For a grim story, Black Butler’s got a lot of smiling.
One interesting thing about smiling is that it’s an exclusively human thing. Funnily enough, animals don’t smile, at least not for the same reasons that we do. They might pull facial expressions that resemble smiling–baring of teeth, pulling of lips–but it’s almost certainly not because they’re feeling joyful.
There’s no denying that the smile is an essential body language form. People are prewired to the subtle art of smiling from an early age. We mirror smiles instinctively, since smiling is a way of conveying happiness to others and others respond in kind.
However, smiles don’t always convey happiness. Human nature allows us to lie and to cheat, and smiles can be manipulated to make us look friendly, a lure to snare others who don’t know how to distinguish a real smile from a false one.
What sort of smiles appear in Book of Circus? As its arc is focused on a traveling circus, a place that’s traditionally associated with fun and childhood joy, we expect to see a lot of smiles. But just as Noah’s Ark circus is more than a playful, bright romp, the smiles that happen are rarely ones expressing happiness. In fact, more often then not, these smiles send shivers down our spine, rather than reassuring us that all is well.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Let’s start with the easiest and perhaps the most natural kind–the Child’s Smile.
When we think of children, we often think of them smiling. Why? We imagine children as innocent, carefree beings who are ideally full of joy and laughter. Shielded and held ignorant from the harsher parts of reality, the smiles of children are of the most infectious kind and are universal sources of the adult reaction, “Awwww!”
While adults do get opportunities to smile as openly as kids, for those of us who’ve been through a lot and know of suffering, our smiles might not be as sunny. Still, a Contented Smile isn’t too bad, as a younger Joker shows here. He’s not ecstatically happy but is satisfied with the friends he’s made and knows he has a lot to be thankful for.
Smiling is a valuable form of nonverbal communication. When amongst strangers, a Friendly Smile from your cross-dressing roommate can go a long way to putting you at ease in an unfamiliar place. Easy Grins, especially, can help signal the birth of a new and true friendship and communicate that you are safe.
Or are you? Not all smiles are friendly. For every easy smile, there are ten Sly Grins. A thin-lipped twist that stretches across the face of the mysterious butler standing across the room from you. Playful with a dash of dark, you get the inkling the guy’s hiding something…
If only all smiles creepy were that straightforward! Sometimes, a few chilling words are needed for context, for not all Sheepish Chuckles are so light in tone, even if the human bone prosthetics the mad scientist makes are so very feather-light.
For other smiles still, they are not so easy to define. A Wistful Smile is complicated, sometimes tinged with regret for sins committed, resignation for a fate one can’t escape from, or just plain sadness.
The madman’s Manic Beaming, on the other hand, invites no sympathy, for his sense of humor is beyond any decent person’s scope of understanding. We don’t want to understand why he thinks having children kill themselves and each other is funny.
And while you’re at it, if you see a trigger-happy chef behind the muzzle of a machine gun, eying you with a Confident Smirk, it is highly suggested that you run like the wind.
The Hysteric, Helpless Laughter of Ciel manages to ruffle Sebastian Michaelis’s demonic feathers. It is a fit of laughter that uncannily echoes a bout of joy, yet there it can never be mistaken as such. How can something so joyful be full of such deep sorrow and choking bitterness? The most terrifying smile is one that twists the sounds happiness to communicate despair.