Simply put, a series ends with the narration of a letter, usually written by or for one of the main characters. This letter will usually serve as a kind of "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, explain what the long term consequences of the events of the story are, and possibly explain things that were happening concurrently with the main plot, but occurred offscreen. In visual media, the letter will usually be narrated by the character who wrote the letter via voice-over.
Any Epistolary Novel will of course end this way, as the whole story is told through letters.
This is an Ending Trope, so consider yourself warned.
- The epilogue in the manga of Chrono Crusade uses a modified version: a video-taped message from Azmaria to Satella, anticipating the day when Satella would be unfrozen from crystal. It's used as a framing device for a flashback that covers what happened to most of the characters in the months leading up to Rosette's death, then jumps back to the "present" to show what happens to Satella and the others still living at that point.
- The end of the Hatamoto family arc of Detective Conan involves the woman getting married sending a letter to Conan, Ran and Ran's father about the aftermath of the murders.
- The epilogue in Fullmetal Alchemist is a letter exchange between Winry and Sheska.
- At the end of Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka discovers a letter in her drawer from Tamahome. The letter was actually written when Keisuke asked Tamahome to return to the other world, and the latter complies as long as he can write a letter. Miaka only got to read it after everything went back to normal, but given that everyone did go back to the other world after the battle with Nakago, it still fits.
- The final Sound Stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers uses the framing device of Fate composing an email to Subaru to describe events after the end of the season.
- Subverted in Gundam Wing. Relena gets a letter from Heero, reads it, but then gets his attention and tears it in half, saying "Next time tell me in person", book-ending his ripping up her birthday party invite in the first episode. The anime never reveals what it said, but the novelization of the series and the Radio Drama/manga Blind Target offer suggestions: In the novel it's a goodbye letter, saying he's going to Mars to help with the Terraforming project, which was the originally scripted ending for the anime; in Blind Target it's simply "Happy Birthday".
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has narration of a letter Marina wrote to Setsuna, hoping that he finds happiness at the end of his battles, which is set over his final duel with the Big Bad Ribbons Almark.
- The Gundam Build Fighters DVD ended with a two minute short which has China narrating a letter to her little brother Yuuma after a six-year Time Skip.
- Jewelpet Happiness ends a lot of episodes with a stinger showing a Jewelpet writing a letter concerning the Magic Gem they found during the episode.
- Mai-HiME ends with Mai reading a letter from Takumi and Akira.
- Porco Rosso ends with a letter from Fio written long after the events of the film relating what has happened to the characters over the intervening years.
- From the When They Cry franchise: "By the time you have read this, I will probably be dead. Although there may or may not be a body. You who have read this, please find the truth. That is my only wish."
- The Zatch Bell! manga ends with this.
- The Breakfast Club
- Holding the Man ends with Tim narrating a letter to his deceased lover John, telling about his trip to Italy as a private pilgrimage and how much he missed him.
- Jane Campion's Holy Smoke ends with a narrating letter from the deprogrammer to the patient with whom he had a highly improper fling.
- 8mm trips at the last second by ending with an Anvilicious letter from the snuff film victim's mother.
- The ending of Taxi Driver had Travis reading a letter from Iris' father. Certain viewers however, insist that the letter was in Travis' own handwriting.
- Righteous Kill starts and ends with a letter.
- Deliberately subverted in Red Dragon.
- The Jacket has the protagonist narrating a letter toward the end.
- There are two in Loving Vincent. Not only do the Roulins get to read the letter that Armand delivered, but Theo's widow also gifts Armand an extra letter from Vincent.
- The Ox-Bow Incident ends with the protagonist reading a letter written by one of the victims of the lynching, which does a very nice job of bringing home the Central Theme of the movie.
- The last scene of Captain America: Civil War has Steve Rogers voicing out his reconciliation letter to Tony Stark, while we are shown scenes of all major characters in their present circumstances.
- In Donnie Darko, we hear the titular character narrate his letter to Roberta Sparrow right before committing his Suicide for Others' Happiness in the final act.
- In Maze Runner: The Death Cure's epilogue, Thomas reads Newt's farewell letter hidden inside a container the latter gave him earlier.
This is the first letter I can remember writing. Obviously I don't know if I wrote any before the Maze, but, even if it's not my first, it's likely to be my last.
I want you to know that I'm not scared. Well, not of dying, anyway Its more forgetting. Losing myself to this virus, thats what scares me.
So every night I've been saying their names out loud. Alby, Winston, Chuck, I just repeat them. Over and over, like a prayer. And it all comes flooding back. Just the little things, like where the sun used to hit the Glade at that perfect moment right before it slid beneath the walls. And I remember the taste of Frypan's stew. I'd never thought I'd miss that stuff so much.
And I remember you. I remember the first time you came up in the box. Just a scared little Greenie who couldn't even remember his own name. And from that moment you ran into the maze, I knew I would follow you anywhere. And I have. We all have.
