to live a "fun" life, but he had a strange idea of what was considered to be fun. When speaking to his dying grandfather about the Ackermann family history, he said he believed it all because it would be more fun to do so. Also, the very idea of living a full life and dying of old age did not sound fun to him. He possessed a dark sense of humor, using it to accent otherwise cynical and depressing statements, and sometimes arranged scenarios for his own entertainment just to make things more interesting.
Even so, he was capable of showing genuine admiration and respect to whom he thought deserved it, like Uri Reiss or Caven, his second-in-command. His loyalty to his family was evident, even if it was veiled with indifference; he killed MPs that came too close to his ailing grandfather’s house to keep him from being harassed, and he resolved to raise his late sister’s son instead of leaving him to die. However, he hated blind loyalty and showed disappointment when Historia expressed slavish devotion to her father, Rod Reiss, within the Reiss chapel caverns. He disliked cowards and did not respect them, and cared even less for titles. The fact that Uri, and later Rod Reiss, were the true kings of the Walls, did not stop Kenny from threatening or attempting to kill them.
Kenny later revealed that he only obeyed Rod Reiss as part of his plan to obtain power. His true intentions for his service to the Royal Family was to gain the Founding Titan's power. After witnessing Uri, and later Frieda, become people of benevolence and hope after inheriting the Founding Titan, he wondered if the same thing would happen to him. For all of his sociopathic tendencies, he wanted to know what it felt like to be kind and compassionate and see the world as Uri once did.
Despite his outward confidence, Kenny appeared to suffer from some degree of self-loathing, as he would go so far as to describe himself as "trash”. This seemed to stem largely from disappointment with his own lack of empathy. His self-deprecating nature also inspired him to initially avoid lasting relations. When Levi had grown into a capable youth and showed that he was able to fend for himself, Kenny abandoned him, believing he was unfit to be someone’s parent.
Kenny lived in the Underground, a subterranean city where crime and poverty were rampant. As revealed by Levi, at some unspecified point in Kenny’s life he felt a sudden and inexplicable surge of power, knowing from then on “exactly what he had to do”. He spent the majority of his youth murdering over 100 members of the Military Police Regiment, earning the name ‘Kenny the Ripper’.
One day, after killing a few MPs snooping around his grandfather’s house, Kenny decides to visit his ailing gramps. He tells his grandfather he discovered that a branch of their family was living in Shiganshina District, but notes that they are impoverished due to interference by the MPs in the area (this is likely a reference to Mikasa's father). Reminding his grandfather of their family’s prior service to the king, he asks to know why they have been persecuted. His grandfather relents and explains that the king doesn’t hate their family, he fears them because they are immune to the memory-altering powers of the Founding Titan. When the Ackermanns and the Oriental clan, who were also immune, turned their backs on the king and his ideals, they were perceived as a threat and forced into hiding. Kenny then informs his grandfather he managed to find his younger sister, Kuchel, working in a brothel in the Underground. He was unhappy to learn that she had been impregnated by one of her clients and intended to keep the child, sullenly musing that there is no dream worth living in their world.
Sometime after this conversation, Kenny is tipped off by a dissenting government council member that the true Royal Family of the Walls is the Reiss family. Kenny tracks Uri and Rod Reiss along an isolated country road and attempts to kill them. However, Uri partially transforms into a titan and apprehends Kenny who proceeds to scream for another chance to kill him. Though Rod intends to shoot Kenny, Uri stops him and says that Kenny appears to be an Ackermann and that someone obviously informed him of their identity. Though Kenny makes one last bid to kill Uri by throwing a knife, which Uri deflects with his arm, Uri releases him and bows before him. He tearfully says that Kenny’s anger toward the monarchy for the persecution of the Ackermann family is justified, however, he “cannot die right now”. Stunned by this gesture from such a powerful figure, Kenny volunteers himself into Uri’s servitude. Uri agrees and places Kenny on the council in the place of the one who tipped him off. While pleased that his service ended the Ackermann persecution, Kenny nevertheless found the work “pathetic” and still avoided walking about in the open.
Though indentured to the monarchy, Kenny returns to the Underground to seek out Kuchel who has been sick for some time. He finds her dead with a young, starved Levi by her bedside. Since Kuchel has not told Levi their surname, Kenny simply introduces himself as a friend of hers. He raises Levi and teaches the boy everything he knows about survival, including how to properly wield a knife. A few years later, once reasonably sure that Levi is able to take care of himself, Kenny leaves him without saying a word.
Years later, Uri and Kenny reflect on their years of friendship together. That, despite being born out of violence, the “miracle”, as Uri put it, of their relationship is one he believes in and hopes for the rest of humanity. He reveals to Kenny that his titan power will be passed on, but his memories will live on in his successor. Indeed, when Kenny looks into Frieda’s eyes, he knows that Uri is there. Wondering if the power within grants the person the luxury of preaching peace and love as Uri and then Frieda did, Kenny contemplates obtaining that power for himself; someone who doesn’t “have the time to talk about such useless shit”.
