Why did Mikasa Ackerman experience headaches all throughout both the Attack on Titan anime and Shingeki no Kyojin manga series? And why is Mikasa always associated with a blue butterfly and alternate timelines that result in the time loop theory?
Who is the Mirror Man in the Lost Girls OVA?
And was the Lost Girls OVA foreshadowing for Shingeki no Kyojin chapter 138 and its ending?
Let’s try to answer all of the questions above in one post. But in order to do so, we need to go back to Season one, and discuss all of the alternative timelines created since then.
*Beware spoilers, I guess*
Mikasa’s Lost Girls OVA Explained
This OVA takes place just before the mission to retake Wall Maria. (Around Season 3, Episode 12-13)
Mikasa begins by silently watching Eren and reminiscing on all the pair had been through.
“He might leave us behind again and go somewhere far away” which could be a reference to Eren “leaving their side” to enlist in the Marleyan army and subsequently launch the surprise attack at Liberio in Chapter 123.
As Mikasa laments being unable to stop Eren’s current PATH, a blue butterfly flies into frame. Suddenly, as if summoning a titan shifter’s body, she remembers her memories of a different timeline.
In this timeline, we are shown the flashback of Mikasa’s childhood living in the woods with her parents. It is the same scene where the partly obsidian-colored butterfly gets eaten by a praying mantis.
During Anime Timeline Season one, Mikasa remarks that she has seen this scene countless times before. Her parents get killed by bandits, where she receives yet another flashback of the previous anime timeline where Eren’s mom gets eaten all the way up to Armin apologizing and informing her that Eren died.
Mikasa then proceeds to lead the ‘Battle for Trost’ refuel attempt, later admitting that she had no regard for her comrades’ lives as she intended to die. (Which is something the mystery mirror man mentions by calling Mikasa a murderer.)
What Does the Butterfly Symbolize in Attack on Titan?
While out of fuel, Mikasa sits in the alleyway waiting to die.
There is a blue butterfly on a pomegranate in front of her, symbolizing reincarnation, rebirth, and immortality of the soul. Mikasa while in a trance-like state is either transported to, or reliving another timeline in a similar fashion to her freeze-up in manga chapter 138.
Suddenly, the butterfly speaks:
“If you do not like this reality, do it all over again. From wherever you wish.”
With this line, we can establish the beginning of the time-loop theory concerning Mikasa represented as the blue butterfly, using the ‘butterfly effect’ to loop Eren Yeager continuously through many cycles and timelines in their universe.
Mikasa Begins the Time Loop
This OVA began with Mikasa, Armin, and Eren talking before the mission to Retake Wall Maria, with Levi eavesdropping in the background. Mikasa asks them both if things would go back to the way they were, and Eren replies that things may be changed forever.
So, Mikasa seemingly decides to journey back to before the fall of Shiganshina and the Battle of Trost, when both Eren and Mikasa were 9 years old.
The number 9 in numerology represents rebirth. “Completion, but not finality” the number nine can portray “the ending of one cycle and the potential it creates for another cycle to begin” or in this case, another Attack on Titan story timeline.
The butterfly tells Mikasa that in the (dream) world, everything will happen as she desires, but Eren will still die.
“Because Eren is…”
Another timeline is created yet again, this time the monochrome butterfly escapes the mantis’ grip.
Dr. Yeager actually shows up at the Ackerman residence, and 9-year-old Eren wearing the red scarf meets Mikasa for the first time. Mikasa’s mother is pregnant with her second child, and Eren and Mikasa venture into the woods to play. While going deeper than they were supposed to, they find the would-be human traffickers dead.
There is a white and black wing-tipped butterfly on the head of the bandit that murdered Mikasa’s father.
Before finding the dead bodies, Eren gives his infamous speech from the season one anime timeline about wanting to join the scouts. Eren mentions wanting to “kill all of the titans” and asks Mikasa what she wants in life, to which she nervously replies that she is unsure.
Eren Trapped in the Time Loop By Mikasa’s Wishes
Over time, Eren comes along with Grisha on his house calls. Mikasa gives Eren a doll modeling his season one survey corps uniform, and one day Eren recites back Armin’s speech about the outside world.
There is also a conversation about the stork (a bird) delivering babies.
On another visit, Eren is revealed to have been beaten up by bullies while trying to defend Armin. The same exact bullies then ran from Mikasa in AoT Season one, episode one. Eren recites Hannes’s words about everything being fine if there is peace in the walls. He then gets mad and begins to punch his fists – like the “Attack” titan.
