Attack on Titan manga Chapter 139, the final “episode” in the series, was amazing. While there was a lot of controversy surrounding the final chapter, I personally loved it. (Of course, there are some plot points that are open to interpretation and I’m left with some questions, but overall I really enjoyed it.) Interestingly, the chapter was originally published in two parts: Chapter 139 and Chapter 139.5. But today if you buy volumes in the manga, they are presented as one cohesive unit, with no separation between the two.
With the Attack on Titan anime on a hiatus as we wait for Season 4 Part 3, we’re reading the manga past where the TV show left off. Today we’re reviewing Attack on Titan’s final manga Chapter 138, “Toward the Tree on That Hill.”
This is a MANGA-focused article, so it has SPOILERS if you’ve only watched Attack on Titan through Season 4 Part 2.
At the Start, Eren Answers Many Readers’ Questions Through a Long Talk with Armin
After the way the last chapter ended, I knew I wouldn’t be in for an easy ride for the final chapter. It begins with a confusing but intriguing set of panels showing Eren and Armin talking. They start out as children and slowly age through the progression of their conversation. It basically provides a quick way for Hajime Isayama to show Eren’s point of view and why he did what he did (to an extent.)
This discussion took place in the Paths, but Eren has the power to create whatever scenery he wants. He can mold the Paths far better than Ymir or Zeke chose to do. I believe this points to Eren being the one who planted the leaf/baseball in an earlier chapter.
This particular chat with Armin took place while Armin was on the boat with Annie, but Eren erased his memory of it. (Just like Frieda erased Historia’s memory of their chats.) This leaves open the possibility that there were a series of chats over time. But either way, Armin wasn’t able to access the memory until the power of the Titans was vanquished.
First, Eren explains why he beat up Armin and told Mikasa that he hated her. He said he was desperate to push everyone away, especially Armin and Mikasa, so he just “let the moment take over.” He did everything so Armin, Mikasa, and the others would become heroes in the world by being forced to kill him. But, he had to destroy 80% of the world’s population to ensure that the world won’t have a chance to retaliate right away (I guess in case the hero plan didn’t work out.)
Eren’s thinking is quite dark, and it really feels like there were other better options.
Next, Eren talks with Armin about the Founder Ymir.
Eren tells Armin that the power of the Titans only exists because Ymir continued obeying the OG King Fritz for 2,000 years. (However, we know that technically, the power of the Titans pre-dated Ymir. It just seems like Ymir’s love for Fritz is what drove her to create the Paths like she did, allowing the power to be passed on.)
Eren explains that she obeyed Fritz even after getting god-like powers, despite all the abuse, because of how much she loved him. And for 2,000 years, “she sought someone who’d release her from the agony of her love.” (I’d argue that this was more of a Stockholm Syndrome kind of love than real love, but the manga doesn’t address this question.)
The First Mention of Mikasa’s Choice
That’s when Eren drops a bombshell on Armin and the manga readers. It wasn’t Eren who freed Ymir like we thought — it was Mikasa. This throws a wrench into what readers and viewers believed ever since “From You 2,000 Years Ago.”
In that episode, Eren asked Ymir, “Were you the one who led me here? You’ve been waiting this whole time. For 2,000 years. For someone.” After telling her that she doesn’t have to be a slave, she gives her powers to him.
I can’t quite reconcile this with the final chapter saying she sought Mikasa and not Eren. But here we are.
Eren’s explanation is to say: “Only Ymir knows [why she sought Mikasa.] As for me, even I still don’t know what Mikasa will do [that drew in Ymir.] The only thing I know for sure is the results of Mikasa’s choice. All of it, has been to arrive at that result. That’s why I moved forward. Killing 80% of humanity.”
It’s all a bit confusing at this point. We know that the Attack Titan sends back select memories of the future to its past hosts. We know Eren has done that. We know that Eren saw memories of his future when he kissed Historia’s hand (as Armin confirms in these panels.) What’s not clear is at what point Eren as the Attack Titan sent back future memories. Obviously it was before the moment of his death, because he kept that information from previous Erens.
This last chapter also dispels all the theories about the individual Attack Titan having a personality that is separate from its host. It was always Eren who sent back memories, not a separate Attack Titan “spirit” of sorts. The Attack Titans sought freedom because of Eren.
Eren Is Not Fully in Control
But despite all of these revelations, we still see that Eren isn’t entirely in control. He tells Armin, “My head’s gotten all messed up. The Founder’s power has made it so that there’s no past or future. It all exists at once. So I had to do it.”
Ultimately, it looks like it was the Founder Ymir’s power controlling Eren. He just followed the path that the visions showed him, because his head was so messed up that he couldn’t do anything else.
It seems similar, in some ways, to King Fritz’s vow against war, which bound all the Founding Titans after him who had royal blood. Except in King Fritz’s case, he could literally take over his hosts and control them. Ymir doesn’t appear to be doing that with Eren. She’s more subtle.
So was it a Ymir-controlled/influenced Eren who sent the memories back to his previous hosts and his younger self? If so, that might explain a lot.
We learn that Eren somehow “willed” Dina Fritz to bypass Bertholdt and eat his mom. The visions told him this was what happened, so he kind of willed it on autopilot, it seems. This explains why Bertholdt was in his memory shard during a previous chapter.
Dina could have eaten Bertholdt. It might have changed everything. She was an Eldian restorationist and knew so much more about the royal family than anyone else. She could have launched a strong opposition to Marley that might have prevented the Rumbling entirely. But we’ll never know.
My personal theory is that it was technically the Founder Ymir who made the decision for Dina to bypass Bertholdt. But Eren’s will and personality are now so enmeshed with Ymir’s that he can’t see where she ends and he begins.
Eren Loves Mikasa
Armin then confronts Eren about Mikasa, wondering why he believes she can live a happy life after he’s gone. Eren finally admits, for the first time, that he’s in love with Mikasa. If he had his own choice in the matter, he would prefer to live his life with her and never let her date another guy. But since he’s already on this path that seems pre-ordained, he wants her to ultimately be happy and find love without him.
Then there’s a weird point where Eren admits to Armin that he still would have flattened the Earth even if he didn’t think Armin and the others would have emerged heroes. When Armin asks why, we’re shown panels of Eren’s birth, where Grisha says he’s free.
But at the same time, Eren says, “I had to.”
It’s almost as if the panel where Eren is told he is free is shared ironically, because he’s not truly free.
I’m reminded of when Eren told Zeke that he was born wanting freedom at the expense of others’. I believe that Eren truly does value freedom above all else — that is indeed his personality.
But I can’t help but wonder if Grisha telling Eren he was free was ironic, because at some point Eren lost his freedom as he became enmeshed with Ymir, and some of those latter decisions were done by her influence.
I think there’s a juxtaposition of things going on here. Eren values his own freedom above all else, but he also values the freedom of his closest friends above all else (which he said in an earlier chapter when they all volunteered to take his Titans after his death.) The Ymir-influence Eren wants to do the Rumbling and thinks its a foregone conclusion, so he’s bound to that path. But the “from birth Eren” gave his friends the freedom to try to stop him — or at least enough freedom to stop him so they could be safe later.
Armin’s Weird Moment of Thanks Explained
Armin tries to show sympathy to Eren and thanks him for being a mass murderer for their sake. But he makes it clear that he’s just trying to sympathize and doesn’t actually approve of Eren’s choice, when he says he won’t let the “terrible mistake” be in vain.
Some people got angry about Armin thanking Eren. I think he’s trying to see some good in Eren despite everything, while still acknowledging that everything his friend has done was terrible.
Next, we see a bird flying away from Armin and Annie’s ship. It appears that Eren made contact with Armin through that bird, but Armin didn’t access the memories of that moment until much later. (This might also provide an alternative explanation for the Mikasa Bird moment that happens later.)