Two years after the fall of Wall Maria, Kenny becomes captain of the new Anti-Personnel Control Squad. As he speaks to his subordinates for the first time, he acknowledges with indifference his past as Kenny the Ripper, though he seems surprised when they show no reaction to having a superior not from the military with a criminal past. One of the cadets, Caven, speaks up and says that his past does not matter to her; with humanity squabbling amongst themselves rather than fighting titans, everything seems pointless. This seems to please and amuse Kenny, and he begins to single her out as his favorite soldier and, later, second-in-command. In reality, as he tells his cadets, the squad is a ruse to keep the nobles satisfied and secure. The true purpose of the squad is to propel him towards his dream: obtaining the God-like power of the titans so that he can find out whether or not a “piece of shit” like him can become compassionate.
In the year 845, days after the fall of Wall Maria, Kenny intercepts Rod Reiss at the farm where Historia Reiss is living. On orders from the Council, he was instructed to clean up loose ends that would compromise the integrity of the Reiss family, who were considered akin to Gods due to their possession of the Founding Titan. Kenny grabs Historia’s mother, Alma, and questions Rod’s relationship with her and Historia. Rod denies having any affiliation with them and Kenny slits Alma’s throat. However, before killing Historia, Rod orders him to spare her on the condition that she live with a new name, 'Christa Lenz', and become anonymous.
At one point, Kenny finds himself being stalked by a mysterious girl. Upon confronting her, the girl claims to be his illegitimate daughter. Kenny easily sees through her lie, confident he has never done anything that would result in an illegitimate child, but before he can apprehend the girl, she attacks him and flees into the sewers.
Tasked with bringing Eren Jaeger and Historia Reiss to Rod Reiss, Kenny and Caven begin staking out the cottage that Levi's squad is staying in, and the experiments conducted on Eren's Titan form. The two watch as Military Police unsuccessfully attempt to raid the cottage and detain its occupants, with Kenny commenting that Levi was able to mobilize his subordinates fast enough to avoid capture because of his training.
Kenny follows Levi's squad to Trost District, where he employs the help of Dimo Reeves and the Reeves Company to kidnap Eren and Historia. Although the locals kidnap decoys, Kenny sees through the ruse and tracks down the real Eren and Historia. Seeing that Levi is keeping watch over the covered wagon that Eren and Historia are in from afar, Kenny flanks Levi and his companion Nifa in order to kill them. Although he is successful in killing Nifa, Levi anticipates Kenny's flanking maneuver and manages to survive his attack. Kenny jovially insults Levi's small stature as he reloads his guns and uses his ODM gear to get another clear shot. Levi manages to escape, dodging Kenny's gunshots as he flees. Kenny's squad pursues Levi, eventually forcing him to take shelter in a nearby tavern.
Kenny follows Levi into the tavern, but is not able to find him. Concluding that Levi is not there, he is caught off guard when Levi begins to talk to him from under the counter. Levi expresses amazement at Kenny's working with the Military Police, but Kenny brushes him off, claiming that he would not understand such adult matters. Kenny continues to taunt Levi, criticizing his decision to join the Scout Regiment and throwing chairs over the bar to antagonize him. As he tries to get closer to Levi, Levi shoots him with the tavern owner's gun. Kenny manages to block the bullet with a chair, saving his life, but is knocked out of the tavern by the force of the impact.
As Levi makes his escape, Caven comes to check on Kenny. Kenny notes Levi's growth since they last parted, and laments that his dream is slipping away from him. Having personally given up the pursuit of Levi, Kenny delivers Eren and Historia to Rod Reiss.
Learning that Reeves has double-crossed the Military Police and sided with the Scout Regiment, Kenny tracks down Reeves and, under the cover of night, kills him. Caven is concerned that he did not attempt to find out Levi's location from Reeves, but Kenny assures her that Levi will eventually come to them. A day later, he would oversee members from the Scout Regiment being arrested while reminding Caven that Levi will show up on his own eventually.
In the cavern under the Reiss Chapel, Kenny listens on as Rod helps Historia unlock her memories of her sister Frieda, and Eren his memories of his father's last moments. As Historia absorbs the information, Kenny reveals himself, and informs Rod that the military has switched sides, overthrown the puppet king, and taken over with Dhalis Zachary in charge. He encourages them to hurry, as they are almost certainly being pursued. Rod orders Kenny to take his squad and guard the entrance to the chapel, as he can only move forward once the Anti-Personnel Control Squad leaves. Clearly displeased, Kenny tips his hat and departs. As he leaves, he recalls one of the last conversations he had with his grandfather.
