Graduate from the Story
Many stories feature a principal cast that is primarily made of children or teenagers, and many such series therefore spend a good amount of time with these characters in school. When these stories end, it's common to send the cast off in a grand fashion by having them graduate from their present school level. As the big day approaches, characters meet to talk about where they're going next, reminisce about the good times together (such finales are often part Clip Show, allowing the audience to relive those moments), or just have one last great bash before they graduate and all (or some) go their separate ways. These are especially poignant when the characters are in High School, as it adds an extra layer of the cast passing into adulthood and really starting their lives on their own. This ending may also be combined with And the Adventure Continues as the group finishes the ceremony and sets off on their last summer together. This is sometimes even reversed: In stories set in a summer camp, the separation is brought about by the beginning of the school year, rather than the end. This is Truth in Television, as many school friendships are broken up (at least partially) as the group's members go to different schools in the new year. Even when friends keep in touch afterward, a good portion of their time together is cut short as they no longer attend the same campus. This combination of shared accomplishment and impending separation usually makes these Bittersweet Endings.
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Anime and Manga
- Azumanga Daioh concludes with the girls having graduated and passed their college entrance exams. During Chiyo's internal monologue, she says even though they'll be soon be going their separate ways, they'll remain in each other's hearts. It ends with a still frame of them heading to the Magical Land amusement park, for old time's sake.
- Jewelpet ends like this in its second, third and fifth seasons.
- K-On!, though there are two bonus episodes that follow to allow the audience a little more time with the cast.
- In Mai-HiME, several members of the cast, including Shizuru, Haruka, Reito and Takeda, graduate from Fuuka Academy in the last episode. Shizuru even jokes about deciding not to graduate so that she can stay behind with Natsuki, who must do make-up work lest she be forced to repeat a year.
- Ojamajo Doremi ended with the characters graduating from elementary school.
- This is the reason why Pretty Cure invokes Comic-Book Time: Yes! Pretty Cure 5 had Komachi and Karen on the verge of graduating and since Yes got a sequel and they wanted to keep the same cast...
- This is subverted by the Harry Potter books, which is notable in light of it being a school-based series, with one book for each year at Hogwarts, and most readers were probably expecting a graduation ending. Instead, in the last book Harry, Ron, and Hermione drop out of school to fight Voldemort. The book ends with the Final Battle, followed by a brief Distant Finale. (According to Word of God, Hermione resumed her education after the Final Battle, but Harry and Ron didn't.)
- The Christopher Pike Final Friends mini-series ends with high school graduation.
Live Action TV
- Averted with The College Years, as the show was cancelled after a season. Conversely, The New Class took the trope to its logical extreme by having Mr. Belding retire as the students graduated.
- Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer despite graduating and blowing up their school on the Hellmouth, the driving force of the story, at the end of the third season no major character has this happen to them. Three end up in a (spinoff series Angel) and one leaves shortly after, but none leave because they graduated.
- Head of the Class
- Big Wolf on Campus ended (save for a finale Clip Show) with the main characters graduating high school. While it seemed like this would break up the gang, Merton decided to switch schools and room with Tommy, and Lori wasn't far away.
- Skins series 2. The third series featured a new cohort, including the former Recurring Character of Tony's little sister Effy.
- The Young Ones ends with the boys receiving their university results - "You have come last out of everyone in the world" - then deciding to abandon the everyday world and hit the road (before crashing over a cliff and dying)
- Even Stevens ended with The Movie, in which Ren graduated middle school and went on to high school, but due to Dawson casting it felt like a high school graduation.
- The Fresh Beat Band ends with the titular quartet finishing music school. They're old enough to have been in college, but in light of a preschool audience, what we actually see is nothing like it.
- The Suite Life series ended this way too.
- Black Hole High's series finale takes place right before and through graduation.
- Happens often in Degrassi. This serves not only to let other characters leave but also to let in new characters (freshmen). Many of the original characters graduated in seasons 6 and 7.
- An odd case concerning Power Rangers. In Power Rangers Zeo, Billy ends up graduating early from high school due to his incredibly high grades. He later leaves the show. The rest of the team graduate fully in the first episode of Power Rangers Turbo, but don't officially move on from the show until halfway through.
- Happens at the end of Glee's third season. Technically eight members graduated from Lima at the end of season 3. However, Rachel, Kurt, and Santana receive a decent chunk of screen time due to the New York narrative, and Finn spent a majority of season 4 hanging around Lima.
- Season 5 mostly inverts it. Of those who graduated, only Tina left the show, as afterwards the show took place entirely in New York.
- Averted in Kamen Rider Fourze. Halfway through, Shun and Miu end up graduating and it makes the Kamen Rider Club worry as they're part of the club and they're kinda needed. However, it turns out the college they're to attend is right near the high school, so there's no worries of the team being separated.
- Another video game example, but with a twist: When you graduate from the Guild in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, it starts the post-game story.
- Same deal with Bully, "graduating" from Bullworth Academy.
- Persona 3 features this in both the good and bad ending, even though the hero and the majority of the team are not graduating that year.
- Persona did it first with its ending. It even gives a nice little Where Are They Now on the party members noting that the Protagonist's future is for us to decide. (Though Persona 2 Eternal Punishment tells part of it was But Now I Must Go.)
- Inverted and played with in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice: a graduation does play an important part in the story, but it happens in the middle of the main plot, enabling Raspberyl, Kyoko and Asuka to become full time Player Characters now that they don't have to worry about maintaining their perfect attendance any longer.
- Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis: Video game example, but yes.
- It also had a subversion with Flay, who had to repeat a year because he basically never took any of his exams. Having several fairly decent skills, most players were thankful for his willingness to stick around for another year.
- Scary Go Round ends with the school-age characters finishing school and going off to university or starting work, and Shelley leaving Tackleford to take a job in London.
- Vampire Cheerleaders: At the start of vol.4, Lori, Zoe, and Leslie have all graduated and are enrolled in college, though they still make brief appearances when Leonard and the others time jump into the distant future. Which was done as a means of writing them out of the story, due how divisive the cheerleaders were.
- Kim Possible. The Grand Finale is even named "Graduation".
- The original version of Doug ends with them graduating middle school. This is ignoring a Christmas Episode that aired nearly six months later and didn't really wrap anything up.
- Well, the Christmas special was made towards the beginning of season four, but they held it off from airing until December (since Doug would usually air new episodes in the fall).
- Daria: Is It College Yet? had Daria, Jane and the rest of their class (except Kevin) get ready for college and graduate at the end. Quinn and her friends are a year younger, of course, so they just get to move on to senior year.
- Recess: School's Out had the kids leave fourth grade in the beginning, as the movie was supposed to be the Grand Finale. The kids are shown in fourth grade in the episodes after that (maybe, since the classroom scenes were gone and Miss Grotke went AWOL, they might have moved up already), only because the show was Un-Canceled. We do see them move up to fifth grade in the 2003 DTV movie Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade.