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Because nothing sucks worse than feeling alone, no matter how many people are around.
Something has happened to The Hero. A shocking revelation, new information brought to light, revealing his best friend is a traitor or that nothing he did changed anything or maybe he can finally see the world the way it is. Or perhaps it's something even simpler, perhaps he just simply loses his idealism and plunges into a contemplation of existential meaninglessness. He doesn't go into a Heroic BSOD, he just simply stands there, as a crowd of people moves around him (sometimes in fast-forward, even further isolating him). He's simply Alone in a Crowd. Sometimes known as "calm in a chaotic world" if the crowd moves in fast-forward.
If you are looking for the webcomic by Thomas D. Szewc, go here.
Anime and Manga
- The new manga of The Movie of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha explores this. Titular character is loved, has a family, has friends; she smiles for all of them...but something's....wrong.
- In the first season, Yuuno talks about how he grew up without parents, being raising communally by his clan. In the drama CDs, he mentions the Scyra family tent, which was often full of a lively, bustling crowd of people, and how comforting he finds such an atmosphere. He tells Nanoha that he's always been alone in the crowd, but he appreciates what they did for him, and he's happy to bear the name "Scrya".
- 95% of the opening theme of Monster is Tenma doing this.
- In Monster Rancher, Genki has a nightmare about this early on, dreaming about being dumped back in the boring real world without Holly, Mocchi, and all the friends he made in the monster world. This turns out to be Foreshadowing for his actual return at the end of the second season, which is jarringly traumatic.
- In the first episode of Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer, Misaki watches a match between two "Angels", although she didn't know what they were at that time. When it looked like the smaller of the competitors (Athena) was about to lose, she undergoes this state, thinking how people of her own stature could never go far, but breaks from it when Athena wins the battle.
- The ending of the theatrical version of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz shows Heero in this shot.
- The central theme of 1928 silent classic The Crowd, in which the protagonist discovers how indifferent The Crowd is when his life falls apart.
- In Accepted, this happens to Bartleby Gaines. He is visiting Harmon College to get an idea of how college works. He quickly becomes jaded by the students, who are either apathetic or stressed out. He freezes in the middle of the frame as a speeded-up crowd rushes around him.
- Tony Stark when he finds out Obadiah Stane betrayed him.
- Bruce Willis does it in Unbreakable—slight variation in that he's deliberately expecting people to bump into him in order to trigger his newly discovered Detect Evil power.
- John Preston in Equilibrium. Probably many of the sense offenders as well, but the movie doesn't focus on them.
- In the Ian McKellen film version of Richard III, before the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech Richard moves through a party but stays isolated from the celebrating nobles.
- The opening sequence of the remake of Bedazzled.
- In Titanic, right before Rose attempts suicide, she's sitting at the table in the lobby, narrating, but her body doesn't move. This is less to do with a shocking revelation, and more to do with her feeling that if she screamed, no one would hear, or even care.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, during the Sanity Slippage Song "Epiphany". He's just lost the chance to slit the throat of the man who ruined his life and is running through the streets in a rage, singing and brandishing his straight razors. Nobody takes any notice, and it's eventually revealed to be an Imagine Spot, more relevant to how he feels than to the actual state of reality.
- The protagonist in The Tiger Makes Out, a disgruntled postal worker who sees himself as an intellectual in a world of sheep, walks the streets of New York angrily talking to himself while people stream around him at double speed (done by speeding up footage of him walking at half-speed.)
- Taxi Driver - "Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, and cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm god's lonely man."
- Conan the Barbarian - In Robert E. Howard's Beyond the Black River, the presence of Conan does not keep Balthus from feeling alone in the wilderness, because Conan is native to the wild. Unusual in that Conan is the only person there, but he actively reflects on how the other person does not keep him from feeling alone.
- In A Game of Thrones, Tyrion's isolation because of his dwarfism is emphasized as he walks through his father's war camp:
The Lannister camp sprawled for miles between the river and the kingsroad. In amongst the men and the horses and the trees, it was easy to get lost, and Tyrion did. He passed a dozen great pavilions and a hundred cookfires [...] No one looked at him. No one spoke to him. No one paid him any mind. He was surrounded by men sworn to House Lannister, a vast host twenty thousand strong, and yet he was alone.
- In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion Menelaus goes to a ball after Blackie rouses him, and he feels this.
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles had felt always lonely in the orphanage, and not lonely in the solitude of Limberlost swamp.