Kenny arrives at the mouth of the cavern to find his squad engaged with Levi's, arriving just in time to save Caven from Levi. Like in their previous encounter, Kenny tries to flank Levi, but this time Levi is ready to counter him. Kenny begins firing at platforms stationed throughout the cavern, distracting Levi with the debris created in order to get in close and attack him with his knife. As Levi tries to get out of range Kenny fires at him again, but Levi uses a pouch of gasoline to block the blast, creating an explosion. Levi uses the cover provided by the explosion to get in close with his swords, and although Kenny is able to block the majority of Levi's strike with his knife, he is still dealt a sizable cut to his midsection. Kenny and his squad retreat farther into the cavern, with Kenny firing off one last shot at Levi as he flees.
Kenny returns to the ceremony chamber just in time to hear Rod reveal to Historia that the Founding Titan's power can only be fully realized by a member of the Reiss family. Hearing this, Kenny becomes visibly distraught and grabs Rod by his collar, angered that his 'dream' is effectively crushed. He berates Rod who retorts that he can not understand why his brother took in "a dog like you". Kenny responds by shoving a knife in Rod's mouth, saying he'll kill him if he insults Uri again. Historia knocks Kenny's gun away, demanding that he let go of her father. Kenny reminds her that Rod is trying to turn her into a monster who will eat Eren, but Historia replies that she will do it if it is her mission, adding that there is nothing sad about saving humanity. Kenny reminds her what Rod did to her; that her birth was a tragedy and only conceived because Rod wanted to feel good with a servant. Kenny does not believe the notion that Rod saved Historia out of love and claims that he only did it because Grisha killed the rest of his children and he needed Historia's blood, which is why the Order of the Walls had been keeping an eye on her.
Kenny begins shoving a knife down Rod's throat as he claims that Rod did not want to turn himself into a Titan and so used his family. Kenny goes on to say Rod covered up the theft of the Founding Titan's power in order to keep the Reiss family in power, and did not start talking until after Eren saved Trost District, which was only after innumerable sacrifices. Finally, Kenny mentions that Rod only truly cares about protecting himself and not his family, humanity, and especially not Historia. To Kenny's surprise, Rod is able to pull the knife out of his throat and tells Historia that Kenny is wrong. He admits that he has not told Historia some things but does reveal that he can not become a Titan himself for an unspecified reason.
Kenny releases Rod, and Rod tells him that he is free to leave and should go live a long life. Kenny sullenly remarks that Rod's suggestion would not be very fun, before ascending the stairs towards Eren, telling him to turn into a Titan, to the horror of the two Reisses. Kenny says that both Historia and Eren can become Titans and fight to the death, with peace returning if Historia wins and nothing changing if Eren wins. He slices Eren's forehead to help him transform, and asks Rod if he can truly call dying of natural causes living. Kenny uses his ODM gear to retreat to a safe distance but is surprised when Historia hesitates to inject the serum. His bewilderment changes to delight when Historia rejects the serum, harms her father and tries to release Eren, cheering the two for making things far more interesting.
Rod transforms himself into a Titan in Historia's stead and the transformation knocks Kenny back. As Kenny tries to escape using his ODM gear, he sees his squad coming towards him. He tries to warn them to stay away, but is only able to watch as they are crushed under the falling debris. Kenny manages to survive and escape but he is heavily injured in the process, receiving severe burns all over his body from Rod's transformation. As he exits the remains of the cavern, Kenny slowly makes his way to a nearby tree, where he takes off his armor and collapses. As he rests, he recalls the day that he abandoned Levi as a child, but his reminiscing is interrupted by the arrival of Levi himself.
Levi observes that Kenny's injuries have left him on the verge of death, and Kenny responds by smugly revealing that he has a Titan injection, which could allow him to save himself. Levi is confused as to why Kenny has not already used it to save his own life. Kenny claims that he was afraid of ending up like Rod, but Levi is not convinced and asks if he has a better explanation. As Kenny tries to think of one, he recalls all of the important people of his past, and comes to the realization that they all had something that drove them, which he has lost. At the brink of death, Kenny confesses that he is Levi's uncle, explaining that he left Levi because Kenny viewed himself not fit to be a father. As a final gift, Kenny gives Levi the Titan injection that he stole from Rod. Soon after, he dies, sitting under the tree where he rested.
While Levi was preparing to give a mortally wounded Erwin Smith the titan serum given to him by Kenny, Erwin suddenly lifts his arm, smacking it out of the way. Delirious and believing himself to be in his father’s classroom, Erwin asks how they can know for sure that there are no other humans outside the Walls. Levi regards him with surprise and remembers how he asked Erwin to give up on his dream before his death charge against the Beast Titan, and how Kenny had spoken about how people could only keep going if they were drunk on something. Remembering Erwin's gratitude to him for relieving the burden of his dream, Levi makes his choice. He gives the injection to Armin Arlelt.
Like Levi and Mikasa, Kenny possessed incredible power and prowess when it came to fighting, having experienced a surge of strength at some point in his youth. However, unlike the formers, he used his skills to become an infamous serial killer within the Capital, slitting the throats of over 100 MPs. He continued using these skills with his custom ODM gear as captain of the Anti-Personnel Control Squad. His controlled demeanor and casual indifference made him an effective leader and, whether he liked it or not, was an impressionable teacher to both his squad members and Levi. A formidable foe, even Levi considered Kenny to be far more lethal than himself.
Growing up in the Underground earned Kenny street smarts that he carried with his whole life. Quite the strategist and able to think on his feet, Kenny proved he was able to analyze situations to get them to play out in his favor. Cunning and ruthless, he was able to see through Levi’s plans to discreetly transport Eren Jaeger and Historia Reiss while simultaneously positioning his team so they were able to eliminate nearly all members of the Scout Regiment's Fourth Squad.
Kenny took ODM gear to a new level when he helped create the Anti-Personnel gear and was a highly skilled user of the device. Combined with his skills in stealth, the gear made him an extremely lethal enemy, as seen when he managed to sneak behind Levi and Nifa and kill the latter before she even realized he was there. However, as Armin points out, the gear has a couple of major flaws: the grappling gear is attached directly to the hand-held controller so the user’s weapon is often pointed in the direction they want to move. Also, once a user has fired off two shots of their single-shot guns, it takes a moment to reload, leaving them vulnerable. And, as seen when Levi uses one of their armored bodies as a shield against the guns, the rounds are not powerful enough to penetrate through, nor are they effective against Titans.
- Levi Ackermann - Kenny kept the knowledge that he was Levi’s maternal uncle a secret until just before taking his last breath. Perhaps out of respect for his late sister, he decided to raise Levi until the boy was old enough to take care of himself. Despite caring enough to ensure Levi survived his youth, Kenny had no issue attempting to kill him when Levi got in the way of his plans. He seemed to derive amusement from taunting Levi, making fun of his stature, and degrading his choice to join the Scouts. In his final moments, whether it was out of respect, regret, or because he wanted to attempt at least one act of compassion, Kenny left Levi the case of titan serum he stole from Rod Reiss.
- Uri Reiss - When they first met, Kenny saw Uri only as a target for assassination and attempted to kill him without hesitation, if without subtlety, which led to his capture. However, after Uri spared his life and went so far as to apologize for the persecution the Ackermann family, Kenny felt indebted to him and began a new line of work on the Royal Council. Kenny’s loyalty to Uri was surpassed by no one and, later in life, Kenny was even willing to admit that they were friends. Any perceived insult toward Uri, even by Rod, was a grave offense to Kenny. So influential was Uri on him that Kenny’s entire plan of capturing the Founding Titan for himself was motivated by his desire to become a more compassionate person like Uri himself, and to see the world as he once did.
- Kuchel Ackermann - Despite being her brother, they were not very close and were not on good terms with one another. When her pregnancy was announced, Kenny persuaded her to lose the baby, but she did not listen. Although they were distant, Kenny clearly did care for his sister, as he was heartbroken at the sight of her death, and went so far as to raise the son she left behind in her honor.
- Rod Reiss - Though Kenny initially seemed loyal to Rod, acting as a sort of ‘right-hand man’ for him, he lacked any respect for the true King of the Walls. He saw Rod as a self-serving coward, incomparable to Uri at least, and only obeyed him to fulfill his dream of inheriting the Founding Titan. When Rod revealed the Founding Titan’s true powers were inert inside anyone without royal blood, Kenny showed his true colors and acted against Rod violently, angry at being misled; his dream in shatters.
- Historia Reiss - Historia witnessed the death of her mother, Alma, at the hands of Kenny and was about to meet the same fate before Rod stepped in to intervene. Kenny’s overall attitude toward her was one of indifference, and perhaps pity. When they met again under the Reiss Chapel, Kenny commented at how little she had changed in the five years since they first met and expressed disappointment when he saw how blindly loyal she was to her father before she realized her mistake. In order to encourage a more interesting outcome to the Ceremony, he encouraged Eren and Historia to fight for the right to survive.
- Caven - Kenny held great trust for all his soldiers, but he was especially impressed by Caven's professionalism and unwavering loyalty. He first took note of her when she showed she had little to care about since nothing mattered in the end. Perhaps he saw something of himself in her, and eventually designated her as his second-in-command.
- Hajime Isayama has stated that Kenny's character was partially inspired by the character Trevor Philips from Grand Theft Auto V.
- Kenny's backstory, preferred method of killing, and title "Kenny the Ripper" resemble real-life serial killer Jack the Ripper. One theory of the Ripper's identity and motive was that he was a government agent murdering victims as part of a larger conspiracy.