Bart: Work here is done. I'm needed elsewhere now. I'm needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice! Crowd:(in unison) Bullshit! Bart: ...all right, you caught me. Speaking the plain truth, it's getting pretty damn dull around here.
A.K.A. "Mary Poppins Syndrome". An easy way to add anywhere from a twinge of sentimentality to a whole extra Tear Jerker scene to the end of your movie: after helping out and saving the day, The Drifter character must leave forever. Used a lot in solo series of many an Ensemble Dark Horse, as their adventures alone can't keep them in the small town forever; they have to plausibly be able to get back to the team.
Excuses for why they need to leave are varied. Perhaps once their job is done, they are no longer needed and must set off for a new job, as with the Knight Errant. Perhaps they are bound by some kind of supernatural curse or spell that states they can only come back every X years or they can only stay for X days. Maybe they're just a traveler and can't deny the call of the open road or the cry of the sea. Maybe they must Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Maybe they are starting or completing the Journey to Find Oneself. Maybe the final cut is missing some scene that could explain this.
It doesn't count if the character was already dying for some understandable reason, has some kind of good, understandable, plot-related reason to leave, or goes off to a Heroic Sacrifice. This is when the character has become loved and respected by other characters, and has to leave for no other reason than "he must".
This tends to happen a lot in Yuri anime, especially if the heroines don't end up crazy or dead.
Compare Riding into the Sunset, Save the Day, Turn Away, Walking the Earth. Also see I Choose to Stay, which is the polar opposite.
As an ending trope, expect SPOILERS.Examples:
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A Verizon cellular phone commercial has a biker getting ready to leave and telling his lady love that she can't come with him, because he rides solo...and then she asks about the crowd behind him. "Well, except for my Network."
Anime and Manga
D. Gray-Man: Allen pulls this in chapter 205 after he discovers that Apocryphos is at the new HQ and that his inner Noah is slowly taking over his body, after saying goodbye and confessing to Lenalee. She doesn´t take it well.
And more importantly, The DigiDestined in the last episode. Of course, Kari and T.K. are back for Digimon Adventure 02, and most of the others stay somewhat in contact with the Digital World by helping the new crop of DigiDestined - though they no longer have control of their original Digimon partners.
Fist of the North Star (more precisely, the anime adaptation) ends with Kenshiro leaving his sidekicks Bat and Lin to wander alone.
The very first episode also has a moment like this, when Kenshiro leaves after saving Lin from Zeed.
Dragon Ball Z did this twice when attempting to end the story for good. The end of GT also had this.
This trick is being pulled half-way through the Air anime, where Michiru disappears after Minagi's mom starts remembering her surviving daughter, since Michiru is a fragment of a dream created by Minagi and a manifestation of how Minagi sees her deceased little sister. It still doesn't really explain though why she had to just vanish, especially since she first hangs around for still another day after her nature is revealed, during which Minagi's mom accepts her as her daughter's friend. Obviously the makers of the series wanted to squeeze as many tears out of it as possible - as if the ending wasn't sad enough already.
And then it was suddenly subverted when we see Minagi's half-sister, who looks exactly like a younger version of, and is also named, Michiru. Contrived Coincidence? I think not.
Layla Ashley in Avenger. After defeating the unbeatable Big Bad, resolving her personal problems, and bringing about a new age of prosperity to the entire planet, no less.
The original Reinforce in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Oh, c'mon, do you really think the lead girls wouldn't be able to befriend the crap out of her defensive program anytime while blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs?
Manatsu and Kai from Uta Kata return in the OVA just to invoke this trope.
Parodied in the School Rumble manga. Eri invites Harima to her house overnight to work on the school album. To get him to reveal his feelings, Eri's butler cosplays as a character from Harima's favorite show and fights him. Harima leaves the house w/o revealing his feelings because that's how the episode ended.
Entei almost says this word-for-word in the final of the third movie.
