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Graduate from the Story

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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.

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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. Usually, everyone graduates, since it'd otherwise ruin the atmosphere is someone was held back. Can often overlap with "Last Day of School" Plot, which usually builds up to the graduation. See also Senior Year Struggles. Also compare Moving Away Ending, which ends with a character moving away - this trope may overlap if the reason for moving involves heading to the next stage of school after graduation.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The finale of Angel Beats! has the characters "graduating" the school. In actuality, they leave the afterlife to be reincarnated.
  • In Asteroid in Love, Mikage, Mari and Misa graduate from high school in the thirtieth chapter / ninth episode. While Mikage and Mari still occationally help with the Earth Sciences Club, the three are effectively Commuting on a Bus.
  • Azumanga Daioh concludes with the girls having graduated from high school 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.
  • The final volume has Satoshi, Marika, and Akane from Bokura no Hentai in their final year of middle school. However, instead of ending with them becoming high schoolers, chapter 41 skips ahead five years to them graduating high school.
  • Free! Eternal Summer ended with Rin, Makoto, and Haruka graduating high school and their swim clubs getting new members.
  • Fruits Basket ends after Tohru, Yuki, Kyo and their friends have graduated from high school and are preparing to go their separate ways, though there's also a Distant Finale that shows Tohru and Kyo in their old age, still as in love as ever.
  • High School Debut ends its primary story with Yoh (the male romantic lead) graduating from high school. There is a coda about a year later, after Haruna (the female lead) graduates and joins him at college.
  • Jewelpet ends like this in its second, third and fifth seasons.
  • Chapter 202 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War centers around the third year students graduating. Interestingly, Gigako only becomes significant to the plot after she's already graduated, when before then she was little more than a Recurring Extra. Tsubame, who had been a major secondary character up to that point, also continues to be brought up by the cast despite having gone off to college.
  • K-On! ends with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi graduating from high school, though there are two bonus episodes that follow to allow the audience a little more time with the cast.
  • Magu-chan: God of Destruction starts when Ruru and her friends are in their second year of middle school. Time passes approximately in real time, and they graduate in the chapter before the Distant Finale. The bonus chapter about Ren shows them in high school.
  • Inverted by Mobile Suit Gundam Age: The second part of the Generational Saga officially kicks-off once The Hero discovers that his best friend is an enemy spy during their high school graduation.
  • Monkey High! ends with the main characters going off to celebrate after graduation and finding out that Macharu got into his university of choice.
  • In My-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.
  • My Love Story!!: The manga ends with Takeo, Rinko and Suna graduating from high school.
  • 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.
  • The anime of School-Live! ends with the characters "graduating" from high school. It's an informal graduation because they're living at school during a Zombie Apocalypse. The reason they left the school was because the zombies accidentally set the school on fire and it was inhabitable. The anime ends with them riding off in a car. In the manga this is subverted, as the story continues with them eventually settling down with college-aged survivors at another school and then moving on from that.
  • Wandering Son ends with Nitori graduating high school and going off to college.
  • The second season of Yuki Yuna is a Hero ends with the oldest Hero, Fu, graduating middle school.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Subverted by the Harry Potter books: It's a school-based series, with one book for each year at Hogwarts, so 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.
  • Averted in Super Powereds, where the graduation isn't even shown (and Nick and Mary don't even graduate the HCP; they do, however, get other degrees at Lander). Instead, after the major story arc is resolved, we're propelled straight into the Distant Finale a decade later. We learn that most of the former students still meet up for big social events like birthdays, even though the life of a Hero doesn't leave one much room for leisure, plus Alice also runs her father's company and Nick is a US Senator. Many have married and had kids: Alice and Nick are expecting their second child, Vince and Camille have a kid, as do Globe and Clarissa (giving Vince a baby sister), Alex has a daughter named Leia (his wife isn't shown though), and Hershel and Mary are trying for a baby. Thomas and Violet are still unmarried and deny that they're an item, even though they live together and are frequently seen fighting together as Heroes.
  • The final The Babysitters Club, Babysitters Club: Friends Forever - Graduation Day, ends with the main girls finally graduating Stoneybrook Middle School after over fifteen years and 200 books.
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    Live Action TV 
  • The various Saved By The Bell Meets [X] shows played with this trope - Hang Time and Saved by the Bell: The New Class subverted this due to Revolving Door Casting meaning several characters were written out with this an excuse, City Guys on the other hand played it straight.
    • 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 the spinoff series Angel and one leaves shortly after, but none leave specifically because they graduated.
  • The original Gilmore Girls ended on Rory's graduation from Yale, after she accepts a gig to cover then-senator Barack Obama's campaign trail.
  • 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 (exacerbated by Comic-Book Time) 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, which it makes the Kamen Rider Club worry, since 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.
  • Played with in Community. Season 4 ends with Jeff and Pierce graduating from Greendale. Season 5 begins with Jeff returning to Greendale as a teacher, but Pierce never physically returns.
  • Happened in the Season 4 finale of One Tree Hill. The show was re tooled starting Season 5 with the main characters as adults following a four and a half year Time Skip.
  • The final episode of Kindergarten is "Movin' Up". The kids graduate from kindergarten and spend their last day as a class together.
  • Riverdale: Season 4 had the characters going off to college, then the show was retooled with a time skip in Season 5 that had them all as post-college adults.
  • Desperate Housewives:
    • Having been a major character throughout Seasons 1 to 4, Season 4 had Susan's daughter Julie go off to Princeton and only appear in one episode of Season 5, which was set five years later. She drops out of med school before Season 6 and comes back on a more permanent basis for that season, before graduating from the story again at the end of Season 6 by going back to med school. She's then absent for all of Season 7 except one episode, and comes back late in Season 8 having finished school to help Susan after Mike's death.
    • Danielle graduates more permanently; she leaves the story to go to Columbia at the end of Season 4 and then only appears in two episodes of Season 5, to show her taking Benjamin back from Bree, and then not at all until one episode of Season 8.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This becomes the premise of WWE NXT once they dropped the competition format. The brand functions as WWE's farm league for wrestlers until they are ready or/and honed enough to be called up into the main roster.note 

    Video Games 
  • DanceDanceRevolution has the song "Graduation (Sorezore no Ashita)", which is about someone who has just graduated and feels nostalgic of all the things she likes at school, but nevertheless is determined to continue to step forward for an uncertain future while treasuring all the good memories.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • The first act of Final Fantasy VIII concludes with Squall, Zell, and Selphie graduating to become full-fledged members of the elite mercenary group SeeD.
  • The end of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II has all of Class VII graduate except for The Hero so that they can pursue their own goals while Rean ends up staying not because he's dumb but rather because everyone else had to accelerate their studies while Rean is stuck mainly thanks to the Evil Chancellor forcing him to become a Fake Ultimate Hero and made the school his on-site base.
  • The player characters in Lunar: Walking School are Wizarding School students, and the game concludes with them graduating. Well, most of them. One character remains because it turns out he is the local Chosen One.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • The React meta series originally began as Kids React. But due to the series' acclaim and also in order for them to continue working with reactors who are growing up (particularly their Breakout reactor and Series Mascot Lia), they launched Teens React. From there they have launched Elders React (where Adults cast go once they reach 55, though this show was launched first) and Adults React (where Teens cast go once they reach 20).

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Kim Possible. The Grand Finale is even named "Graduation".
  • The original version of Doug ends with them graduating middle school (not counting the Christmas Episode that held back from airing in its usual spot to come out around Christmas).
  • The final episode of Fish Hooks, "The Big Woo", ends with Milo, Bea, Oscar and the gang graduating from Freshwater High.
  • Subverted in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Season 7 premiere "Celestial Advice". Discord's pranking causes Twilight Sparkle to worry that Starlight Glimmer's studies in friendship are going too fast and, after remembering what happened to her with her studies, decides that the best thing to do is to send her to another town to continue her studies. After reassurance from Princess Celestia, she announces Starlight's graduation. However, Starlight is happy to graduate, but she doesn't want to leave, something that makes Twilight happy.
  • 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.
  • The final episode of Sofia the First has Sofia, Amber, James and their friends graduating from Royal Prep.

 
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Forever Royal - Graduation (2)

Sofia and Desmond join the Royal Prep graduation in time and the ceremony goes off without a hitch.

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Main / GraduateFromTheStory

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