AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped a Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself

Attack on Titan has etched its name in the pop-culture history and our hearts. The massive success of Shingeki no Kyojin won’t be forgotten for generations to come, as it realistically portrays timeless themes such as war, sacrifice, love, and more.

The Attack on Titan anime finally concluded after a decade with its Final Season: The Final Chapters, Special 2, “Toward The Tree On That Hill,” aired on November 4, 2023.

Attack on Titan’s ending is canon to the Manga, which concluded in 2021. However, it deviates slightly, adding a positive hue.      

Let me explain.

1. Attack On Titan Finale Episode Explained

Attack on Titan’s finale, “Toward The Tree On That Hill,” picks up from manga chapters 134-139, where Mikasa kills Eren to stop the Rumbling.

Eren had purposefully carried out his gruesome plan to stop the world from hating the Eldians (of Paradis Island) by becoming an object to hate on, where the Eldians and Marleyans had to join hands to finish him.

He knew his friends would come after to stop him, and he was successful. However, his method projects him as the Villain.

All Eren wanted was to attain complete freedom for his friends and the Eldians, to have a life beyond the walls without being terrified and being Titan food, to see the glimmering oceans, the beautiful snow-frosted icy lands, etc.

Let’s delve into the season finale to see how the strings were pulled.

“Toward The Tree On That Hill” begins with Eren in his titan form moving towards Fort Salta and Armin, Mikasa, Levi, Reiner, etc, trying to stop the Rumbling. While Annie, Gabi, and Falco are on the steamship.

In his Armored Titan, Reiner tries to rip Zeke from his connection with Eren, but to no avail. Then, to make matters worse, the titan shifters appear to fight for Eren.

They are literally fighting at death’s doorstep as they barely manage to evade the titan shifters.

Armin gets trapped in a titan’s mouth. However, he gets transported to the paths where he meets Zeke because of Eren’s powers by wielding the founding Titan.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Zeke & Armin | Source: Crunchyroll

Zeke lectures him on ‘life’ and its goal of multiplying, even telling him about Ymir, who had fallen in love with King Fritz.” 

Fortunately, the former titan wielders also show up to fight back, even Ymir. Gabi and Levi can shoot the Titan, and Mikasa sets Armin free from the Titan’s mouth.

Zeke also appears and is ready to be killed by his rival, Levi. Then, with the help of the Titans, Jean is able to blow Eren’s head off with the detonator.

That obviously wouldn’t work on Eren’s titan form, and the white centipede slithered back. Armin transforms into a titan to destroy Eren’s transformation but to no avail.

Now, Mikasa was in the paths with Eren, where they spent 4 years together in a separate timeline, which was two months after the end of Marley’s war.

After that interval, Mikasa was back on the battlefield and took Eren’s life with one final slash, making it as painless as possible.

Then, we are transported again to Paradis Island within the walls where Eren and Armin are children.

Eren reveals his true intentions to Armin that he deliberately became an object of hate and wanted to make his friends defeat him and be hailed as heroes of the world.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Eren’s Grand Plan | Source: Crunchyroll

Eren talks about Ymir and how she had suffered for over 2000 years and was saved by Mikasa.

He even opens up to Armin about how his head is a total wreck as with the founding Titan’s power; there are no lines that mark “Past” and “Present”; it all exists simultaneously.

He shares the grim reality of how he sent that wide-toothed Titan to eat his mom, as Bertholdt had to stay alive for the future. Armin holds his hand to comfort him.

Then, the scene shifts again to the beautiful sea with clouds hanging above, where Armin confronts Eren about Mikasa.

Armin takes the guilt of a sinner along with Eren like a true besto friendo, and thanks him for everything.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Armin thanking Erin | Source: Crunchyroll

This conversation occurs while Armin is on the steamship with Annie and gets implanted in Armin’s memories once Eren dies.

Flash forward to the battle scene from where we left off, transcending the material world.