The Titan Powers Are Gone
After Mikasa killed Eren, Ymir chose to end the Titan powers and perhaps even close the Paths. Mikasa’s “choice” to kill Eren led to Ymir’s choice to end the Titan powers.
We saw in earlier chapters how hard it was to kill the glowing spine and how hard it was to kill Eren. The only reason Eren died was because Ymir ended the Titan powers. [There’s an alternative interpretation, however. This interpretation supposes that by seeing Eren close his eyes, it indicates Eren moved to the Paths and didn’t really die. The theory posits that previous deaths showed characters with their eyes open. I’m not certain I agree with this theory, but it’s a possibility.]
We see all the Colossal Wall Titans smoldering because the Titan power is gone. We see Falco’s Titan smoldering. All the Pure Titans reverted back to real people, so Conny, Jean and Gabbi are no longer dead!
In the midst of all this joy, Mikasa emerges from the smoke, cradling Eren’s severed head. She and Armin cry in anguish over their friend’s death.
From this, we can deduce that Eren and Mikasa’s four years together took place in the Paths, similar to Eren’s visit with Armin and the others. At least, this is how Mikasa has interpreted their time together. She saw this memory as it happened, unlike Armin and the others who are just regaining their memories now.
Eren also visited others with final messages: Armin, Reiner, Jean, Conny, and Annie. He didn’t visit Pieck. It’s left unclear if he visited Levi.
Levi does see a vision of his fallen comrades, and Sasha appears before Conny and Jean with a smile. Does this mean there’s an Eldian non-Paths afterlife or is this an illusion? It’s left up to us to decide.
Reiner finds happiness in his mom’s change of heart. And Falco tackles Gabbi with a hug in a heartwarming panel, he’s so happy to see her. That’s probably going to be one of my favorite scenes in the anime once the final episode airs.
But even with the Titan power gone, there’s still tension between the Marleyans and the Eldians. They want proof that the Eldians no longer have the Titan power. Armin gives a stirring speech that argues them into peace. It’s kind of fun to see Annie looking on at him, impressed, during this scene.
Ymir’s Final Scene
Mikasa quietly sneaks away to bury Eren’s head at the tree where she, Eren, and Armin used to spend time in Paradis. I have no idea how she traveled all the way there from Fort Salta — including across an ocean — but she apparently does it. On her way, she sees Ymir. It’s important to note that Ymir appears to Mikasa at the age she was when she died, rather than as a child. And her eyes are no longer shaded.
This may be the first time Ymir is truly free, no longer bound to OG King Fritz’s wish.
Mikasa comments that Ymir was always peering into her mind. So that explains Mikasa’s headaches. Ymir was watching her during tough, traumatic moments. Every time she had a headache, Ymir was peering into her mind. I might need to go back and look at those moments again!
(This also seems to indicate that the idea that the Ackermans were controlled by a desire to protect certain people is not true. Zeke was right.)
Mikasa tells Ymir, “I’m sure your love was a long nightmare. And I can’t return the life that was stolen from you. Even so, the lives you gave birth to are why I’m alive today. So sleep well.”
Mikasa’s choice to kill Eren despite how much she loved him is what gave Ymir the strength to finally end her loyalty to King Fritz.
Both Mikasa and Ymir endured loves that were “long nightmares,” although for different reasons.
Eren was a mass murderer and a world conqueror. He didn’t start out evil like OG Fritz appeared to start out, but there were still many parallels between the two. Mikasa stayed dedicated to Eren throughout their lives, even when he didn’t give her any indication that he loved her back. (Although we later learned that he did.)
Despite her love for him, Mikasa still did what was right for mankind and killed Eren, working against his known wishes.
Ymir found inspiration in Mikasa’s choice, and for the first time was able to find her own strength to stand up against OG King Fritz’s wishes.
Here are some manga fans explaining how they interpret Mikasa’s choice affecting Ymir:
The Time Jump Explains More
We time jump to three years in the future. Historia’s baby is celebrating her birthday, and it appears the Farmer was the father all along. So that was a red herring, I guess.
The crew that saved the world is now serving as a peace envoy to Paradis, while Historia has stepped up and taken back her role of leading Paradis. She sends them a letter, letting them know that the Yeagerists have formed an army to be prepared in case the rest of the world attacks. She said that Paradis inhabitants believe they will only live if they win, and they will die if they lose, and they won’t win if they don’t fight. So they’re repeating the mantra that Eren used to tell himself: “Fight. Fight.”
She said Eren believed the fight would never end unless Eldia or the rest of the world was gone, and she’s come to believe he might have been right. But for now, Paradis is alive and the Titans are gone. (“For now” the Titans are gone – is that foreshadowing?)
The dark viewpoint Eren had about the future is not too dissimilar from Erwin, when he once bemoaned that as long as there were two people, conflict would still remain.
The next few panels give a nice, quick look at how the main crew is doing three years later. Reiner is still pining for Historia, even though she’s happily married to the Farmer. Jean is still pining for Mikasa, and trying to look his best as they sail to Paradis. (But he’s playing it off as just trying to impress the women there in general.)
They’re now part of a peace envoy for the Alliance. Armin believes that the simple fact that they’re all working together will be enough to get Paradis to listen.
In the next few panels, we see that Onyankopon is alive and well. Levi is blind in one eye and using a wheelchair, but still doing well. He’s accompanied by Falco and Gabbi, who look happy and carefree.
As Armin speaks, a feather from a bird lands in his hand.
Mikasa’s Final Scene
Mikasa’s final scene is perhaps the most emotional of all. She’s sitting next to Eren’s tomb, which is at the base of the tree in Paradis where they used to spend time as children. She’s still wearing his scarf.
“I miss you so much,” she says sadly.
But as she speaks, a bird flies down from the sky. The bird picks up the end of her scarf and wraps it around her neck.
Amazed, she watches it fly away.
“Thank you for wrapping this scarf around me Eren,” she says.
It’s a sweet and heartwarming, but bittersweet, moment. Eren’s spirit somehow lives on in the bird. I’m not sure how that works, but it’s the impression we’re left with (and ties in with the scene where he visited Armin in the form of a bird while he was still alive.) Perhaps Eren is still in the Paths somehow, but this time he’s alone, like Ymir once was?
If so, then right now the Paths consist of one lone shining trunk in the form of Eren, without any branches.
Mikasa’s statement is also a callback to when she thanked Eren in the midst of battle during Season 2 and he said, “I will always wrap your scarf.”
In the manga, he says he’ll wrap the scarf again and again forever. (Apparently in Japanese culture, this is a deep confession of love, according to this Reddit thread.) Knowing the subtext here makes the final scarf moment even more meaningful.
This is where the manga originally ended, until the last few pages were added for Chapter 139.5.
The Ending is Bittersweet, as We Learn That the Cycle Will Continue
The last few pages of the manga provide an ending with a very different tone than the original ending.
We see a panel showing Mikasa with a baby and a man wearing a hat standing behind her, visiting Eren’s grave. It seems apparent to me that this is Jean, now married to Mikasa, and their child. The previous chapter showing Jean’s dream alluded to this.
In the next panel, even more time has passed and the tree has grown. There’s a wheelchair sitting at the tree empty, which might indicate Levi’s presence. But technology has advanced so much in Paradis, so it’s possible even more time has passed. We see cars now and many new buildings.
The next panel shows Mikasa laying down a rose at Eren’s grave (you can tell by the bandage wrapped around her wrist) and a man (Jean) hand holding her wrist. However, this might also be a child of Mikasa, now fully grown, with the same tattoo that’s passed down in her family. Time has passed since the panel with Mikasa and Jean, because the tombstone is more deeply embedded in the tree.
We also see a panel showing Mikasa wearing her scarf when she is buried. Despite finding a life with Jean, her love for Eren was always a deep part of her. She never forgot him, as Eren feared might happen.
