How does ‘Attack on Titan’ end? ‘Attack on Titan’ full ending, explained

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Attack on Titan manga and its ending.

Despite the Japanese animation studio MAPPA leading almost everyone to believe that Attack on Titan would come to a close during this year’s Final Season: Part 2, the studio has announced a third conclusive run set for premiere in early 2023.

Many viewers speculate the acclaimed anime producer is taking its time to do manga artist Hajime Isayama’s ending justice, because as many of the original manga fans would probably tell you, reading the Attack on Titan finale for the first time can be a bit of a perplexing experience.

There are a lot of subtleties involved in the last few chapters, subsequently leading to more confusion and questions. In fact, by the end, it might feel like most of your questions have been left unanswered. The creator hasn’t left fans hanging by any stretch of the imagination, mind you, but these answers aren’t necessarily given in the overt narrative style that many diehard Attack on Titan fans are used to.

That’s why we’ve decided to dedicate this article to explaining the overall plot of the “War for Paradis” story arc and how it ultimately came to an end for each of our characters. If you’ve yet to read the manga and intend to wait on the anime series, note that the following paragraphs include heavy spoilers up to the final Attack on Titan chapter, “Toward the Tree on That Hill.”

Spoilers to follow.

What happened when Eren and Zeke came into contact?

Image via MAPPA / Attack on Titan — The Final Season: Part 2

As the Yeagerists take over the government with Zeke’s help and paralyze the entire military structure, Yelena finally reveals what the two brothers really intend to accomplish. As she tells it, Eren and Zeke want to euthanize the Eldian race to make sure that no Subject of Ymir will be alive in a hundred years’ time. They’ll also give the world a taste of the Rumbling to serve as a deterrent while the Eldians live out the remainder of their lives in peace.

Things go awry when Marley launches a surprise attack on Shiganshina, though, forcing Eren to fight off three Titans alone as the remaining Garrison and Scouting regiments struggle with the foot soldiers. Having escaped Levi, Zeke eventually shows up and evens the odds for Eren, who makes his way toward his brother in the hope of activating the Founding Titan’s powers.

After an extensive skirmish, Eren eventually breaks free and runs towards his brother, but Gabi shoots his head off using the Anti-Titan rifle. Eren’s head lands on Zeke’s outstretched hand, and the few moments of consciousness left in the protagonist are enough to transfer him into the Paths, where all Subjects of Ymir, or at least their souls, come together.

Zeke explains that he’s been there many years as time in the Paths doesn’t flow in the same way as the real world. He’s been waiting for Eren to finally arrive and fulfill their ambitious plan. The main lead, on the other hand, scorns Zeke’s plan and reveals that he’s been playing him just to get hold of the Founding Titan’s powers.

After a trip down memory lane, Zeke learns that Eren was the one who brainwashed their dad into killing the Reiss family at the start of the story. Grisha also warns Zeke that Eren will get whatever he wants from now on. All of these happen in the split second since Eren’s head landed on Zeke’s hand, so from the world’s point of view, Gabi hitting Eren in the head and him turning into the Founder and initiating the Rumbling has been instantaneous.

How did Eren initiate the Rumbling if Zeke was in control?

Credit: MAPPA Ltd.

This is where the story of Ymir the Founder comes into play. Almost two thousand years ago, a simple farmer girl called Ymir lived in an Eldian town. When another tribe attacks and enslaves the entire village, the young girl is forced into slavery.

Ymir spends her days laboring under the rule of the new king but gets into trouble after freeing a bunch of animals from the pigsty. The king sets Ymir free but sends his soldiers and dogs after her. The girl, wounded and on death’s doorstep, comes upon a strange tree in the middle of the forest and enters it to hide from the soldiers. After slipping and falling into deep water, a strange parasitical creature attaches itself to her spine, thus granting her the power of the Founding Titan and bringing that power into the world for the first time.

As surprising as it first appeared to the manga readers and now to the anime fans, Ymir returns to the king’s servitude instead of using her powers to run away or exact vengeance. For years, she helps build the Eldian empire with the power of her titan and crushes the king’s opposition. The king, meanwhile, beds his prized slave and sires three children, named Maria, Rose, and Sina, on whom the three walls of Paradis are named many hundreds of years later.

On a fateful day, an assassin tries to take the king’s life, but Ymir sacrifices herself and becomes mortally wounded. The king asks Ymir to heal herself, but she loses her will to live and succumbs to death. The king forces their children to eat their mother’s flesh, each earning a facet of the Founding Titan’s power. He then urges all of his descendants to do the same, hoping that it would secure Eldia’s dominion forever.

As for Ymir, she spends the next 2,000 years building Titans and continuing to serve the Founding Titan, people from the royal bloodline who inherit the Founder’s power.

In the present day, Ymir is forced to bow to Zeke’s command of euthanizing the entire Eldian race because he has royal blood. When Eren hugs her, though, he finally frees Ymir from the king’s influence by being the first person to remind her that she doesn’t have to be a slave. “I will put an end to this world! Lend me your power!” He says. “You’re not a slave, nor are you a god. You’re just a human being. You’re the one who led me here, aren’t you? You’ve been waiting, all this time… waiting 2,000 years… for someone.”

Now free of her stupor, Ymir gives Eren the power of the Founding Titan, which he immediately uses to cause the Rumbling, freeing hundreds of thousands of Colossal Titans sleeping inside the three walls of Paradis and promising that the world’s reckoning has been long overdue. He announces to his Eldian compatriots that he plans to flatten the entire world, thus setting in motion the events of the final arc, with the remaining protagonists coming together to stop him from fulfilling that mad ambition.

