Behind the Smile
"Behind every sweet smile there is a bitter sadness that no one can ever see or feel."
It is a common trope among anime characters to be bubbly and happy. They are the epitome of sunshine and rainbows and usually don't go beyond that in regards to character development. Then we get those shining rays of hope that a happy go lucky character can indeed be something more. Often rare, but when it happens it's a real treat to witness these characters go through their trials and tribulations while learning about their backstories as to why they are as bubbly and happy as they are.
These type of characters are often seen as happy and without a care in the world, always sporting a smile. But something else lacks just beneath the surface, a hidden pain that we cannot see. Every smile hides a secret, a secret that we the audience must figure out. Ladies and gentlemen I am here to introduce some examples of these characters to you. Let's begin.
Also YES THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THESE CHARACTERS SO IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE ANIME I SUGGEST YOU DON'T READ THIS BLOG.
Okay NOW let's begin.
Your Lie In April
A golden haired violinist who is the happiest person you will meet. She is smart, funny, creative, talented, nice, kind and an all around beautiful person. Now when she is first introduced she is shown to be passionate about her music and that she wants to touch the hearts of all who listen to her violin playing. She is shown to be this character who can do no wrong and who just wants to see others happy and smiling. As the show progresses we learn more about her character and some of her darker moments such as when she yells at Kousei for not loving his music or when she's seen crying. All these moments are vulnerable and raw, showing her in a very weak state. This later gives us more intel into her life when we find out that she has an unknown disease that is killing her quickly.
We are thrown into a backstory about Kaori finding out how long she has left to live. She then starts to live her life to the fullest and focuses on things that make her happy. Her goal is to become close to the boy that inspired her to become a musician so she told a lie (hence the name). She said she had a crush on one of Kousei's friends in order to get closer to Kousei. This shows that even though she lied to get what she want she did it with the intentions to inspire the person who inspired her, making this beautiful and yet sad. In the end Kaori dies and she writes a letter apologizing to Kousei and saying she loves him. She ultimately shows that she can be this very complex character with ulterior motives, desires and dreams just like the rest of us. She cried and felt just like we do and that shows that her smile really hides a lot of powerful feelings.
Leader of the Yellow Scarves, Kida is still just a young high school boy in love. Because of his position his girlfriend is kidnapped, beaten and almost killed. Not knowing how to save her he can't do anything but helplessly watch causing him to slip into depression and not seeing his girlfriend in the hospital. When we meet Kida we see a ladies man who's only thought is to get with girls and have a good time. This is quickly diminished when we learn of his dark backstory as to why he acts the way he does.
Kida is really a prime example of what a happy character with an emotional backstory looks like. He feels like it is his fault that his girlfriend got hurt and because of that he must live with that constant guilt every day for the rest of his life. On top of that Izaya always comes in to remind him that his choices will be his god and run his life forever. Kida is an emotional mess and he can't do anything about it because even though he is in a position of power he is still a powerless boy who can't save the one he loves. I feel like his smile really just shows the inner workings or a boy trying to battle his inner demons while he fakes it and tries to be the cool guy in front of his friends.
Tohru is one of my favorite
examples of a character is happy and cheery but is secretly hiding her pain behind a smile. Having lost her mother and being raised by the Sohma's she finally realizes what it's like to have a proper family after loosing her mother. For the first parts of the manga she cries in secret about loosing her mother and the pain she feels everyday about it. She misses the silly things her mom used to do with her and she often talks to her in her head showing how much she loves her mom. Later she slowly begins to realize that she will never truly be part of the Sohma family because she isn't blood related and she isn't a member of the Chinese Zodiac, which is a bond that is far beyond her comprehension. Knowing all this and living through all this Tohru still smiles, but her smile is a mix of things.
She's sad that she can't help the members of the Sohma family by breaking the curse and setting them free because she truly does love them. She also feels lonely that she won't ever be close to them as she wants to be as well as loosing her mom. She feels guilty that she loves another family that isn't her mom. She feels powerless that she can't break the curse and watches the people she love get hurt and she feels burdened that she has all these feelings and can't do anything about them. Tohru's smile really breaks my heart the most since I know deep down that there is a girl who wants to help, but can't because she has no power. So the only thing she can do is smile for her loved ones and cry in the shadows.