A Hentai entitled The Licker was about an older woman having an affair with a young boy. She left the town when spring came.
In Dennou Coil, Isako simply leaves town and gives Yasako one last phone call, telling her they might meet again. Considering through how much trouble Yasako went to save her that's quite egregious—but Yasako actually takes it very well.
Kino's modus operandi. Reach next town, stay for three days and two nights, then gone. The number of times I Choose to Stay is even considered could be counted on a single hand.
At the end of Kurogane Communication, Haruka and Katano leave their robot families on earth behind to look for the last human survivors on Mars.
At the end of Code GeassNightmare Of Nunnally, Lelouch, having become the Demon King in C.C.'s place, is forced to leave his sister Nunnally after saying goodbye to her.
At the end of GaoGaiGar, Mamoru tearfully says goodbye to everyone as he blasts off in Galeon to eradicate any possible Zonder that may evolve in the galaxy, giving new meaning to the ending sequence we've been watching for the past 40+ episodes.
Rappi Rangai both parodies this and plays it straight; inevitably, protagonist Raizou ditches the current 'princess' he's helped save, usually scrambling to pull this trope off while in tears due to believing he's been rejected or some similar reason. Played straight when the princesses don't actually want Raizou to leave, but he cuts out of there before any of them could say so.
In Risky Safety, Risky and Safety successfully beat destiny and reunite Moe with Yuya...but then tell her they have to go to their respective homes now to await punishment, telling her they'll always be her friends as they turn to light and vanish. But don't worry, it turns out that their punishment is to remain apprentices for nearly a century longer, which means being sent back to Earth—they use it as an excuse to stay with Moe.
Ginko in Mushishi. Justified in that he's an attractor of the troublesome creatures who cause problems for the humans in the series. For this reason he'll never be able to settle down in one place.
In the final episode of Eureka Seven, the way Renton left the Gekko and Holland commented that he has graduated from Gekkostate.
The entire concept of Angel Beats! centers around the unsettling souls eventually leaving the academy in order to pass on.
In Fresh Pretty Cure!, now that Moebius's reign of terror is over and Labyrinth is a safe place to be again, Setsuna, Hayato, and Shun return to Labyrinth, though it's implied that they can come back to visit the Cures any time they want.
Subverted in Kore Wa Zombie Desuka. Eu tries to bail out on the group in episode 9 following an incident where Yoruno forced some very heavy-duty emotion out of her, leading some pretty big shit to nearly go down, but over the next two episodes she decides she can't stay away forever, especially not from Ayumu, so in episode 11 she tells him she'll always be with him, no matter what.
Manga-only example: Mon Colle Knights. At the end of the last chapter, the Knights use the Monster Items to revive Gren, at the cost of losing the items and causing the portal to fade. Before leaving, they mention that they will never be able to visit Mon World again, though certain things afterwards suggest that, in fact, they do. (The anime ends with a new quest for six new Items beginning after the defeat of Reda and Oroboros.)
At the end of A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, Saga loses her ability to see fairies anymore, and explicitly states that she never saw any of them again after Sugar found her Twinkle. Would not have been as contrived if it was just a matter of Sugar having to start her journey as a full-fledged Snow Fairy, with the chance that they'll meet again someday.
After the climactic last battle of Gun X Sword, Van of the dawn walks off without saying goodbye to most of the good guys, presumably out of a need to figure out "what next?" It's a poignant ending. But the tearjerking is assuaged because the last scene of the series shows him being reunited with Wendy years later.
Riruka from Bleach, in manga chapter 479. She leaves Urahara Shoten without saying anything, then uses her powers to leave Karakura as she thinks of Ichigo, Chad and Orihime.
Technically she never left as she's now, in her words, "everywhere at once." However only magical girls who are about to die/become witches can see her in their final moments, so it counts. She even spends her last moments with Homura apologizing that she has to go.
—> Madoka: I'm sorry, I have to leave now. Everyone's waiting for me.
Akiko, Taka and Junichirou from Kasei Yakyoku. The three go away from Tokyo few after the Great Kanto Earthquake: Taka and Junichirou take a boat together to abandon the Yakuza, whereas Akiko leaves to live her own life.
In the Pita Ten manga, this is inverted to But Now You Must Go when Kotarou accepts that even though he loves Misha, he can't keep her with him and has to stand on his own two feet, and asks her to remove his ability to see the supernatural, and therefore his ability to see her.
In the series finale of Transformers Headmasters, after ensuring that the Decepticons can never return to Earth, the Autobots leave as well, with the Witwicky family bidding them a final farewell.
In Pre-CrisisSuperman comics, when Superman finally succeeds in enlarging the Bottle City of Kandor, the Kandorians choose to live on a Brigadoon-style planet, which phases in and out of the universe at lengthy intervals.
A conceit of Starlord was that it was a disguised training manual to allow humans to survive the imminent invasion by the Interstellar Federation, and was published and edited by a benevolent being named the Starlord. In the last issue before Starlord merged with 2000 AD, the Starlord said he had trained humanity so well that the Federation was too scared to invade Earth, and so he was leaving to help other planets.
Happened in Jack Frost (1998) (The family movie). The titular main character is trapped in the body of a snowman in order to say goodbye to his family. They spend a good deal of the movie trying to keep him from melting and getting him to a nice cold mountaintop. Upon accomplishing this task, he drops "but now I must go" for seemingly no reason and disappears into the wind.
The movie Finian's Rainbow ends with the dad (Fred Astaire) picking up his carpet bag and cane and heading out. On his beloved daughter's wedding day. And the only reason she gets to say goodbye and get half an explanation is that she spotted him leaving. Way to make your daughter's anniversary memorable, Daddy Dear.
Subverted in the musical theater show. Dad gives an explanation of what he's going to do next.
The movie Chocolat almost ended this way. Vianne had previously dragged her daughter Anouk through several moves, usually because they got thrown out, and also because her own mother had done the same thing to her. After the story is settled and the pair hasn't been thrown out of town, Vianne gets set to move on anyway — but then realizes that she wants to stay, and instead dumps her mother's ashes out the window, leaving her mother's spirit free to roam and no longer forcing the family to accompany it.
This trope is played straight in the original novel by Joann Harris, however.
Casablanca, 'cept it was the love interest who left. A similar scene occurs in the ending of the Pamela Anderson film Barb Wire (albeit the gender roles are reversed).
The penultimate scene in Big Trouble in Little China inverts this when loner, truck-driving hero Jack offers would-be love Gracie the opportunity to settle down, only to have her lament that the only way she would stay with him is if he maintains his nomadic lifestyle.
The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones: In this crossover film, Hanna-Barbera's two well known families meet each other in the past after Elroy Jetson invents a time machine. They switch places (The Flintstones as well as the Rubbles go to the future where Fred and Barney work for Mr. Spacely while George works for Mr. Slate). Also in the past, Judy falls in love with a "stone-ager" named Iggy. At the end of the film, The families return to their respective time periods. Judy is crushed to leave behind Iggy, but is consoled when she meets his descendant in the future.
In Back To The Future Part III, Doc and Marty are preparing to leave 1885 and go back to 1985. The night before, Doc goes to see his love interest Clara and say that he's leaving, and can never comes back. Subverted in that he eventually tells her the truth, but she doesn't believe him.
Lisa, at the end of Weird Science. She has successfully transformed the lives of Gary and Wyatt, getting them popularity, girlfriends, and most importantly confidence. So she decides to become a gym teacher...
Play It Again, Sam: Alan Felix (Woody Allen) imagines that Humphrey Bogart is with him and confers with Bogey to take decisions. In the end, Humphrey Bogart chooses to leave as "You don't need me any longer."
Óscar, Kina y el láser, a 1978 Spanish movie (adaptation of a short story) about a child who builds a speaking laser device. "The Laser" helps Óscar in his adventure and, when the plot is over and Óscar goes to bed saying goodnight, the Laser farewells him, apparently feeling there was no need for the Laser to stay.
Yojimbo. A partial aversion in that Mifune's character leaves the village not because "he must", but simply because with his enemies defeated, the place was boring.
Echoed in Sanjuro: The Lord of the region offers him a job, but Sanjuro doesn't show up. The Lord reveals that he knew Sanjuro would never be able to settle down like that, and the young samurai Sanjuro had been tutoring chase after him to change his mind. Ends up subverted; after having to kill his Not So Different adversary, Sanjuro's too upset to stay, but he won't be venturing on either, with the implication that it's time to retire his blade.
In Moonwalker Michael Jackson turns into a spaceship and flies away, while his young friends say "He's going home." Subverted though in the fact that he comes back...immediately.
Played With in Pulp Fiction, when Jules has a near-death and then near-life in prison moment in the same day, he decides he must leave and travel the world. Not only is he not a heroic character, but the the story is told out of order.
—"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2?3)
This is a recurring theme in the light novel series, and the anime adaptation, of Kinos Journey in which the main character, as a drifter, has a self-imposed limit of staying three days upon reaching a town or rest stop and can give no exceptions regardless of the situation. This is in order not to form attachments to prevent the ideal of traveling. A little different in that the plot follows Kino to each next place. This is explored deeper when the the main character, eventually revealed to be female, discovers a place she can finally grow used to loving while becoming acquainted with someone sharing many common and reminiscent traits with her. Coping on her decision on whether or not wishing to finally settle down, the conclusion is the final episode of the anime adaption, whilst the light novels simply continue, and still are, after that point.
Running with the Demon. John Ross drifts back out of town.
After half a book of back story, this trope basically becomes the entire premise for the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman books by Brian Jacques.
Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, resulting from Mandella and Potter's return to Earth after their first tour of duty, during which thirty years have passed on Earth due to Time Dilation from Faster-than-Light Travel. Mandella's father is dead; his mother is dying of cancer which The Government's socialized medicine system refuses to treat because she is not worth it, and she has taken a lesbian lover. Potter's parents are forced out of their home for defying government regulations, and end up on an agricultural commune under assumed identities. They are killed while Mandella and Potter are staying with them by raiders looking for food. Needless to say, the two re-enlist in the Army and get off thatCrapsack World.
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville's defies this trope. At the end of the book, the protagonist Deeba is told that she has to return permanently to her home in mundane London, because travel between London and UnLondon is too difficult to allow her to return. Her response is to burst into laughter, systematically list all the people in the book who've traveled back and forth between the two along with how easy it was for them to do so, and say, "Of course I'll come back!"
Five of the seven books in 'The Chronicles of Narnia' involve the heroes being sent back to England in the end. In the other two books, they didn't because 1) the main characters were natives, and 2) they were dead, so going back wasn't an option.
At the end of the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra tells the group of followers that have gathered around him "Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves, and only when you have all denied me will I return to you." He does, indeed, return.
At the end of the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Kahless, the original Kahless tires of his life as The Emperor and decides to leave. His subjects ask him where he will go. Deciding to play up on their myths of him (mostly so they'd leave him be), he points to a random star and tell them to look there. 1500 years later, they do.
The whole point of the novel is demystifying the figure of Kahless and showing him as just a man. In fact, the whole idea of forging the first bat'leth from his own hair dipped in lava was merely a dream he had. He promptly makes a sketch of the weapon and takes it to a blacksmith.
Obi-Wan: Not the last of the old Jedi, Luke. The first of the new.
Obi-Wan's Force Ghost does make two more appearances. First, to congratulate Luke on the birth of his son, then to celebrate the defeat of the Yuuzhan Vong.
In Warrior Cats, several characters do this, most notably Cody, Shortwhisker, and Snookthorn.
In How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Jonah does this. After the death of his handicapped twin brother, he leaves for good. He even makes sure nobody can find him by taking all pictures of him post-puberty and putting his baby picture in the yearbook.
When deciding whether to stay Trapped on Draconica, Ben tries to Take a Third Option and go home but use his power to travel between worlds to visit Draconica, but Dronor says he has to take that power away. After thinking about his worried sick mother and encouragement from Erowin he decides to go home. It is understandable why he chooses to go back but why he has to choose at all is less so. Its a dampener on an otherwise unambigously happy ending.
Live Action Television
Used quite a lot in The Lone Ranger, as he goes off into the sunset...leaving grateful townsfolk behind, wondering, "Who is that Masked Man?"
Used straight in The Adventures of Pete & Pete. In the two-parter "Goodbye, My Little Viking", Little Pete parts ways with his best friend and personal superhero Artie (the Strongest Man - in the world!), who realizes that he is no longer needed more, and sets off to find a new kid who does.
The Doctor from Doctor Who shows something of this; he saves the day, and then leaves again, never staying. It's been suggested in the show this is because he's afraid to look back at the trail of destruction he leaves behind — or, more humorously, because he's worried about being asked to pay for the collateral damage he's caused.
A strange subversion of this trope is used in the Doctor's regeneration in 'The Parting of the Ways'. He tells Rose he'll still be there, "but not like this. Not with this daft old face."
He is forced to face the consequences of his own actions a few times, such as in "Bad Wolf", which takes place a century after "The Long Game". Instead of freeing Earth from the tyranny of the Jagrafess, his actions result in a complete shutdown of the government, followed by decades of chaos before an even worse example of tyranny takes hold, forcing people to participate in deadly games and others to watch them.
Though to be fair to him, the Daleks wouldn't have let it turn out any other way.
Power Rangers Wild Force ends with Princess Shayla taking the Animarium back into the sky. While that may have been necessary, not allowing Merrick, who loved her, was from her own time period, and had nothing in the present, to stay with her was not.
It's what he gets for being one of the better characters that season.
Parodied mid-first-season of Angel, when Wesley joins the cast. Wesley pretends he must do this, while secretly hoping to be invited to stay, but Angel and Cordelia play along with the pretense.
Later played straight mid-fifth-season when Cordelia comes back for one last guest spot, gets "her man back on track", then basically says "now everything's going to be OK, a pity I won't be here to see it, since I must move on". It's more Tearjerker in the show than that description, obviously.
Also Lorne's final fate.
No matter how much the people he interacted with wanted him to stay, The Littlest Hobo would always leave at the end of the episode.
"There's a voice...that keeps on calling me...down the road, that's where I'll always be..."
Spoofed in an episode of Corner Gas, and Hank wanted Hobo to stay in Dog River. When Wanda explains that leaving when the trouble is over is what Hobo does, Hank wants to stir up more trouble to get Hobo to come back.
This is the default ending for most of the Ultraman series, as the Ultras are assigned to Earth from their home world and when their tour of duty is complete, they must return. In Ultraman and Ultraseven, this was given further meaning, as they were badly hurt and they couldn't be healed on Earth.
Also the default for The A-Team, as they couldn't stay in one place too long without being caught by the military.
Played in The Secret Circle, as Jake does this after saving Cassie, though he soon returns.
Diana does the same in "Family", since she's lost her father and can't handle having dark magic.
Irish traditional song "The Parting Glass" doesn't make it clear whether the singer is dying, or simply leaving forever:
So since it falls unto my lot/ that I should rise and you should not....
Exalted has a charm, Hero Rides Away, that rewards heroic-themed Solar Exalts for doing this.
For the heroic Abyssals, however, they must do this even if they want to stay. Otherwise the folks they just saved will be hit by an ultra-lethal death-wave, or worse.
The opera Paul Bunyan ends with the unseen title character bidding his friends goodbye, saying that he has to move on now that they have succeeded in taming the wilderness:
All I had to do is done, You remain but I go on; Other kinds of deserts call, Other deserts whisper Paul; I must hasten in reply To that low instinctive cry, There to make a way again For the conscious lives of men.
Peer Gynt subverts the trope somewhat, in running away from every responsibility and his true love in the process.
I have a heavy burden to shoulder, I must carry it alone. You have to wait for me.
Mata Nui in the conclusion of BIONICLE after having completed his destiny.
This is very common at the end of the Zelda games. Either Link's sidekick leaves Link or Link leaves Hyrule to go on a journey.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has Navi leaving Link at the end because Link isn't a Kokiri and the only reason she was sent to him was so he could fulfill his quest. Once that was done, she couldn't stay with him any longer. Also, Zelda restores Link's childhood by sending him into an Alternate Timeline where he is a child again making it a "But Now You Must Go."
Majora's Mask started with Link getting sidetracked while searching for his friend. At the end of game, Link leaves Termina and Tatl to continue on his quest to find his friend.
The ending of Wind Waker has Link leaving his grandma and sister to search for new land.
Similarly, Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule, the true identity of the King of Red Lions, turns down Zelda's request for him to stay with them to find a new land to call home, as he feels himself to be forever bound to his fallen kingdom of Hyrule.
There's also Minish Cap where Elzo leaves for seemingly no reason except that the door behind him is closing and someone must go through it. At least he leaves a parting gift.
At the end of Twilight Princess, Midna, now free of Ganon's curse, seals herself and all other Twili from Hyrule for eternity by destroying the Mirror of Twilight. The Mirror is corrupting and evil, and they will ultimately need to destroy it after they are finished using it. At the very end, Link is seen riding away from Ordon village on Epona, but it's never said where he's going.
One of the multiple endings to Spirit Tracks has Link leaving if you select the "Dunno" choice when asked what do you want to do after the bad guy is defeated.
At the ending of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Fi, the spirit living within the Master Sword and your companion throughout the game, seals herself in the Master Sword in eternal sleep after the defeat of Demise. Impa also leaves by dissolving into tiny balls of light.
The ending of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Alucard rescues Richter Belmont and meets up with both him and Maria at a cliff overlooking the former spot of Dracula's castle. He tells them both that because of his cursed lineage, he was better off gone. That being said, Alucard departs to return to his eternal slumber (much like at the end of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse). Depending on certain variables in the game, Maria will either respect Alucard's decision to disappear and return home with Richter, or confess her love for him and follow him.
Mewt at the end of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He obviously has a strong attachment to the world (come on, the reason it's there is because he wants it to be), yet he reverts the world back to real life at the end, with one of these moments.
Happens to the main character at the end of Persona 3. He falls asleep and never wakes up because his soul is keeping Nyx from returning to destroy the world. And this is the GOOD ending.
Happens to the main character at the end of Persona 4. Though considering the series, things could have been much, muchworse. Something of a subversion in that we know from the very beginning of the game that he'll be leaving town in one year. And depending on which dialog choices the player chooses, he might not want to leave at all.
The canon sequel, Persona 4 Arena undoes this one: in order to investigate Teddie's call to a tournament for Persona users, he returns to his friends in Inaba less than two months after the end of the game.
While he does leave once more after the events in Arena, Golden's extended epilogue has him returning to Inaba again, with no indication that he's going to be leaving permanently, if at all.
Averted in an interesting way in Lunar Eternal Blue. Lucia leaves Hiro on Lunar (a terraformed Moon After the End) so that she can go back and terraform Earth. In the Playable Epilogue, he finds a way to follow her and stays with her. Presumably through Human Popsicle, he is able to be with her when her job is complete, centuries later.
In Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, Ninian and Nils return to the dragon world together if Eliwood doesn't have A support with Ninian; if she does, Nils goes back alone. Also Athos, who uses up the last of his life energy to help fight the final battle.
In the same game, the Tactician also ended up leaving for reasons unspecified at the end of the game.
Also, Ike from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, who disappears to lands unknown at the end of the game, either alone or in the company of his close friend Soren or Ranulf if you supported him with any of the two. As a bonus, he appears in exactly the same pose as in the page image, complete with a memorial of sorts.
In Tales of Phantasia, it's practically a Foregone Conclusion that when Dhaos is defeated and the world is saved, Claus and Arche will have to return to the past. Arche is a bit of a subversion, since she's a half-elf, and thus will still be around in 100 years, but Claus...
Played straight by Snake while talking to Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, and a weird series' of aversions in Metal Gear Solid 4, where it's always made clear by Old Snake that once he's done with his one final mission, he'll retire to die alone. (Otacon even says this to Sunny after Johnny and Meryl's wedding)In a weird twist of this trope, we get to see what he does after leaving, which is to kill himself to prevent a mutagen FOXDIE from spreading. Then BigBoss comes out of nowhere and gives him a CQC Hug, tying up all loose ends in the plot, and Snake comes back with Otacon, according to The Stinger, thus averting the trope
Done for the hero in Quest For Glory IV; in the middle of the reward ceremony, Erasmus locates the hero via scrying and teleports him to Silmaria for the events of the fifth game, remarking "He's a hero, and heroes go where they are needed."
The Avatar from Ultima IX: During ALL the game it's said that you won't be back to Earth nor Britannia (the planet where the game is set) but you will ascend to another form of existence. The full name of that game is "Ultima IX: Ascension". No less.
Mana Kirishima does this in the Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel game. And this is the happiest ending, people.
But played straight in the sequel, Magnagate and the Infinite Labyrinth. For a little while, anyway.
Subverted in Pokémon Gold and Silver . Red seems to have gone away since the events of the previous games, and not even his mother knows where he is; however, he is still around. He eventually appears as a Bonus Boss.
All Awakening epilogues state that after a few years of service the Warden-Commander leaves for parts unknown. Her/His love interest may follow as well.
This occurred at the end of Super Robot Wars Alpha, when Kusuha's boyfriend Bullet decided it was too dangerous for someone like him to hang around...plus he wanted to keep RyuKouOu out of other people's hands. He gets over it by Alpha 3, and asks Kusuha to marry him.
Throughout Olimar's journal entries in Pikmin, it becomes clear that he's become quite attached to the pikmin and their strange, blue world. Unfortunately, he's got a family back on his home planet, and the toxic atmosphere just doesn't help anything. If you reach the happy ending, the diminutive alien gives the cute pikmin one final glance before shaking his head, and leaving them all behind.
The protagonists of both Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games ended the games this way, and Word Of God says they left their party members behind. Importantly, they left the seeds for the rebirth of the Jedi Order and the Republic, and their actual fates are covered partially by The Old Republic and an EU novel.
Happens during The Stinger from Super Mario Galaxy: If you defeat Bowser with all 120 Power Stars, then we actually get to see a cutscene where Rosalina is actually shown bidding Mario/Luigi farewell and flying off to another part of the galaxy, followed by a Luma climbing out of a damaged spaceship. Moments later, however, Mario/Luigi is actually now back on Rosalina's ship!
This also happens in the sequel, where after Bowser is defeated the Luma Mario/Luigi travelled with actually ends up seeing Rosalina's ship flying by and telling Mario/Luigi goodbye. However, she does return to help Mario/Luigi complete World S, beat Bowser again, get all 120 Green Stars, and finally complete Grandmaster Galaxy.
Cruelly Subverted in Fallout. After defeating the Big Bad the Vault Dweller is denied re-entry into the vault by the overseer. He walks alone, into the sunset, cut off from everything he worked so hard to save.
Played straighter in the Fallout New Vegas DLC. After saving Christine from the immediate danger at the Big Empty and getting what he came for, Ulysses leaves.
In Super Mario RPG, Geno leaves the party and his spirit returns to the Star Road after the heroes have completed their quest in fixing it and defeating the Big Bad.
This is two of seven possible endings for Ein in Riviera: The Promised Land, including the one that's Word Of God canonical. They're mostly the same, though; the only thing that changes is whether or not his familiar turns into a catgirl.
Two of the endings in Saya no Uta don't really count, since the eponymous character had completely uncontrived reasons for leaving Fuminori in the asylum ending, and was killed in battle in one of the other endings. However, in the remaining ending, Saya becomes ill and dies after just having killed Kouji. We know it's meant to be depressing and cynical, and we know this is what leads up to the worldwide plague of mutation spores, but she seemed perfectly fine up until that point, and nothing was ever mentioned that she would die after fulfilling her biological purpose of reproduction.
Kinoko Nasu loves doing this to his characters, apparently:
Saber in Fate/Stay Night, in a tear-jerking scene in which she finally confesses to the protagonist that she loves him, right before vanishing forever.
Although in the True Ending of Fate in Realta Nua, it turns out that Saber and Shirou are reunited in Avalon after his death.
Archer does this in the end of Unlimited Blade Works, as well as Saber in one of the endings.
Several endings in the first storyline of Melty Blood have female protagonist Sion Eltnam Atlasia leaving the town for various reasons, generally to continue her research on curing vampirism. Just about the only exception is the ending where she and Akiha bond. Shiki ponders cutting himself.
In the original Tsukihime, it happens to Arcueid in her route. And since the anime is based primarily on the latter, it features this as well.
Made extremely jarring by the fact that literally the only difference in her two endings are whether she thinks she can restrain her vampiric impulse. Her "True End" fits this trope, and is quite moving. Her "Good End" has her instead laying low until enough of her power returns to resist the impulse, and sticking around.
The Bad endings of Yo-Jin-Bo, usually thanks to the pendant taking Sayori back to her own time in spite of her wishes. In Jin's Bad ending, he beats it to the jump, taking off without even waiting around to get paid.
Hamburger Pattie in the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions to return to her own universe (another cybersoap) to settle things there & when things were settled that universe was sealed off & she could never return.
Used in a more conventional way for the episode "Stark Raving Dad", when Michael Jackson/Leon Kompowsky leaves for places unknown after saying "Well, my work here is finished."
Also parodied in "Marge Vs. The Monorail", after the monorail crisis is resolved:
Leonard Nimoy: Well, my work here is done.
Barney: Whaddaya mean, 'your work is done'? You didn't do anything.
Leonard Nimoy: [Chuckles knowingly] Didn't I? [beams away]
Would Homer's mother leaving to rejoin the underground count? True, she came back, but nobody knew she would for a fair number of years. It was also one of the biggest Tear Jerker moments in the show's history.
In the first episode of Darkwing Duck, after dropping off a couple petty criminals at the police station: "Now I must go: The scent of crime is in the air!"
Parodied in an episode of Recess where Gus goes to his old alter ego of El Diablo the Dodgeball Player in order to win the game for his friends. After he wins, Gus turns around and goes off into the sunset...until one of the kindergarteners reminds him that school wasn't over yet.
George Washington: served two terms as President, then retired. The precedent he established protected the United States from strongman rule for more than a century afterward.
The letter anime director Satoshi Kon wrote when he learned he was dying of cancer ends with the phrase "Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go". The Japanese phrase used has the connotation of someone apologizing for leaving the office before everyone else is ready. This only adds to the Tear Jerker quality of the farewell.
Inverted at many graduation ceremonies. Many a commencement speech can be boiled down to "But now, YOU must go."
Taken to nations range during World War 2 for the Americans. After pouring into Europe and pushing the Nazis all the way back to Germany, most American soldiers only stuck arround long enough for the fires and shooting to stop before redeploying to the Asian theater of the war, where they did it again after Japan was nuked twice and left only a token force while the rest went home.