The next panel is perhaps the saddest of all. A lot of time has passed. The tree is much larger and we can’t even see Eren’s tombstone anymore. Paradis is full of skyscrapers and it looks like B52 bombers are dropping bombs, while anti-aircraft missiles are set up next to the tree, trying to shoot them down. The tree is no longer a memorial, but a location where anti-aircraft missiles are situated for a fight for survival.
The next panel shows only rubble, indicating that Eren’s plan ultimately was not any better than Zeke’s. It only bought Paradis time, but they were still bombed and destroyed anyway.
In the next panel, even more time has passed and foliage has overgrown the rubble. A young child and his dog explore the woods. He’s likely an Eldian, indicating that life still survived in Paradis after so much destruction.
The manga ends with the boy and his dog finding the tree. It looks like the tree has grown immensely and appears very similar to the tree that Ymir fell into. Here’s the tree at the end:
It’s not the same tree. But very similar. Here is the tree Ymir found:
They’re almost identical, but not quite.
I believe this clearly shows the cycle will continue. Burying Eren’s head somehow allowed another Titan tree to form, that likely houses another glowing skeleton in a river at the bottom. The cycle is not over. If someone falls down the hole in that tree, they will encounter another glowing skeleton. And perhaps they will be able to access another Path. But just as no one was in that Path to greet Ymir, it’s not guaranteed that Eren would be in that Path either.
Some manga readers believe the cycle will be different when the anime airs its final episode, presenting an anime-only ending. They think the manga is one choice that Eren made, but we’ll see a slightly different choice in the anime, based on a few changes made between the manga and the anime. For example, one of Eren’s shard memories showed Falco flying to Salta, which was not in a manga shard memory.
Do you think we’ll get an anime-only ending?
There Are Still Many Unanswered Questions
As the story comes to a close, there are still numerous unanswered questions. Here are just a few.
- Where did the royal bloodline originate from? All Eldians should technically be part of the royal bloodline, so why were only a few truly part of it?
- The Titan power itself is still separate from Ymir — she was infected by the glowing spine. So what does that entity want? Where does it begin and Ymir end?
- Where did the glowing skeleton come from originally? Was there a cycle of Titans before this one?
- Why was King Fritz’s vow against war so much more powerful than the desires of the royal bloodline inheritors that came after him?
- Did Eren create a similar vow to Fritz’s that drove him forward, which he referenced when he talked to Ramzi about his wish?
- King Fritz was able to literally take over his succeeding hosts, as we saw with Frieda, and control their bodies via the vow. Why was this a unique power to him? Even Eren, with all his powers, couldn’t do that, although he could greatly influence his dad into doing something he didn’t want to do.
- What happened in the Titan Civil War (aka the Great Titan War) to cause King Fritz to make his vow? What role exactly did the Tyburs play and why did so many Titans end up with Marley after the war ended?
- Is the Ackermans’ power gone too now?
- If Ymir loved the King so much, why didn’t her love supersede the latter King Fritz’s desire to see Eldians punished forever?
- And since Fritz’s vow did supersede her love, does this mean that Zeke’s plan would have worked if Eren hadn’t interfered?
- Were those Colossal Wall Titans once Eldians too?
- Was Eren really never free? Did Ymir’s will ultimately overshadow his, kind of like King Fritz’s vow overshadowed his successors?
- What was the deal with the panel showing Eren’s birth in the last chapter, when his dad says that he is free? Why is it significant?
- Is Eren still alive (in some sense) and inhabiting birds?
- What was the importance of Mikasa’s heritage, and her predecessors being friends with King Fritz?
- Does the ending panel reveal the Titan power is still in the world and can be reawakened? (I believe yes.)
Despite these unanswered questions, I still believe this was a phenomenal ending. It answered the most important questions of all, and struck just the right emotional tone. I do think there were some plotholes and disparities in Eren’s decisions that could be explained better, and I hope the anime fleshes those out more.