The race to reach the Rumbling

Credit: Hajime Isayama

After fighting their sense of morality for a brief while, Armin, Mikasa, Connie, Jean, Hange, and Levi decide that even though the world would sooner see them dead than accept their race’s differences, genocide is not the answer to this dilemma. That’s why they team up with General Theo Magath and the Cart Titan to stop the Rumbling in its tracks. They also recruit the help of Annie Leonhart and Reiner Braun, who, until recently, were their sworn enemies.

After a skirmish with the Yeagerists, the newly formed Alliance sails towards the Rumbling while the Azumabito engineers prepare the “flying boat” for takeoff. They realize that Liberio and much of Marley have already been flattened, yet they push on in the hope of catching up to Eren and stopping him from wiping out the rest of the planet.

Hange sacrifices herself to slow down the Rumbling and give the crew time to take off with the airplane, giving command of the Survey Corps to Armin. The team devises a plan on how to stop Eren while the protagonist-turned-villain continues to flatten the world.

They eventually reach Eren, but when they try to reach his nape, Eren, or rather Ymir, uses the Founder’s power to bring the Nine Titans back to life from across history. Each member of the Alliance almost dies numerous times as they struggle through this fight, dubbed by creator Hajime Isayama as “The Battle of Heaven and Earth.”

Armin talks to Zeke and manages to convince him that life is still worth fighting for, whereupon the Yeager brother asks his Beast predecessors and the rest of the titans to help the protagonists stop Eren. Jean and the Cart ultimately manage to blow Eren’s head off, disrupting his connection with Ymir and stopping the Rumbling. Levi also makes good on his promise to the deceased Commander Erwin and finally kills Zeke.

The parasitical entity responsible for the power of Titans tries to make its way back to Eren, but the characters come together to stop him. Eren transforms one more time and exchanges blows with Armin’s Colossal Titan. Mikasa recalls a half-remembered dream, learning that Eren himself is not in the nape of the Attack Titan, but rather in its mouth.

Mikasa and Levi work together to break Eren’s defenses, with Mikasa entering his titan’s mouth and cutting off his head, killing him for real this time. Mikasa says goodbye to Eren in his final moments and kisses him on the lips, as Ymir watches the whole thing go down in the background.

Towards the Tree on That Hill

attack on titan armin mikasa
Credit: MAPPA Ltd.

“Towards the Tree on That Hill” is the 139th and final chapter of Attack on Titan. The story begins with Eren and Armin talking in the Paths about what transpired over the past few years. Eren reveals to Armin that his actions were inspired by the Attack Titan’s power to see into the future, and the fact that time doesn’t flow in a linear manner for him anymore. He also says that he never intended to destroy the world, but only to motivate his friends to come and stop him, thus redeeming Eldia’s sins in the eyes of the remaining humans.

Armin thinks they will still retaliate, but Eren says that he’d already wiped out 80% of the world’s population, much to his friend’s dismay. Armin asks Eren if this was necessary, but he doesn’t say anything in response. The two then discuss Ymir, with Eren revealing that the girl brought them through all of this just so Mikasa could free her from Fritz. Eren speculates that Ymir never left King Fritz because she came to love him. Armin asks what Mikasa has to do with this, but Eren says he doesn’t know, nor is he sure if she’ll be able to make the right decision.

Eren wants Mikasa to forget him, but Armin punches his best friend in the face and reminds him that that’s not a fair request. Eren finally confesses his love for Mikasa and laments the fact that they won’t be able to spend any more time together.

Back in the present day, the Titans turn back into humans, with their powers to transform slipping from their grasp. The remaining humans confront the Alliance, but a ceasefire ensues after Armin convinces them that they’re no longer a threat to this world.

Mikasa carries Eren’s head to the battlefield and leaves to bury him under the tree in Shiganshina District, the same place where the story’s first scene took place. Ymir dissipates into the air, finally free of her curse and her bind to Fritz and his will.

Years later, the Alliance returns to Paradis to negotiate peace with Queen Historia’s regime and what remains of civilization, serving as the world’s ambassador in the peace talks between Eldia and the other nations.

How did Mikasa free Ymir?

Credit: Hajime Isayama

While Isayama never explicitly explains how Mikasa managed to free Ymir, but it’s heavily implied that her decision to kill Eren despite her irrevocable love is what ultimately ended 2,000 years of Titan rule in the world. Ymir’s love for Fritz was never reciprocated, and neither was Mikasa’s love for Eren, but unlike Ymir who never had the courage to forgo her own feelings for the greater good, Mikasa takes a stand beyond her undying attachment to Eren. In doing so, Mikasa inspires Ymir to come to terms with her own feelings after 2,000 years.

Eren also suggests that their entire history and struggle has been leading up to that particular moment, where Mikasa had to decide if she’d step on her conscience and spare Eren, or do the right thing and stop his rage-induced genocidal crusade. Luckily for the world, the badass Ackerman was always more than just a compliant servant for Eren as many characters deemed her to be.

As for Eren’s onslaught, it remains unclear if this is what the protagonist himself decided to do, or if it was the will of the Attack Titan or the Founder Ymir, for that matter. As has ever been the case with Attack on Titan, the story ends on a somber note, showing that many years into the future, Shiganshina is burning in the fires of yet another war. Because apparently, some things never change when humanity is involved, even after going through such a cataclysmic event as the Rumbling.