What Happened to Earth in Pending Train, Explained

Pending Train‘ is a Japanese sci-fi show about a group’s survival after their sudden departure to a dystopian future. Following an earthquake, an entire train car somehow gets transported decades into the future, where humanity has gone extinct. The story follows a number of characters, including the central trio Naoya Kayashima, Yuto Shirahama, and Sae Hatano. These characters, like everyone other Tsukuba Express passenger, have little to nothing in common with each other except their arbitrary decision to board train car five. Now, stranded in an unknown place with no help coming, the passengers must fight for their lives.

Upon their arrival into the new world, the passengers quickly realize that whatever happens to Earth in the future leads to a catastrophic outcome that wipes humanity from existence. Although the Earth is habitable, the cities remain buried under heaps of sand with barely any fauna left. Therefore, the obvious question arises: what exactly led to the planet’s post-apocalyptic state? Let’s find out! SPOILERS AHEAD!

What Happened To The Earth?

After Yuto, Naoya, and Sae, the inescapable leaders of the group, undertake a trip to explore their surroundings, Yuo finds a desolate Mt. Fuji in the distance. Likewise, Tanaka realizes that a tall structure miles away is a building that was under construction in 2023. Through these observations, the group realizes that they have entered a time period where Earth has undergone some drastic change that led to humanity’s eradication.

Several theories arise about how the world ended up in its current predicament. Daichi Yonezawa, an avid gamer and anime lover, proposes ideas like a fatal worldwide war or an all-consuming virus. Although he frames his theories as fantastical conclusions, they have plausibility, given humanity’s previous experience with war and pestilence. Likewise, nerdy Shodai Kato suggests global warming as an explanation. Ultimately, all those theories fail in the face of the equally chilling truth.

On December 9th, 2026, a massive asteroid, influenced by human-made space debris such as out-of-use satellites, hits the Earth in the pacific ocean. The impact floods the Japanese, American, and Australian landmasses, destroying numerous cities and lives. The hit also sets off numerous earthquakes that result in more casualties across the globe. Additionally, the collision kicks up the debris on the ground into the atmosphere. The same clouds the stratosphere and cuts off the planet’s sunlight supply.

Without sunlight, life on Earth declines since the base component of most food chains— plants— no longer flourish. In the time it takes for the Earth to return to its habitable state, humanity is long gone. Although Naoya and Yuto fantasize about the possibility of humans leaving the Earth and setting up home on another planet or moon, the same is highly improbable.

If the stratosphere is packed with enough debris to block sunlight, successful massive travel out of the planet seems unlikely. Moreover, the catastrophe strikes in 2026, by which the world simply won’t have taken enough scientific advances for the same to happen. As such, it is most likely that following the asteroid’s crash, humans underwent a dark period and failed to emerge alive.

Nonetheless, the planet more or less returned to its previous state, allowing the passengers a safe haven during their time in the future. Yuto, Naoya, and Sae learn about this history after an encounter with the villainous Mr. Yamamoto, the leader of the other group of passengers from car six. Yamamoto lies about his intentions and the source of his information by claiming he discovered it through a radio conversation with Canadian survivors.

Nevertheless, the intel itself isn’t a lie since Yamamoto gets it from an old diary he finds in a ship, left behind by one of the last few survivors before humanity’s end. Despite the diary’s dubious source from Yamamoto, its accuracy is proven once the passengers return to the past. Shortly afterward, scientists, warned by the car-five survivors, observe a dangerous asteroid heading towards the planet. Unless stopped, the same will ultimately result in Earth’s deterioration into a post-apocalyptic land devoid of humans.

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