A very popular yet somewhat controversial series, Attack on Titan asks the question, if the world hates everyone you know and love, do you choose your friends, or do you choose the world?
When faced with this choice, Eren chooses to destroy the world with the Rumbling. But the series’ ending suggests that’s not what the Rumbling was really about. Keep reading for a complete explanation of Attack on Titan’s anime and manga ending.
Explaining Attack on Titan’s Controversial Ending
In the last five chapters of Attack on Titan’s manga, the Rumbling comes to an end after Zeke reveals himself to Captain Levi who immediately beheads him. This redeeming sacrifice happens after a conversation with Armin in the Path. But despite Zeke’s death and Eren’s Titan being beheaded, the nightmare is far from over.
As the shiny centipede from previous chapters releases a gas shifting all nearby Eldians except the Titan Shifters and Ackerman’s into mindless titans, Mikasa sees a vision of a different life with Eren where he asks her to forget him. The vision ends with Mikasa rejecting that wish, tying Eren’s scarf back around her neck and making her way inside Eren’s new Titan form‘s mouth to kill him.
Armin also recalls a vision of Eren telling him his reasons for triggering the Rumbling. Vision Eren admits he pushed Mikasa and Armin away to set them up as humanity’s heroes. He then tells Armin about how the Founder Ymir’s restriction lasted 2000 years because she was in love with King Fritz. She’s finally freed from this love by Mikasa, although how or why is something even Vision Eren doesn’t know.
The vision’s surroundings shift as Armin asks Eren if he really thinks Mikasa could live happily with someone else. Vision Eren is initially apathetic, but when Armin gets angry, he admits he only wants her to have feelings for him. Armin exits the vision/memory to see Mikasa holding Eren’s severed head and after the two mourn their friend, she leaves to give him a proper burial.
At the same time, the Eldians who transformed into Titans earlier become human again as the power of Titans is completely erased from the world. Eren’s former comrades also remember being visited by him, and they all mourn his death before reuniting with their remaining friends and family. Mikasa then sees a vision of Ymir who she bids goodbye to and the story skips to three years later.
The Epilogue For Attack on Titan’s Characters
Three years after the day named, “The Battle of Heaven and Earth” we see Historia with her family while Eldia forms an army to defend against the remainders of humanity who hold a grudge against them. At this point, a group consisting of Armin, Reiner, Jean, Connie, Pieck, and Annie sails to Paradis to serve as ambassadors of peace negotiations between them and the Allied Nations. A flashback reveals a wheelchair-bound Levi living in Marley with Onyankopon, Gabi, and Falco.
Meanwhile, Mikasa sits at Eren’s grave, telling him that everyone will be there to see him soon. The next few panels feature even more time skips, with one panel showing a woman who is implied to be Mikasa visiting Eren’s grave with a man and a child. We next see an aged Mikasa dying and being buried with her scarf while Paradis becomes a land of tall skyscrapers.
The following panels see Paradis carpet-bombed by the rest of the world with the manga‘s very last page featuring a young boy and his dog standing in front of a tall tree greatly resembling the one Ymir originally got her powers from. The cycle of war and hatred among humans continues, but whether this nameless boy’s story will end the same way as Eren’s or meet a better fate, only time can tell.
Differences Between the Anime and Manga Ending
One noticeable difference between the Attack on Titan anime and manga can be seen when Armin meets Eren in his vision. The anime alters this scene a bit to be more consistent with Armin’s personality and better embody the two’s friendship. Unlike the manga, Armin tells Eren near the start of the vision that although he’s set them up as the world’s heroes, that’s not a role they intend to play.
Later, when Eren tells Armin that he will destroy 80% of humanity and that outcome has been determined, Armin argues with him, saying the massacre hasn’t occurred yet so he could just stop it. This leads Eren to reveal that he’s tried to change things multiple times. But the outcome is always the one he saw in his memories of the future. This change aligns better with Eren’s personality, letting audiences know that he did try to find another way and only did what he did because he believed it was the only possible outcome.
The anime also expands on Eren’s philosophy regarding freedom, with Eren saying that he’s “a slave to freedom.” And emphasizes genocide not being the solution to conflict with Armin arguing that while there may be no end in sight for their conflict, they have to believe they can eventually understand each other. Eren’s plan will make people lose faith in that, hammering in the lesson that they must kill or be killed.
Another change is that after questioning why things turned out this way, Eren answers himself, saying it’s because he’s an idiot with power. In response, Armin says he too has felt the desire to erase everyone from the world. And since he showed Eren the book about the outside world that led him down this path, he’s responsible for this too and the two will be together forever in hell. The vision ends with Armin saying that their next meeting will be as enemies and the one after that in hell.
The letter Historia sends to Armin and the others is a bit different in the anime and ends on a much different note, with her talking about fighting to end the fight. The anime also expands the conversation between Armin, Reiner, Jean, Connie, Pieck, and Annie as they sail for Paradis. This emphasizes the risk they’re taking by returning to the island while giving fans a more satisfying experience.
The anime’s epilogue is also slightly different. The biggest difference is that unlike the manga where he’s traveling with Falco and Gabi, Levi is seen distributing goods to refugees with Yelena and Onyankopon. While Falco and Gabi are seen planting a tree in a later scene.
The anime also ends on a more hopeful note, with Mikasa’s death and Paradis’ bombing only shown briefly after the credits.
Audiences’ General Reaction
Attack on Titan’s anime ending was received much better than the manga when it first came out, thanks to a mixture of small changes and more realistic expectations. Most fans agreed that the last episode wrapped every character’s arcs nicely, tying loose ends for a cathartic experience.
- This article was updated on November 5th, 2023