- The Shokojo Sera episode "A Sad Farewell" is a good example - after leaving the Seminary, Sara walks around the streets of London in a daze.
- In the first episode of Scrubs, J.D. struggles to cope with his first day as a doctor, rubbing his temples while blurred, fast-motion people swarm around him. Happens again in "My TCW", J.D. wanders despondently down a hallway surrounded by busy hospital staff as he narrates how it's important to hold on to the relationships you have and laments how awful it feels to be alone - and providing the page quote.
- In the pilot of Veronica Mars, Veronica sits at the lunch table, reading a book, as the entire student body moves around her in fast-forward. This isn't exactly the same, however, as Veronica has already been jaded by the death of her best friend, disgrace of her father, and her own date-rape, she has simply accepted her status as a loner. And then the new kid sits down beside her...
- In the Firefly episode "Safe," River is in the middle of a big folk dance when she senses Book getting shot, followed by her brother being kidnapped. As a result, she collapses in the middle of the dancers and is knocked about violently.
- In the NCIS season 7 premiere, after Tony believes that Ziva is dead, he is shown at his desk just sitting there in shock, the rest of the world whirling at a fast pace around him.
- Happens in the AMC series Rubicon, in the first episode. The protagonist is in a diner and sees on the TV that the train his father-in-law was on was involved in a deadly crash. He then walks out onto the street in a daze, amidst a crowd of people.
- Doctor Who, during the "End Of The World" episode, has the Ninth Doctor return to modern-day Earth and stand in a crowd of bustling city folk, lamenting the destruction of Gallifrey at the end of the Time War. Averted in that The Doctor is not alone: Rose is right there to comfort him.
- Korean Series use this camera shot alot, especially two people standing a distance apart, unmoving while crowds of people walk by.
- The City Hunter: Na Na and Yoon Sung with their backs to each other in a crowded plaza.
- Pasta: The Official Couple are standing in the middle of a crosswalk after the light turns green for the cars.
- Twinkle Twinkle: Jung Won and Seung Joon meet at a busy movie theater.
- You Are Beautiful: Mi Nam and Shin Wo just miss each other in a crowded marketplace, even though they are standing mere meters apart.
- The cover for Avril Lavigne's album "Let Go."
- I Live in Silence by Fireaxe
- Home by Michael Buble is a combo with this and the world weary traveler.
- The "fast-foward" variation is used in Linkin Park's video for "Numb".
- In Vanities: The Musical, after losing her boyfriend, Kathy describes herself in this situation in the song Cute Boys with Short Haircuts.
- Summed up in Spamalot with the song "I'm All Alone".
- The World Ends With You - Despite the Reaper's Game taking place in the oh-so-crowded district of Shibuya, the players of the game are literally alone in the crowd—non-players can't see them, hear them, and definitely can't help them.
- The Good Ending of In Famous has it to where Cole after his best friend Zeke betrayed him, his girlfriend was murdered, and it turned out that this was all orchestrated by himself from the future, he states how he couldn't feel more alone.
- This Misfile Filler Strip spells it out.
- In Fated Feather, in the seventh chapter, Laryk stands silently while Hawke fights Kaanis and the others watch because Hawke had just cast her out of the crew.
- Iris, during the prologue of Shadownova.
- Katherine of Wapsi Square seems to feel like this.
"It's scary out there. And you're all alone. Even with all those people. Especially with all those people."
- Due to a Heroic BSOD after watching Baby Geniuses, The Nostalgia Critic forces himself to go out of his hotel room but is still completely lost and broken even with all the con-goers around.
- A truly heartbreaking version happenes in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return Of Harmony Part 2". Discord has broken Twilight completely and sent her over the Despair Event Horizon by turning her friends against her by breaking and brainwashing them. He then one ups this by driving all of Equestria insane except Twilight. We see her walking dejctedly through town, surrounded by the citizens of Ponyville she's spent the entire last season with, but unable to turn to a single one for help because of Discord's actions, not even her True Companions.
- Andrew Stanton stated that in WALL-E a major theme was the contrast between WALL-E's isolation in the first part of the film to the presence of this trope on board the axiom.
- Sometimes people with depression or another milder mental illness can look at a huge group of people and say "I'm not one of them", because they truly feel like they don't belong.
- Scratch that, make that anyone who's ever been lonely.
- In other words, everyone.
- Scratch that, make that anyone who's ever been lonely.
- This photo of UK Labour Party Leader and prime ministerial candidate: