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Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea, comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are in evil.—Gandalf the White, The Lord of the Rings
A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is pulled together on emergency to accomplish some grand goal. They succeed. And then realize that they are not exactly held together by much anymore, and the team falls apart, with each member now free to pursue their personal endeavors.
If this happens during the Time Skip between two installments of a series, it can become rather uncomfortable for the fans, who must suddenly start seeing The Protagonist's former siblings-in-arms, to whom they've become attached, as semi-strangers again. In Real Life, groups of people grow close to each other and part ways again all the time, but this is always a gradual, continuous process, while in fiction, it is often fast-forwarded to save narrative space, coming across as abrupt and forcing the fandom to adjust on the fly.
If the team falls apart because the single member who held them together is gone, it's We Were Your Team instead. If the sequel rolls along, this may be followed by Putting the Band Back Together (to which this is a counter-trope of sorts). Compare Let's Split Up, Gang! and Breaking the Fellowship, which are temporary split-ups, either on purpose or because of external circumstances.
Anime & Manga
- Riot Force 6 in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, which unites pretty much every top combat mage in the TSAB, is disbanded after the JS Incident is taken care of and the rookies' training is complete. This is followed by Putting the Band Back Together under the name "Special Duty Section 6" in Nanoha Force.
- While not really a specific team or organization, this is how the cast of Dragon Ball treat each other. In between story arcs, they don't visit each other at all. Even when several years pass, they don't even drop in to say "hi" until the next tournament starts or the next baddie shows up.
- Heck, they don't even seem to write or call, as no one knew Goku and ChiChi had a 4 year old son until the beginning of the Saiyan Saga.
- Samurai Champloo ends with Fuu, Mugen, and Jin going their separate ways.
- The original crew of the White Base from Mobile Suit Gundam disbands after the war and moves on with their lives, with most of them never returning to active duty again.
- In the end of The Slayers Try Lina and Goury and the only ones who stay together.
- At the end of Rurouni Kenshin most of the characters leave Tokyo to go on with their lives. Misao and Aoshi return to Kyoto. Sanosuke is forced to flee from Japan and become The Drifter. Megumi leaves to search for her family and only characters remaining are Kenshin, Kaoru and Yahiko.
- A example that seems strange in its simplicity is Daitarn 3: In the final chapter, After The Hero Banjō defeats the enemy on Mars, the next scene is at his Mansion: Action Girl Reika Sanjo and Tagalong Kid Toppo say goodbye to Battle Butler Garrison and Spoiled Sweet Beautiful "Beauty" Tachibana, who takes her limo to her parent’s mansion. Garrison closes the mansion and takes the bus to an unknown destiny. There is only a light in one solitary window at Banjo’s mansion. The End.
- Years passed between Dragon Ball and Dragonball Z. Goku hadn't seen his friends in all that time and they were surprised to see he had a four year old son.
- The Trope Namer, of course, is Lord of the Rings. While physically separated for much of the actual story, the Fellowship breaks apart after the Ring is destroyed and the members go about the rest of their lives. Aragorn rules Gondor as King Elessar with Arwen as his wife, Faramir and Eowyn get hitched in Rohan, Legolas and Gimli go Walking the Earth, the four Hobbits return to and take back the Shire from Saruman and Grima Wormtongue, and then Frodo and Bilbo leave with Gandalf, Gimli and the Elves for the Undying Lands.
- After the whole Queen-and-Buckingham incident in The Three Musketeers is resolved, the eponymous heroes and D'Artagnan each go their own way (but come back together in the sequels).
- In the Dark Tower series, after Eddie's death, the ka-tet, and the closeness inherent in it is broken. The remaining members of the group still pursue their quest, but it's not the same.
- Stephen King: after the seven children have successfully defeated It for the first time, all seven of them never meet again -- not even when they relive history 28 years later.
- The end of The Belgariad. Some of the team got back together for the Malloreon, and did it again at the end of that series.
- The Animorphs provide a particular bittersweet example in the last book, considering that what's left of the team in question is only sixteen years old when they all end up drifting apart. K.A. Applegate stated she deliberately used this trope for two reasons. The first was to show that war can bring people together, then make them split afterward. The other was that to subvert the usual happy ending teenage heroes get where they suffer no consequences from their actions.
Live Action TV
- Band of Brothers ends with a narration of how the surviving soldiers went home and led separate lives. A few stayed in touch but most only met up again at reunions.
- Done visually in Spiritual Successor The Pacific, as Sledgehammer's friends all depart the train to Mobile at various stops along the way. Most heartbreaking is Snafu, when you later learn that he didn't speak to any of his war buddies for nearly forty years.
- The Freaks of Freaks and Geeks have all joined a new group by the end of the series. Lindsay and Kim are following the Grateful Dead, Daniel has joined the Geeks, and Nick has started dancing disco, leaving only Ken.
- Bionicle: after defeating the Bahrag and the Bohrok swarms, the Toa Nuva decide to split off and defend their own regions. Considering this is a franchise that promotes the power of teamwork, it doesn't last long.
- In the end of Dragon Age: Origins, all surviving party members leave to pursue their own business, with the possible exception of the Warden's love interests and Morrigan, who leaves even before that.
- The most you get is making Alistair king and staying in Denerim, where Wynne remains as an advisor and Leliana has business with the Grand Cleric.
- Happens again after Dragon Age II. Varric tells Cassandra that Hawke's party drifted apart for various reasons, again with the exception of the love interest. It's vaguely implied that the fact this happened to both protagonists (neither of whom have been seen since) is not a coincidence.
- Ditto with any (surviving) party members from the first Knights of the Old Republic. T3-M4 stayed with the ship, HK-47 is found in pieces, Canderous fools absolutely no one who played the first game even though he's under a helmet and has taken the name/title of Mandalore, Carth is an Admiral patrolling the Telos sector if you say Revan was light-sided. Bastila is hiding with Carth if you say Revan was light-side male, has vanished into the unknown in search of Revan if you say Revan was dark-sided (either gender), or conspicuously absent. The fates of Mission, Zaalbar, Jolee, and Juhani is "unknown" mostly because a Dark-sided Revan would have to kill them. Kreia's final speech to the player character also states this will be the case for the second game's crew.
- Provided you trained them in the ways of the Force, the Exile's companions become the Jedi masters that rebuild the order.
- The end of Vandal Hearts combines this with a Where Are They Now? Epilogue. After you defeat the Big Bad, each character moves on to something new, whether it's more adventuring the land, rebuilding the nation or collecting stamps.
- Happens in several endings of Chrono Trigger. Since most of the characters come from different time periods, this is only natural.
- Seems to happen somewhere between Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
- Grandia II ends with a Where Are They Now? Epilogue to drive the point home. Roan now rules Cyrum Kingdom and occasionally goes out to travel incognito. Tio works as a nurse, also in Cyrum. Millenia, now separate from Elena, is a grade school teacher in Lilique City (where Tongue of Valmar used to be) and faithfully waits for Ryudo's return. Skye lives with her. Mareg has been dead since the battle on Valmar's Moon; Roan places Tio's pendant upon the monument erected in his village. Elena joined a performer troupe and tours as a singer, likewise waiting for Ryudo, who is currently Walking the Earth, looking for a safe place to bury the Granasaber and finally end the Granas-Valmar war.
- At the end of Tales of Symphonia, all of the player characters separate in order to focus on rebuilding the new world in their own way.
- Similarly, midway through Tales of the Abyss, the world appears to be saved, so every party member parts ways. After it becomes apparent that their work was unfinished, so your party ends up rejoining.
- Most Tales game usually ends with the party members going their own way after finishing the journey, though most of the time they still keep in touch somehow. Tales of Innocence and Tales of Xillia are such example.
- The epilogue of Legend of Dragoon has this with only two of the final party members sticking together. Obviously justified in that most of them had non-quest-related business to get back to, including running two countries and rebuilding the Doomed Hometown.
- Happens at the end of every Fire Emblem game, usually shown in the form of a Where Are They Now? Epilogue, but the ones in the eight and ninth games stand out, as every character personally says what they intend to do now before venturing off.
- Happens in the beginning of Mass Effect 2, with an appropriate justification: The Normandy is curb-stomped by the Collectors and Shepard is killed in action. And then again between 2 and 3, while Shepard is being held planetside because of the events of the Arrival DLC mission.
- The Order of the Scribble from Order of the Stick's back-story fell apart after securing the rifts to the Snarl's prison. It doesn't help that tensions had been strong the entire journey, and one of their number had died in the final battle. You Should Have Died Instead ended up being a huge reason this trope happened.
- Eight Bit Theater's epilogue shows that this has happened to the protagonists- Thief went back to Elfland, Red Mage tried to start up his own group (of people who are the last surviving members of an order), and Fighter and Black Mage are still Walking the Earth looking for work.
- World War II. The allies were united against a common Obviously Evil villain, the Nazis. When the Nazis were defeated, each of them pursued their own interests and sometimes turned on each other during the Cold War. Shows that sometimes a great evil is necessary to make the good guys act good.
- They never really broke apart, though; instead they went from The Alliance to The Federation (the United Nations). Which did little to stop them from plotting against and threatening each other with Bigger Sticks.
- It was as much a case of Enemy Mine as anything else.
- The battle lines shifted rather significantly between World War I and World War II as well.
- Chris Hedges (and others cited in his work) have written that soldiers in combat form an intense bond, but once the war ends they go back to being strangers.
- It's called going off to college. Depending on where you live, it may happen several other times before then.
- Graduating from college as well.
- ↑ That is his status as the last Red Mage, not the last Light Warrior