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Nightmare Fuel / Serial Experiments Lain

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It sees you wired.

A classic late '90s anime with beautiful animation best described as "creepy, cool, seinen, and cyberpunk". It's pretty much one of the most confusing anime out there. That and it can be very scary at times, as the following examples can attest.

  • The repeated use of the establishing shots of a traffic crossing, street lights shot in poor focus, and power lines humming in each episode somehow becomes scarier with each viewing.
  • There's also the short voiceover to start every episode: *Static* "Present day... heh heh heh... PRESENT TIME... HA HA HA HA HA-" *static*
    • You're welcome.
    • And then there's the "Whisper" synthesized voice that's used to say the layer titles at the beginning of each episode...
    • Especially when it starts forming recognisable words.
  • Particularly disturbing is the alien (shown above, inexplicably clad in a green and red striped sweater) who spied on Lain, and then grinned at her.
    • What made it scarier was the fact that it just suddenly appeared at her doorway out of nowhere before disappearing.
      • Also, some of the conversations Lain overhears on the Wired imply that this... thing has been appearing in the bedrooms of several people.
    • Then Lain has its body. Or it has her head.
  • ... Not to mention Masami Eiri turning into a grotesque gooey fleshy monstrosity that uses its giant tongue to try to eat Lain and Arisu/Alice in the final episode.
  • Not just by what happens in the episodes, but also think of the psychological horrors about the Wired (the equivalent to our Internet)...?
    • And the part where Mika's all alone on the street and surrounded by dark blob things.
    • And in the restaurant bathroom, when the lights suddenly go off and the stall door right behind her slowly creaks open...
    • Serial Experiments Lain has a special connection to preteens in another way—the director also directed Digimon Tamers. Unsurprisingly, that season is host to some of the most screwed up stuff that's ever been connected to the franchise.
  • The train scene in Episode 1. After inexplicably teleporting to several places (or perhaps not) Lain suddenly appears in front of a railroad, where a girl stands in the mist in the path of the oncoming train. The strange, dreamlike feel of the scene is eerie enough... but then we get a look at the girl's face. Her facial expression distorts from a odd combination of Slasher Smile and Psychotic Smirk to terrified/sad to just HOLES and repeats once more.
    • I always took the girl's expression in the train scene to be a flickering mix of joyful, childish laughter, a scream of horror as she realizes she's about to be hit by the train, and HOLES. The fact that all three of the expressions looked like they were on her face at pretty much the same time made that the most horrifying scene in the series for me.
      • Also, it's like they threw in some good old-fashioned Uncanny Valley in there to taste. The face is disturbingly realistic.
    • Episode 2. As Lain's walking to school she catches sight of a guy just kind of standing off to the side of the road behind a telephone pole. Lain initially tries to ignore him and just keeps walking, but she stops at one point and realizes that he's staring at her and not blinking. This gives Lain enough incentive to run the rest of the way to school.
      • Later, after class, Lain is walking down a deserted school hallway when she stops and notices a figure enshrouded in shadows peering out at her from a doorway, and then paper-thin, rainbow silhouettes suddenly phase through the school walls and move by her. The shadowy figure slides close to Lain, and we once again get a close-up of the disturbing, distorted face of the girl that we last saw at the railroad back in episode 1. The unusual being seems to slide right through Lain, leaving her alone in the hallway, hunched over and quaking in silent terror.
      • Here's a minor one from that episode: a brief text conversation. (It's also a little narmy, but...)
        "What's dying like?"
        "It really hurts! :)"
    • Episode 4. Don't tell me that little girl bearing down on the boy playing PHANTOMa isn't terrifying. It quickly turns into a different kind of horror when you realize what really just happened when he shot the "monster"...
  • I cannot decide what is the most freaky thing between having almost been shot by a guy who killed two people, said it was all your fault, and then killed himself (all right in front of you); coming back home afterwards in the middle of the night to find that absolutely nobody's home and the beds are all made; or how Lain. Doesn't. React. At all. And just changes into her teddy bear pj's and goes to sleep.
  • The first meeting with evil Lain.
  • The deaths of all the Knights in episode 10. The worst was that little boy calling out to his mother, ignorant of the fact that she had been dead for some time.
  • Lain's parents sitting motionless at a table, staring vacantly ahead. Lain asking if she's really Lain. No response whatsoever. Looks away. Looks back. Both parents now staring directly at her, equally motionless.
  • The shadows in a lot of the external shots of the show are... unnerving. They are accurate cast shadows, dead black, with... large splotches of red floating through them. The fact that they are usually imposed on bright white backgrounds, so you can't help but see them, doesn't make it any better...
  • The sequence with the static-skinned people... with only one facial or bodily feature for each person - the rest of their bodies are just empty. Going back further, the lines of headless, kneeling avatars with gibbering mouths, spouting rumours randomly. And when we go back to them later on... They all have Lain's head. They're still gibbering, but their mouths don't even look human... and there's no sound coming from any of them.
  • "Beep... beep... beep... understood... beep... beep... beep... now communicating, logging on... beep... beep... beep..."
  • In Episode 12, The Men in Black recieve final "payment for services rendered" from "The Office Worker". After a brief exchange about what the activation of Protocol 7 and the total loss of devices forever would entail, "The Office Worker" drives away, at which point the MIB see... something... through their head-gear, which causes the dark-haired, pony-tailed, no-nonsense skeptical MIB to completely freak out. His body twists and lurches as he appears to have a kind of seizure. "Karl", the more serious and laterally-minded of the pair, wrestles him to the ground to see what's the matter. While his partner is still crying out in terror, he looks into his partner's retina to find an image of Lain, and his partner dies in his arms, foam dribbling out of his mouth. "Karl" turns and sees what appears to be reality collapse around him. The last we ever see of them is the look of pure terror on "Karl"'s face. The last we ever hear of them is "Karl" screaming bloody murder at... whatever he saw. Possibly the most terrifying moment in the whole series.
  • At one point, Lain has smoke emit from her fingers and fill the classroom. It is in fact a fairly typical schizophrenic hallucination to perceive yourself emitting ectoplasm from your body. This, along with many other incidents in the early episodes are foreshadowing to the assumption that Lain is mentally unstable.
  • "Look at me, I'm committing suicide! *laughter*" To put it into perspective: the scene is Real!Lain, in a fit of rage over her identity being stolen by Wired!Lain, attempts to strangle Wired!Lain, while flashes (that look like camera flashes) go off in the background. The twist? The line is spoken, in sick glee, by Wired!Lain as she's being strangled.
  • A rather subtle yet very unnerving detail about Masami Eiri is that in all of his appearances as "God", his clothes are always in the same position, impossibly suspended in mid-air. Always. Seeing him as perfectly unmoving even when the wind is blowing hard enough to make trees shake is unnerving because it just feels wrong.
    • There's also something to be said about his smile that stretches horrifically across his face...
    • Or how about the fact that there's duct tape wrapped around his arms and his torso, which initially seems like a strange stylistic choice until you realise that it's symbolic of the fact he got hit by a train - he literally taped himself back together!
    • To say nothing of his incredibly creepy face, his Dissonant Serenity and the overall vibe he gives off. In the Japanese version, during his first few conversations with Lain, he speaks a feminine way, which actually makes him more disturbing, especially knowing his deep masculine voice. He actually speaks in a feminine voice because he and Lain switch bodies temporarily.
  • Beginning to episode 12: