Pending Train Ending, Explained: Do The Passengers Return To The Past?

‘Pending Train’ is a Japanese sci-fi drama show about survival that centers around a group of passengers who find themselves thrust into a dystopian future with little to no explanation. During an early morning commute, a train car somehow ends up transported decades into the future, where humanity has ceased to exist. Among the diverse list of passengers, each with their own quirks, is Yuto Shirahama, a firefighter with a hero complex, gentle gym teacher Sae Hatano, and mysterious hairdresser Naoya Kayashima. Now, the passengers thrust into an unknown world must find a way to survive and work together to return to the past.

The show focuses on its sci-fi elements while developing its dramatic character-driven storylines. Peddled by several complications in their journey, Naoya, Yuto, and Sae arrive at a tricky unforeseen end. If you’re curious to see where time takes these characters, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Pending Train.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

Pending Train Plot Recap

After a massive earthquake hits the city, it derails a Tsukuba Express train line, building a high momentum as the train enters a tunnel. As a result, the passengers are imbalanced and pass out from the jerk. When car five passengers return to consciousness, they find themselves stranded in an empty forest. Trying to minimize the panic, Yuto Shirahama equips a leadership role as he goes around trying to help people with Sae Hatano’s help. Once the two leave the car to explore their location with mysterious and uncooperative Naoya Kayashima, the trio finds that their train car has ended up in an obscure desert.

However, as the others explore more, it becomes evident that the train car hasn’t traveled to a desert but rather decades ahead into a post-apocalyptic future. Although the passengers have a difficult time reconciling with the truth at first, eventually, Yuto manages to convince most of them to stick together and fight for their lives. Over the next few days, the car-five passengers become aware of the lack of food and water needed for survival.

Nevertheless, with the help of Shodai Kato, a nerdy grad student, the group is able to forage for food in the forest and secure sustenance. During the same, the group has a falling out with Yaichi Tanaka, a frustrated office worker. As such, Tanaka becomes a volatile outcast with a penchant for picking fights with Naoya. Under Yuto’s earnest and persistent leadership, alongside Naoya’s realistic, no-nonsense pessimism, the group figures out a way to survive without chaos.

Nonetheless, their peace is challenged when Kato gets stabbed by a stranger, which leads to the discovery of an unknown set of survivor passengers from car-six who are in a similar predicament as Yuto’s group. Car-six passengers, led by Mr. Yamamoto, have flourished much more than car-five and uncovered the mystery behind Earth’s apocalyptic condition. Even though the different groups try to remain friendly, a fight sparks between them when some car-six members kidnap Sae. While in captivity, Sae learns that Yamamoto was lying about his radio connection to the outside world in a ploy to grab power. Ultimately, the conflict resolves itself with Daichi Yonezawa, a young and ambitious gamer, giving an inspiring speech and Sae uncovering Yamamoto’s reality.

The same leaves car-six under the dubious authority of Norimasa Uemura and Tatsumi Kakogawa. Meanwhile, Takehiro Suzuki discovers some shiny rocks that exclusively glow under the aurora borealis. Shortly after, during an intense storm, Takana accidentally comes across a wormhole that opens in the tunnel near the train’s back entrance. Although the wormhole cements the time-travel theory further, traveling through it with no protection may be deadly. As such, when the team finds buried power lines in the empty desert, it proposes a possible solution for them.

After consulting research from one of Kato’s University professors, the team concludes that they can travel through the wormhole if they harness electricity in their train car. However, given the idea’s high-risk several passengers, including antisocial Rena Watabe and a high-school couple who recently learned they’re pregnant, Kazuma Eguchi and Koharu Sato, refuse to leave the future. Similarly, Naoya, perpetually scared of disappointment and returning to his rocky relationship with his brother, Tatsuya, also decides to stay behind.

Pending Train Ending: Do The Passengers Return To The Past?

Upon discovering the power lines, the chances of the passengers’ return to the year 2023 dramatically increase. Several of them, like Takehiro, are desperate to return to their families. Inversely, people like Rena are reluctant of the same due to the shortcomings in their past lives. Yuto and Sai, forever the optimists, firmly fall into the former category, while Naoya’s tendency to distrust everything makes him the latter. Nevertheless, almost everyone contributes to discovering the source of the power line so that the group may have access to electricity.

Soon, Yuto and the others find the Tsukuba Express Substation half-buried underground. Still, they find the station’s interior in good condition, and Hiroko Tachibana successfully starts up the station again. The team waits for another storm since the wormhole only reacts the high-energy natural phenomena like storms or earthquakes. In preparation, they wrap their train car up with wire and utilize the car’s emergency power generator to harness the electricity.

As the storm approaches, Yuto and Sae try to talk to Naoya, who seems firm in his decision to stay behind. Naoya grew up with an abusive father and a neglectful mother. As a result, he started looking after his young half-brother from an early age and tried to provide the latter with a good life. However, Tatsuya became a criminal and got sent to juvenile for months, breaking Naoya’s trust.

Therefore, Naoya is reluctant to trust anyone and can’t follow Yuto in his time-traveling experiment. Moreover, Naoya was meant to meet his brother again after Tatsuya’s release from prison on the day that the former got transported to the future. Although Tatsuya’s choices are his own, Naoya blames himself for how his brother’s life turned out. The anxiety over restarting his relationship with Tatsuya and failing him again stops Naoya from returning to the past.

Nonetheless, with the storm nearing, Yuto talks Naoya out of his decision to stay behind. Even though the duo has had a rocky relationship from the start, they respect each other, and Yuto asks Naoya to take a leap of faith and trust him. Naoya’s experience in the future with Yuto and Sae has changed him and his worldview, and he is able to move past his holdbacks. Back at the train car Yuto asks everyone who wants to stay to reconsider.

Naoya finally pushes them into action, asking them to trust Yuto, who has ensured their survival for so long. In the end, Tanaka decides to remain behind but helps Naoya board the train at the eleventh hour. The passengers return to the past safely, but upon their arrival, they realize they have traveled to 2026, months before the apocalypse arrives.

Do The Passengers Save The World?

During their encounter with Yamamoto, Naoya and the others discover a diary with accounts of the world’s end. On December 9, 2026, an asteroid, influenced by human-made space debris, hits the Earth. The asteroid’s impact severely affects the Earth’s environment, which leads to sunlight blocking and a lack of crops. Therefore, when the passengers decide to return to the past, they plan to return to 2023, where they will have enough time to convince the authorities of their story and change the future.

As such, arriving in May 2026 wrecks the group’s entire plans. Officers investigate the case when the Tsukuba Express train cars disappear. Still, with time the case fades into the background until car-five randomly appears in the middle of the train tracks one day. Even though the passengers give an honest account of their experience, the cops don’t believe them. Yuto and the others even bring back evidence, like soda cans that weren’t out in 2023 and plants that hadn’t yet grown.

Nevertheless, since they exist in 2026, the cops neglect those. Although the meteorite sample Yuto brings makes for convincing evidence, the cops disregard it due to the group’s unlikely story. As a result, after undergoing medical tests, the survivors return to their families. In the months that follow, Yuto and his friends, Sae, Kato, Yonezawa, Rena, Kazuma, and Koharu, try to convince the authority of the upcoming threat relentlessly, but to no avail. Instead, some of them, especially Yuto and Naoya, go viral, gaining weird popularity only for their looks.

As a result, the group’s private lives get ruined. Near the end, Kato acquires firm proof of his future plant’s age with scientific backdating, and Yonezawa uploads videos on the internet to spread the truth. Once people start to believe them, Takehiro reaches out and tells them she approached the former Minister of Defense, who told her the government is taking action against the asteroid threat after spotting it through their satellites.

In the end, the group can do nothing but sit in wait as the scientists plan to send a covert rocket to space to blow up the asteroid. Although many civilians still don’t take the group seriously, they have a fighting chance. The series concludes with an open ending where the lead scientist gets an update about the rocket attack. The details of the conversation remain ambiguous, but the scientist melts with relief visibly. Therefore, it can be concluded that the rocket managed to hit the asteroid.

Nonetheless, another cryptic scene follows the last. Near the end, Yonezawa leaves a letter and his jacket for Tanaka near the old station tunnel where the passengers get stranded in the future. Tanaka would never receive the letter if Yuto and the others changed the future since their timelines would have diverged. As such, since Tanaka gets the letter and the jacket, perhaps despite the group’s efforts, the future remains unchanged.

In that regard, the ending is open to viewer interpretation. The same seems fitting since the future’s unpredictability affects numerous characters in different ways throughout the show. Ultimately, life’s unpredictability prevails until a potential second season clears things up.

What Happens To Yuto and Naoya?

Throughout the series, the dynamic between Yuto, Naoya, and Sae forms the story’s emotional heart. Although the love triangle between them settles near the end, with no definitive endgame relationship, Yuto and Naoya face a significant dilemma. Given the unpredictability of the government’s plan to stop the asteroid and the latter’s rapidly nearing threat, Takehiro arranges an alternative for her family and friends.

With help from a friend in Switzerland, Takehiro secures a bunker for the group and their families and asks all 53 survivors to come with her. Everyone agrees to leave with their families, except Yuto and Naoya, who seemingly choose to stay behind. By the end, Yuto’s spirits completely break after his social media “stardom” prevents him from doing his job and saving people as a firefighter. Additionally, the upcoming doom makes Yuto believe he constantly fails to save people.

Earlier during his career, Yuto accidentally becomes a catalyst in his coworker, Kota Takakura’s critical injuries. Due to the same, Yuto blames himself and wishes to keep his promise to Kota about saving as many people as possible. While in the future, Yuto effortlessly takes on the leadership role, but the responsibility continuously grates at him. It is only with Naoya and Sae’s help that Yuto is able to persevere and succeed.

Therefore, Naoya refuses to accept it when Yuto declares he will be staying behind. While everyone else boards a train to travel to the bunker, Naoya goes to Yuto to convince him to join them. The two share a tearful conversation wherein Yuto confesses he believes he can’t save anyone. In response, Naoya tells the other man that he saved him and his heart which is more important than saving his life.

Yuto gave Naoya a reason to hope and believe. Consequently, when Yuto loses his own hope, Naoya helps him regain it. The pair walk off into the distance together, likely on their way to Takehiro’s bunker. Like the ending, their fates are up to the audience’s interpretation. Still, it’s clear that the pair only benefit from each other’s friendship and will find a good end, so long as they stick together with their car-six family.

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