After Eren finally calls the people in the walls livestock, Mikasa begins to look sad. Eren stands on a rock and proclaims that he’ll join the scouts and see the outside world.
That night, Mikasa makes a wish to always be by Eren’s side, no matter what happens.
More time passes, and Mikasa is sent by her parents to the Yeager household and instructed to return home when the Dr visits the Ackerman home again. Just as Eren greets Mikasa at the ferry, news of the scouts’ returns hits town.
The same scenes as the season one anime timeline play out, only Mikasa is dressed differently, and does not help Eren.
Despite Eren having a small stick and hitting a grown man in both timelines, Mikasa is not waiting around the corner to pull him away from danger.
Instead, in this timeline, Eren gets beat up by the grown man he assaults, along with the bullies who beat him, and Armin up being witnesses to the event in this timeline.
Child Mikasa’s Obsession with Eren
At this point in the Lost Girl’s OVA, child Mikasa grows more emotionally dependent and obsessed with Eren in a disturbing manner.
Mikasa does not like the idea of Eren joining the scouts, but like in anime timeline one, joins as she will “go wherever he goes”; deciding to devote her life to Eren early on.
It is winter again, and Eren stopped showing up with Dr. Yeager on visits. After looking at the doll she made to resemble Eren wearing the red scarf, Mikasa makes another wish to see him – and creates a new timeline.
During the next visit, Dr. Yeager speaks with Mr. Ackerman and diagnoses his wife with preeclampsia, a rare pregnancy condition fatal to both mother and child. Suggesting the Ackerman’s relocate closer to Dr. Yeager’s home in Shiganshina to monitor the situation, Mikasa overhears this conversation and goes over to her mother.
Mikasa leans down on her mother’s pregnant stomach and begins to apologize repeatedly. The inference being that Mikasa’s wish to see Eren caused both her unborn sibling and mother to develop an illness.
In the Attack on Titan series, this means that both Eren and Mikasa have killed their families in pursuit of (selfish) desires.
Does Eren Want Mikasa to Kill Him in the Original Timeline?
Now living in Shiganshina near Eren, Mikasa asks Eren why he stopped coming to visit her. Eren reveals that because of repeated failures, the Survey Corps was disbanded, and the outer gate sealed from any further exploration attempts. Due to this, Armin and Eren devised a plan to escape using a hot air balloon, something Armin’s parents were killed for in another timeline.
Mikasa is visibly upset that Eren still wants to leave, and volunteers to come with him. In response, Eren wraps the scarf around Mikasa, telling her to return it during their meeting in 3 days before the bell chimes 3 times.
(Note: 3 x 3 = 9, a symbolic timeline restart)
On the first chime, Mikasa is caught by the masked mirror magician.
The masked man proclaims that he will “turn this sweet and innocent girl into a murderer” and when Mikasa tries to break free, she realizes the townsfolk in the square are all “frozen” NPCs.
“I could use hypnotism to make you kill me, but that would take time and you’re in a hurry” (Chapter 138 reference?)
The bells ring and the masked man tells Mikasa that no matter how hard she tries, she will not make it in time and her friend will “leave you behind”. This phrase mirrors what Mikasa said earlier in the OVA, and the butterfly’s words that she cannot prevent Eren’s death.
Mikasa suddenly asks the mirror man if she knows Eren, and to reveal their true identity.
“I am no one. And I am Everyone.”
(Like the Founder? One of many? Many of one?)
The magician then opens his coat and shows countless daggers all reflecting Mikasa’s face.
“Hypnotists know all there is to know”
The magician continues on, “You are a lost child. You became lost here because you wished to be.”
The masked man then explains that because Mikasa was unable to accept Eren’s death, she created that alternate world (or timeline) to get lost in.
He continues on to say that no matter what world she creates, she cannot stop Eren’s death – as her child face is reflected on the surface of the masked man’s mirror, and her older voice can be heard.
The scar on her face seems to mirror the real Mikasa’s in the anime season three timeline.
The Curse of Ymir Always Causes Eren’s Death
We finally get the continuation of the earlier “because Eren” line explaining that death has already been ingrained within his body. Meaning, Eren has been cursed by Ymir, and he was always destined to die no matter the timeline.
Eren’s continued destined death may be a reason why Mikasa is so frantic to always protect Eren in any given situation throughout both the manga and anime series.
(This brings up the issue of the Curse of Ymir being something unable to be easily broken in any potential timeline or universe by Eren. And that similarly to the proposed School Caste’s timeline, Eren may need to gain control of Ymir’s power, or negate Mikasa’s time loop abilities in order to break the cycle and free himself, and his fellow Eldian people on Paradis Island.)
The ‘mirror man’ hypnotist then requests Mikasa kill him before going to see Eren’s most recent death. An almost exact parallel to chapter 138 where Eren asks Mikasa to kill him, before Mikasa goes to find and kill his body.
“You must become strong and return to your world”
(This is reminiscent of Mikasa’s “I’m stronger than you all” speech before leading the refuel charge in Trost from season one, and her “I’m strong” speech while taking on the primordial titans in the War for Paradis arc – the 9th arc in the series.)
When alternate timeline Mikasa is wondering why the masked man got in her way of meeting Eren, Mikasa from the anime season one timeline tells her that “there is no helping it. The world is cruel” mirroring what Mikasa says after she falls in Trost and declares the world is cruel, but beautiful.
Alternate timeline Mikasa gets an Ackerman powerup and while distracted, the masked man is “stabbed” and dies…only for the hypnotist to pop right back up, and declare Mikasa murdered him to be an illusion to the shocked crowd.
Which is… quite the parallel to the final chapters.
Did Mikasa Really Kill Eren in Attack on Titan’s Ending?
Whereas in a callback to season one, Armin makes a plan to ‘protect Eren’ on the fly by declaring he murdered him to Marley in chapter 139, and Mikasa apparently walked on water (or flew ☺) back to Paradis to bury Eren’s head.
Only for it to grow into a founding tree similar to Ymir’s, thus completing the rouse that Mikasa killed Eren – allowing him to live on in PATHs until the next reincarnated child Eren timeline just before the Fall of Wall Maria.
Explaining the illusion, the mirror man points out that “this girl stabbing me is a truth which can’t be beat, even by a titan” which is a strikingly odd and specific thing to say.
Mikasa runs to, and meets Armin upon the hill that might later become Eren’s grave.
After confirming her identity, Armin gives the same exact speech he did when Eren was killed saving him in Trost. Eren has yet again saved Armin from death, this time sacrificing himself in the hot air balloon incident. However instead of getting the titan powers, Eren actually just died.
Meaning because there was no attack by Burt, and no death of Grisha to transfer the Attack Titan (or even retrieval of the Founding Titan from the Reiss family) that can see the future, and no Survey Corps to join, Eren dies pursuing freedom in vain.
This causes Mikasa to finally “wake up” during the season one anime timeline in Trost.
“All I was left with was the sensation of having seen a really long dream”
(cue Eren’s time loop from season one, episode one)
Mikasa then accepts what happened to Eren as truth, and is saved by his Attack titan in the present.
She affirms that Eren will retake Wall Maria, “drive out every last titan”, and see the sea. And by the end of season three, Eren does just that.
He “drives out every last titan” on Paradis with the help of Hange’s machine, and goes to visit the sea with Mikasa, Armin, Levi, Hange, Floch, Sasha, Jean, and Connie.
All 9 survivors from the retaking of Wall Maria reach the end of the island, and find out the truth beyond the walls.
Mikasa continues “but even then, he may not stop moving forward” which would be an accurate prediction, as Eren goes on to wage war with all of the outside world.
“Nobody is able to stop Eren”
Mikasa then realizes that it doesn’t matter what happens, she still wants to be by Eren’s side. That is her only wish.
So, where does this recap leave Mikasa and the blue butterfly goddess theory? Well…
Mikasa as the Aztec Butterfly Goddess Itzpapalotl
Itzpapalotl is an Aztec deity associated with mothers who died in childbirth, star demons who devoured humans during solar eclipses, and butterflies.
(And in my own personal opinion, the deity associated with the true origin of the popular ‘butterfly effect’.)
From the above analysis, we can already tie this deity to Mrs. Ackerman who is heavily implied to either miscarry or die due to the pregnancy illness, Armin’s transformation into the colossal titan during “Midnight Sun” (Note: a midnight sun can occur on the rare occasion when the sun and moon perfectly align) and Mikasa’s association with the blue butterfly.
Itzpapalotl is associated with a Paradise known as Tamoanchan, where the gods formed humankind.
This realm has strong associations with PATHs, and Itzpapalotl ‘s “bird of the gods” – which could be a reference to any number of birds shown in this series, or the baby delivering Stork Mikasa kept incessantly prattling on about in the OVA.
In early Mesoamerican stories, butterflies were regarded as a symbol of rebirth, or a representation of a fallen warrior’s spirit.
According to the Met Museum, in early murals at Teotihuacan and Cholula, butterfly imagery was heavily associated with “warriors, fire, fertility, death, and rebirth.” Butterflies were also indicators of the human soul, which “along with hummingbirds and other winged beings, were closely related to the concepts of reincarnation”.
Why is Mikasa Ackerman always associated with blue butterflies and the time loop theory?
Itzpapalotl’s appearance was said to be that of a fearsome monster, with a skeletal head, jaguar-like paws, and winged talons shaped to blades made of flint or in some cases, obsidian. In other stories, she is depicted as a beautiful shape-shifting woman who sacrifices men in a forest.
Other stories suggest she feasts on the hearts of deer on the nine plains of this world.
The name ‘Itzpapalotl’ can mean butterfly of obsidian knives, or of sparks – referring to the tecpatl, or flint of her wings. Today, the name is mostly signified as “clawed” or “obsidian” butterfly, or even the more literal “obsidian knife butterfly”.
Itzpapalotl “was a supernatural being who combined attributes of the butterfly, or soul, with the knife of sacrifice.” *
In both the Attack on Titan Lost Girls OVA and the season one ending theme, Mikasa is continually shown with knives or daggers. As the goddess was associated with sacrifice, fire, and blood – we can see Mikasa’s hands covered in blood in both ed and OVA.
Who is the Mirror Man in the Lost Girls OVA?
Maybe the masked mirror man is none other than Mikasa Ackerman, herself.
“Itzpapalotl is “painted as wearing a naualli, or disguise of butterfly form, a magical cloak worn by all necromancers to change their appearance.”
The mirror man not only wears a cloak, but takes the shape and form of older Mikasa, and even uses her face. But, this is not the only being who wears a cloak in the AoT series.
Eren Yeager can also be seen wearing a cloak when traveling, and is believed to be the person watching Historia and Farmer-Kun in this scene.
Eren Talking to Himself and Mirrors
Then, there is Eren’s association with mirrors.
Maybe Eren was trying to use the reflection of a mirror to make Mikasa aware of her behavior. After all, Eren did enter Mikasa’s alternate timeline fantasy just to tell her to let him go in chapter 138.
Who’s to say he didn’t do something like this here?
This may sound a little crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and lean toward both Eren and Mikasa embodying the mirror man in the Lost Girls OVA.
Maybe they both are in a perpetual loop, where one’s wish is consistently negated by the others. And that’s the real reason why Ymir had to send memories to Eren and intervene – Ymir choose Mikasa because she was tired of watching Eren and Mikasa “make the same mistakes” as Kruger would say.
Why Does Mikasa Get Headaches?
Maybe Mikasa Ackerman’s headaches were not the result of Eren Yeager ‘commanding’ her to ‘fight’ when they were younger, or even due to her external environment.
I would like to propose that Mikasa constantly gets headaches when her mind cannot accept the reality of her current situation. Anytime Eren rejects Mikasa (or if the latter even perceives this) seems to be an urge for Mikasa to ‘make a wish’ and re-write the Attack on Titan timeline once more and reset it to a place where her relationship with Eren was more manageable.
These headaches are moments when Mikasa cannot reconcile the present, and ‘wishes’ to leap back to the past in an alternate timeline.
The headaches serve as a deterrent for her not to do so, and due to the severity of the headaches, she usually doesn’t. But on the rare occasion she can’t help herself, things go terribly wrong and Eren always ends up dead.
Because that is simply the fate of their “Cruel, Yet Beautiful” World.
And, that pretty much does it for the Mikasa Butterfly Goddess Theory.
I do have a few “loose ends” of research I can scrape together to make another post like this, but for now I’m going to call it a night. Mainly because it’s currently 2 am and I haven’t even edited this document yet.
Edit: now 4:06 and just finished editing, haha.
In a few hours, the first episode of the final season part 2 will be out – so that’s pretty exciting.
I even set out some butter to make homemade cookies like I did for last year’s season premiere. Definitely got to get some red wine for certain episodes ready to enhance my enjoyment ☺ (in a good way).
Anywho, let’s wrap this one up here. So, questions, and I’ll end it with another book quote –
Who do you think mirror man really is?
Does Mikasa have the ability to control time?
What are your thoughts about both Eren and Mikasa’s wishes and desires?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more Attack on Titan Theories and anime discussions.
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An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya by Mary Ellen Miller
The Religion of Ancient Mexico by Lewis Spence
The Magic and Mysteries of Mexico: or, The Arcane Secrets and Occult Lore of the Ancient Mexicans and Maya by Lewis Spence