If I could do it all over again, I would. And I wouldn't change a thing.
My hope for you is when you're looking back years from now, you'll be able to say the same. The future's in your hands now, Tommy. And I know you'll find a way to do what's right. You always have. Take care of everyone for me. And take care of yourself. You deserve to be happy. Thank you for being my friend. Goodbye, mate.
- Incendies: The film ends with the twins reading their mother's promised final letter, after learning the Awful Truth about their family.
- The Scar ends with the content of Bellis' letter which she has been writing throughout the book.
- Dracula ends this way, but it is a Scrapbook Story.
- Shardik ends with a letter by an entirely new character coming upon the scene after the action is all over.
- Several Agatha Christie novels end with a letter, usually from the killer explaining events from his/her perspective:
- And Then There Were None ends with a Message in a Bottle revealing the true identity and nature of the killer and just how exactly the killer managed to pull it off.
- Curtain ends with one from Poirot to Hastings.
- Why Didn't They Ask Evans? ends with the one member of the criminal conspiracy who escaped sending a letter to Frankie.
- Lord Edgware Dies ends with a letter to Poirot from the killer.
- Hourglass Door ends with Abby reading a letter from Dante( after he has pulled off a heroic sacrifice) where he tells her she made the right choice, and that he loves her.
- Dragon Slippers ends with Luka giving Creel a letter, containing a clue that Shardas may still be alive. they run out the door together.
- Gerald's Game by Stephen King ends with Jessie writing a letter to a friend about her hospital stay.
- Rage and Carrie by the same author also end with letters.
- The Final Problem features a short note Sherlock Holmes writes to Watson prior to his final battle with Moriarty.
- The final book in Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants suite ends with one of Karl Oskar's neighbours writing to his relatives in Sweden to tell them that Karl Oskar has passed away. The last book is aptly titled The Last Letter Home.
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge ends with a desperate message begging for any response after a cataclysmic surge of the slowzone ends up cutting a substantial portion of the beyond and the transcend off from access to the Known Net, disrupting communications throughout the galaxy.
- Every RedWall book ends like this.
- In Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling, the framing narrative concludes with a letter to Martha from Ivy, delivered to Martha in the grove by Josie. Fans of the book can probably recite the letter by heart.
- In the epilogue of The Bridges of Madison County, Francesca receives a letter from Robert telling her about his life and death and how he has loved her all the while.
- Final Fantasy:
- The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue of Final Fantasy IX is described in a letter from an unspecified sender, presumed to be Vivi. He has presumably died in the meantime, but he's 100% absent one way or another.
- Final Fantasy XII ends with Penelo narrating a letter to Larsa.
- Final Fantasy V ends with a letter by one of the surviving cast members (Krile by default), depending on which party members were KOed at the end of the final battle.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door ends with Goombella e-mailing Mario to tell him what everyone's been doing since Mario last saw them.
- StarCraft: Brood War ends with Gerard Dugalle sending an email to his wife, describing his inability to tame the Zerg or conquer the Terran Dominion, and confessing that he was responsible for the death of his best friend Alexei Stukov.
- The Good Ending of Disgaea 2 has Hanako writing back to her family after leaving for greener pastures in another Netherworld.
- Penumbra: Black Plague exhibits a rather obvious example of this, with the ending being when Phillip e-mails an unknown friend asking him to destroy all of the Tuurngait parasites.
- The normal endings of Silent Hill 2 (Leave, Maria, and In Water) end with Mary's real letter to James.
- Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies has this as its entire Framing Device, a set of letters written to the player charicter Mobius One by a man who was a kid at the time of the war. He is writing to you to reassure you that Yellow 13 did not begrudge you killing him by shooting him down over Farbanti, as well as to tell you his story so that you know his understanding of the man you killed, and whose love interest you killed before that, is accurate. He concludes in a heart-breaking manner, basically stating, "Yellow 13 died happy." You never learn Yellow 13's or the narrator's names either.
- In Princess Maker 2, when you've successfully raised your daughter until she's eighteen and leaves the house, the game ends with the player character receiving a letter from her a few years later in which she nostalgically looks back at the time when you raised her as a child. Her thoughts on it depend on how you've raised her, which makes for some decent replay value.
- Freespace 2 ends with a letter from the Admiral in charge of the fleet you've been serving in, with variations based upon whether the player survived the final battle or not.
- Azrael's Tear ends with a letter or journal entry from the brother of one of the main characters, describing what happened after the protagonist left Aeternis with the Grail.
- The ending of Red Vs Blue: Reconstruction finishes with a final letter to the Chairman of the Oversight Committee from the Director of Project Freelancer signed, Leonard Church
- Of course, every episode of Reconstruction, including the finale, starts with a message either from the Director to the Chairman or vice versa.