Mikasa is holding Eren’s head and goes off to give him a proper burial. She encounters Ymir and bids her farewell.

Three years have then passed, and Historia is the Queen of Paradis Island. A ship with Armin, Annie, Jean, Reiner, Connie, and Pieck approaches the Island for peace talks.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Levi | Source: Crunchyroll

Levi is seen handing out candy to children; Gabi and Falco have grown up and are planting a tree, symbolizing peace.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Gabi and Falco | Source: Crunchyroll

Mikasa is under the tree next to Eren’s grave. A bird appears to wrap the red scarf around her. In the end, Mikasa’s burial is seen, and her red scarf is by her side.

2. Attack On Titan Finale Post Credit Scene Explained

In the post-credit scene, Isayama creatively depicted how the vicious cycle of violence repeats in life.

Despite Eren’s efforts and massive sacrifices, in the end, Paradis Island is bombed and is claimed by nature, as seen by the man with his dog.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
AOT post-credit scene | Source: IMDb

Initially, the post-credit scene depicted Paradis Island as a revolutionized metropolis.

Eventually, another war breaks out; the never-ending cycle of conflict man is symbolized.

Paradis then becomes a beautiful city where nature has taken over.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Pradis Island taken over by Nature | Source: IMDb

At the very end, a man and a dog explore the area and enter a tree quite similar to the one Ymir had sought refuge in and gained the Titan powers.

With this, another cycle of titans and wars will be repeated. This element of realism is what makes Attack on Titan stand out.

This unhappy yet realistic ending has upset fans worldwide as it doesn’t cater to their romantic ideals; after all, the hero is supposed to live on.

However, that is different from how the real world works, and Isayama wanted to show that.

As revealed in his interview in The New York Times, He was also tied like Eren and restricted to the ending he had come up with when he was younger.

“Writing Manga is supposed to be freeing. But if I was completely free, then I should have been able to change the ending.

I could have changed it and said I wanted to go differently. But the fact is that I was tied down to what I had originally envisioned when I was young.

And so, Manga became a very restrictive art form for me, similar to how the massive powers that Eren acquired ended up restricting him.”

3. Is Attack On Titan Ending canon?

The Attack On Titan anime ending canon to the Manga, delivering the same storyline and tragedy. However, it made a few tweaks to add emotional depth, painting a brighter picture.

It highlights the conversation between Eren and Armin in the paths. It made Eren more human and expressive rather than in the Manga, where he was as cold and emotionless as a stone.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Armin and Erin at the end | Source: YouTube

Check out the link below to know more.

4. What happened to Armin at the end?

After the Rumbling, Armin was freed from his Colossus Titan form, and he established peace with the Marleyans by claiming that he had killed Eren (he did this so that Mikasa could give Eren a proper burial).

After the time skip, Armin, being the pacifist, became a peace ambassador and headed toward Paradis Island with the remaining survey corps and the Marleyans.

Not much was revealed about Armin after that, just that he was depicted as an old lone man visiting both Eren’s and Mikasa’s graves.

5. What happened to Mikasa at the end?

After Mikasa had sacrificed Eren’s life to put an end to the Rumbling and liberate Ymir, she left the battlefield carrying Eren’s head for a proper burial.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
Mikasa holds erens head | Source: YouTube

She then led a quiet life on Paradis Island by frequently visiting Eren’s grave; there was even a scene where a seagull wrapped the red scarf Eren had gifted her.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Mikasa and the Seagull | Source: IMDb

This alluded to chapter 50 of the Manga, where Eren had promised her that he would warp the scarf around her “again and again forever.”

This means that symbolically, the seagull is Eren, fulfilling his promise; the seagull Eren memes make sense now.

However, after years passed by, Mikasa married someone as she visited Eren’s grave with a man and her kids. Perhaps she had married Jean, but the Manga never revealed it.

Later on, she was buried beside Eren with the red scarf and the same white flowers as Eren’s burial, symbolizing their eternal bond.

6. What happened to Ymir at the end? How did Mikasa Liberate her?

Mikasa freed Ymir from the shackles of love and her tortuous existence and liberated her symbolically by sacrificing Eren’s life, which also stopped the Rumbling.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Mikasa with Eren’s head | Source: IMDb

In a sense, a parallel can be drawn between Ymir and Mikasa. Both of them had undergone emotional torture by the ones they love.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Mikasa And Ymir | Source: Twitter

Even though Eren never meant to harm Mikasa, the path he had chosen had inevitably caused her pain.

However, what sets them apart is that Mikasa is able to make the courageous choice of letting go of her love for Eren for the greater good of humanity.

By sacrificing his life to put a stop to the Rumbling and setting Ymir free as well.

Well, you see, Ymir’s love for King Fritz had her bound to him like a servant; she couldn’t defy him because of love. She was stuck having a tortuous life and bearing the king’s progeny, who ended up eating her.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
King Fritz | Source: IMDb

However, Ymir didn’t die; she was stuck in the coordinates, made titans out of sand, and responded to whatever the Royal family demanded.

Eren understood Ymir’s pain, which is why he wanted Mikasa to liberate her, even if it meant sacrificing their love.

7. What happened to Levi at the end?

Levi was severely injured even before the Rumbling, yet the courageous fighter managed to kill Zeke, save Connie from a Titan, and help Mikasa end the Rumbling.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Levi saving Connie | Source: IMDb

He even envisioned all his lost comrades, like Erwin and Hange, etc. They exchanged salutes before disappearing.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Levi | Source: YouTube

After that, it was shown that due to the extent of Levi’s injuries, he was bound to a wheelchair, was handing out candy to the children, and was spending time with Falco, Gabi, and Onyankopon.

8. What happened to Jean and Connie at the end?

Jean and Connie survived the Rumbling, reverted back to their human forms, and were later shown as the diplomats of peace along with Armin.

Note: Jean and Connie weren’t Titan shifters but had been transformed into Titans by Eren as they were Eldians.

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Connie | Source: IMDb

Connie returned back to his home in Wall Rose and Jean had probably married Mikasa as he had wanted. However, it has not been officially confirmed in the Manga.

9. What happened to Reiner and Annie at the end?

AOT Ending Breakdown: Isayama Dropped A Hint of Cycle Repeating Itself
Reiner | Source: IMDb

Reiner and Annie were liberated from their titan forms (the armored and the female Titan) and fulfilled their wish of being reunited with their family in Marley.

Reiner’s mom, Karina, welcomed him back and finally acknowledged him. They had a rocky relationship as she hadn’t raised Reiner with proper motherly love. However, things had changed after the Rumbling.

Annie returned to her father, fulfilling her promise of surviving and reuniting with him.

10. What happened to the Titans and the Titan Shifters at the end?

After Mikasa sacrificed Eren, putting an end to the Rumbling and liberating Ymir. Ymir relinquished the power of the Titans and the curse was lifted from the Eldians.

Attack on Titan Ending Explained! Series Finale and Epilogue
The Nine Titans | Source: YouTube

This resulted in the titan shifters being liberated from their titan forms and the wall titans disintegrating.

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11. About Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. Kodansha publishes it in the Bessatsu Shonen Magazine.

The manga began serialization on September 9th, 2009, and ended on April 9, 2021. It has been compiled into 34 volumes.

Attack on Titan follows humanity settled within three concentric walls to protect themselves from the terrifying titans that prey on them. Eren Yeager is a young boy that believes that a caged life is similar to that of cattle and aspires to go beyond the walls one day, just like his heroes, the Survey Corps. The emergence of a deadly Titan unleashes chaos.

Vansh Gulati

Vansh Gulati

Meet our very own Hinata Shoyo! - There is no anime or manga that he’s not aware of. Also the go-to guy for all things Epic at EML. He’s on a journey to discover life one bottle of sake at a time!
Ps...anime is not a cartoon!

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