Attack on Titan manga Chapter 138 was nothing short of heart-breaking and mind-blowing. With callbacks to Chapter 1 and deaths that will haunt me for a long time, this was perhaps one of the best but also toughest chapters to read. I can’t even imagine what it will feel like to watch this in an anime episode next year.
With the Attack on Titan anime on a hiatus as we wait for Season 4 Part 3, we’ve decided to continue reading the manga past where the TV show left off. One chapter at a time, we’ll be providing reviews, recaps, and reactions to these amazing “episodes.” Today we’re reviewing Attack on Titan’s manga Chapter 138, “A Long Dream.”
This article has spoilers only through Attack on Titan Manga Chapter 138. This is a MANGA-focused article, so it has SPOILERS if you’ve only watched Attack on Titan through Season 4 Part 2.
As the chapter begins, there’s a lull in the action. Things are ever so briefly looking better. With Eren’s neck being blown up and Armin’s Colossal explosion decimating the bones of his Founder body — along with what appears to be Zeke’s death — the Rumbling has stopped. Our crew has a partial victory, but the battle is far from over.
Mikasa Is Haunted By Her Last Conversation with Eren
Mikasa is experiencing headaches again, as she remembers the last conversation that she and Eren had. In that conversation, Eren accused her of only caring for him because of an awakened Ackerman instinct to protect him. Although Zeke told Eren that there was no evidence this was the case, Mikasa never heard this conversation. She’s still haunted by that conversation and how he is so sternly told her that he hated her.
She watches as the Warrior candidates and Titan hosts are reunited with their families. Mikasa can’t even enjoy this luxury. Her parents and her adopted parents are all dead.
There’s a big focus in this chapter on Mikasa’s headaches, and whether or not Eren’s belief about the source of them is true. Eren believed she had intense headaches every time she tried to fight back against her “programming” to protect him. I’ve seen other people wonder if the headaches are trauma-associated instead. Was her first headache when she was knocked out after her parents were killed? Are her headaches now inextricably tied to loss? Or are they somehow tied to the dream she has later, in some way that bypasses time and space? I’m not sure if we’ll ever get a clear answer on this one.
Meanwhile, Reiner and Armin are still in the thick of the battle. Reiner is battling that glowing-worm-spine, which somehow survived the Colossal explosion. Can anything kill it?
Eren Is Still Alive
And just as I suspected when I read last week’s chapter, Eren is still alive. But I did not expect that he would reconstitute himself in the form of a Colossal Titan with an Eren head. What an interesting choice! Can he choose whatever form he wants now? Why did he not revive in his previous, pre-Founder form?
I’m not certain if anything can kill Eren at this point. When he was in his human form and his head was shot off by Gabi, he survived because the glowing skeleton jumped out of his body and reattached to his head.
But this time it’s a little different. He was in his Founder Titan Form when his neck was blown up by an explosive, severing his head again. This time he has re-formed without the glowing skeleton attaching back to him. So is his true self not in his neck/head? Is he using his Warhammer powers somehow? Or Reiner’s ability to move his consciousness out of his nape so he can still live?
The Glowing Spine Is Insanely Powerful
The glowing spine has managed to move all the way to the base of Fort Salta. A panel clearly shows smoke being released from the glowing spine.
Then we see Annie’s dad and the Marleyan general getting along, trying to put the past prejudices behind them. It’s actually pretty sad, when you realize what’s coming next.
As smoke begins to engulf them and they all breathe it in, Annie and her dad see each other, but they don’t even have time to say a word before SHTF.
They realize the smoke is coming from the glowing spine. In horror, Conny realizes this is the same thing they did in his village of Ragako. Yes, that’s the village where Zeke released the smoke-filled serum so he could turn everyone into Pure Titans who obeyed his orders.
This also answers a question. Up until now, I wasn’t sure how much of Zeke’s story was a lie. I knew that what he said about the villagers being paralyzed once they breathed in his serum was a lie. But I wondered if he had tainted their food or water with the serum rather than using smoke, and lied about that too so no one would suspect the wine. But it appears that he really did use serum-laced smoke.
Levi quickly commands Mikasa and Pieck to get on Falco with him and escape. Anyone who is not an Eldian or is an Eldian Warrior Titan is immune to the serum’s effects. We learn for the first time that Ackermans are immune too. It makes sense, since they’re also immune to memory wipes. But it wasn’t clear until this line from Levi.
There’s also a strange moment when two panels show Falco screaming as he’s flying away. I’m guessing that he was screaming out of agony for having to leave Gabi behind. But some people think he was “commanded” by the glowing spine to scream like Zeke did and turn them into Titans, since he has some of the Beast’s powers. I’m personally guessing that the Glowing Spine didn’t need him to scream and was able to order them to transform through the Paths without his help. I hope I’m right about that.
These panels are heartbreaking. We watch as all the Warrior family members change. And Gabi transforms, destroying all of Falco’s attempts to keep her safe, and ending Reiner’s greatest wish for Gabi in failure. He wanted Falco to protect Gabi. All of that is over.
Then we see Jean and Conny transform. That is the most heartbreaking of all. I wanted to see Jean and Mikasa have a happy life together after Eren’s life ended. I wanted to see Conny find happiness too. But none of that is going to happen.
Their last scenes are heartbreaking perfection. They’re not scared. They simply realize that this is what happens when you’re a member of the Survey Corps.
It appears that the Glowing Spine did this to try to distract Reiner into battling the Pure Titans so it could get to Eren. I’m not sure at this point if the Glowing Spine is part of Ymir (so Ymir is controlling its war decisions) or if it has its own separate consciousness that is choosing its fighting strategies.
Now Pieck and Annie have joined Reiner to fight the Glowing Spine and all the Pure Titans it called. But its heartbreaking, because Reiner has to fight Gabi and his own mom among them. And Annie has to fight her dad.
Mikasa’s Dream & the Chapter 1 Callbacks Leave So Many Questions
But the devastation isn’t over yet. Armin is done with Eren. He believes Eren to be responsible for this last step, and he calls him out. “Love making life hell don’t you?” It seems that Armin’s love for Eren is now gone, replaced with only a desire to stop him.
Meanwhile, only Levi and Mikasa have the power needed to stop Eren. But Mikasa’s headaches are getting worse as she gets closer to him.
There’s a flash, and we see a panel of Child Eren sleeping at the base of the tree, just like from Chapter 1.
Mikasa feels a strong desire to go back home and escape this horror. And she wakes up in some strange alternate universe where she’s her current age, but living with Eren in peace. It’s important to point out that the Chapter 1 callbacks also happened while Eren was dreaming as a child at the tree.
First, Mikasa tells Eren she had a long dream.
It’s a callback to Chapter 1 when Child Eren thought he had a long dream too. And he remembered Mikasa’s hair as being short, like it was in their shared dream, rather than the long length is was when she was a child.
In the adult dream Eren says, “Mikasa. Why are you crying?”
It’s another callback to Chapter 1, when Mikasa asked Eren why he was crying.
In the adult dream in Chapter 138, Eren reflects on why they’re at the cabin (and apparently when their timeline diverted.) Apparently it was back in Chapter 123 when they visited Marley. They decided to run away together and live his last four years of life in peace. Then Adult Eren talks about how he couldn’t send Historia to hell and just leave the slaughter to continue, but he also couldn’t bring himself to destroy all of humanity. So they ran away together. Now it’s been two months since the Marley war ended, and Paradis is about to be invaded.
Eren makes a strange comment, saying, “I bet Armin is looking all over for us right now.”
He apologizes to Mikasa, saying he promised not to bring it up. But he asks her to make one more promise to him: that she’ll throw out the scarf once he dies and enjoy the long life she has ahead of her. He wants her to be free and forget about him.
Then the Titan marks show up on his face, we see a bird overhead, and he asks her again to please forget about him. I’m guessing this is how his body is changing as he nears the end of his Titan lifespan.
But we also see that this dream is overlapping Mikasa’s real life, and she wraps the scarf around her, telling Eren that she can’t do what he asked.
In a way, this dream is similar to when Eren became a “child again” and disassociated to avoid the pain of the Rumbling. But it’s more complex than that too, because the callback to Chapter 1 are showing us that this is not just a hallucination of Mikasa. Rather, it’s a shared dream between Mikasa and Eren.
I think we can take this several ways. There might be a time loop of sorts and there really is an alternate universe where they made this choice. (Remember how the Owl told Grisha that he had to love someone within the walls or the loop would continue?) It could also be an extension of Eren’s power. After he hurt Mikasa when he first was practicing becoming a Titan, he escaped into his childhood, living at home again, and Armin was able to communicate in real life to him, while also appearing in his vision. Perhaps Eren has expanded that power and can now pull people into visions with him.
Or they escaped and lived an alternate four years in the PATHS together, in an instant, so Mikasa could have a final conversation with Eren that didn’t end with him saying he hated her.
She somehow knows that Eren is inside the mouth of his Colossal form.
There’s a strange and heartbreaking series of panels where Mikasa is about to cut off Eren’s head, while simultaneously speaking to him in the vision. Perhaps this is Eren’s gift to her, allowing her to end his life with a little less trauma. As Eren is dying in her vision from the end of his life span, she says, “See you later, Eren.”
It’s another callback to Chapter 1.
Indeed, a panel from Chapter 138 and Chapter 1 are identical. See in the photo above, what Mikasa looks like in that Chapter 1 panel?
When she longed to go back in time in Chapter 138, we saw a very similar panel:
This leaves no doubt that child Eren experienced the same dream that adult Mikasa experienced.
Is there a true reality that existed where Eren chose to run away with Mikasa, but later regretted that decision because of the Paradis invasion? So did he send that dream to his child-self in order to convince himself to not run away with Mikasa this time around? But even that doesn’t make sense, because it’s clearly Mikasa who chose a different path in Chapter 123 by choosing to not tell Eren her feels and run away with him when given the chance. Yikes, my head hurts.
The final panel in Chapter 138 shows her kissing Eren’s severed head, while Ymir looks on smiling, with eyes that are not shaded.
It’s a disturbing and heartbreaking scene.
And yet, I’m still not convinced that Eren is dead. When his neck was severed by Pieck’s explosive, he was able to simply turn himself into a Titan again even without the glowing spine. So it’s tough to imagine why this severing would kill him when the other didn’t, unless — like Ymir — he simply chooses not to revive himself this time because Mikasa is the one who kills him.
Why Was Ymir Smiling?
Ymir’s smile feels SO out of place. Her eyes are not shaded in that scene, which means something deep, but I’m not sure what.
Why is she smiling? At this point, the only two times we’ve seen characters kissing in the manga was when Ymir was watching. In this scene and previously in Chapter 122 when we saw her backstory.
Is she glad to see Eren finally free? To see Mikasa free?
Is she glad that she herself is now free (possibly)?
It’s such a strange and heartbreaking ending.
So what do we still need to see before the manga ends? Here’s a rundown:
- What Ymir truly wants / a new Ymir point of view (Some say her goal is to understand human love, but I’m not sure that’s enough of an answer. The answer definitely ties into freedom somehow though.)
- The glowing spine skeleton and whether it has its own will/consciousness. And where did the glowing spine originally come from?
- The “royal Titan” lineage and where it comes from, considering that all the Warrior Titans originated from Ymir’s three daughters eating her body. So how was that even split into 9 titans?
- How did the Reiss family behind the walls have serums for specific Titan powers, like the armor power that Eren drank.
- A new Eren point of view (maybe)
- Historia and her child’s future. Plus, who really is the child’s father? Is it Eren?
- Fate of Paradis and the fate of the Titans in general. Will the cycle end?
- Meaning of the Owl telling Grisha to love someone behind the walls or the cycle would continue, and the Owl’s statement about saving Mikasa and Armin. (Didn’t Grisha also say it just before Eren ate him?)
- Eren commenting to Zeke about still not seeing the memory of “when I ate Dad.” Was there more to that statement? (May not be important)
- Mikasa’s Azumabito lineage
- More about the Ackermans’ origin. We know they were a byproduct of Titan experimentation, which the anime has left out entirely as of the end of Season 4 Part 2.
- Why did Grisha think Zeke even had a chance at stopping Eren?
- The time loop theory from Eren and Mikasa’s shared dream and those season 1 callbacks. I’d like the meaning of that explained more. (Not to mention that in the anime, Eren had some flashbacks added in that dream that were definitely not in the manga chapter, so Isayama had those added for a reason.)
- I still think when Eren said in Mikasa’s dream that Armin was looking for them everywhere, it was a callback, but I’m not sure to what.
I’m only glad that this isn’t the final chapter. I’m not sure what I would do if we were left on this note.