Yuki is a bit of a special case in more ways then one. Living in the midst of a zombie apocalypse she has no way of coping with the scary situation. So what does she do? She pretends it isn't happen and instead lives in a hardcore denial that is basically PTSD about what is going on around her. Throughout the show we see glimpses into Yuki's mind that slowly start to crumble as the reality of the situation and her mind start to crumble. We know for a fact through the shows subtle hints (not going to spoil all of that) that Yuki does indeed know what is going on but is choosing to ignore it and pretend it isn't happening, rather wanting to live in a blissfully innocent school life.
Yuki instead chooses to show a big smile with a carefree personality with a happy aura about her. She wants the other members of her "club" to be happy and to all live in the school life that she's convinced herself she's in. Behind that smile lies something deeper and more darker than anyone could have ever imagine. It shows the smiles of a little girl mentally breaking as the fragments of her mind slowly start to deteriorate from her imaginary world and leak into the bitter reality of the world around her.
The smile that is shown on her face is one of someone who has utterly lost their mind. Someone insane.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Having been raised as a Chaos Dragon she learned to despise humans. Later she actually meets a human and slowly starts to like that human. When the human leaves she realizes that she may not find humans to be all that bad. That is until a human stabs her almost to death with a sword and she escapes to the human realm and meets another human who saves her. After this Tohru feels indebted to Miss Kobayashi's and vows to work in her house as a live in maid forever.
What's really interesting about Tohru's smile is she tries to be as positive as she can be, a real go getter. The problem is deep down she knows one major thing: Miss Kobayashi, along with her other human companions, are not long for this world. She is told this multiple times throughout the show that no matter what humans have short lives compared to dragons and they will die before her in the end leaving her all alone. I know that we all face this fact about our own mortality in life but imagine living thousands of years and knowing that your closest friend won't even live a quarter of that.
Loneliness is a big part of Tohru's hidden secrets, but so is her birth. She is a Chaos Dragon, doomed to kill people and destroy lands. Now she is pretending to be something she's not. Knowing that she could end a life with a mere flick of her hand is probably very scary. Her smile is most likely genuine most of the time but sometimes there is a hint of longing and loneliness behind that cheery smile.
When Lizzie was young she was taught by her aunt, Masame Red, that girls are sweet and pure. They wear dresses, play with dolls, and are a happy ray of sunshine for people around them. Lizzie is actually a skilled fencer and her family are a group of royal knights. As children Ciel even said that he was happy that his fiancé was a cute and sunny girl, making Lizzie want to keep up the facade for good. This is why we see Lizzie crying sometimes. She is scared to loose Ciel because of her true nature and this really comes out in Book of the Atlantic where she shows her real colors.
During the battle she is crying and terrified that now that she has shown how violent and not cute she can be that Ciel will not love her anymore. She had a constant battle waging inside of her. Of her loving Ciel and vowing to protect him, but also being the cute fiancé by his side and letting him be the man. Behind Lizzie smile lurks the bittersweet love of wanting to protect Ciel and knowing she can't. She felt helpless and had to watch from the sidelines as the one she loved most risked himself for her. So she kept up the act of smiling merrily until her love broke open. In the end her love for Ciel was to great and when she showed her true personality he wasn't scared. He was happy and awed and loved her even more. Then we saw Lizzie's true smile, shining in radiance.
Ouran High School Host Club
Having been separated from his mother and forced to live in a foreign land, Tamaki kept a surprisingly happy attitude with a warm smile and positive personality. But what lurks underneath all that is a boy who misses his mother and wants to find her and be reunited with her one day. We can see how deeply troubled he is by not having a traditional and happy family by enforcing roles of family on the Host Club. Tamaki will go to many lengths to keep up his happy little family of the Host Club that he created and he will protect himself from anyone harming his family.
Tamaki's less than ideal family situation is what causes his false smiles. He feels he needs to be the positive one when his mother was sick, when his grandmother didn't acknowledge him or the Host Club explains they aren't a real family. He flirts with the girls and is always a gentlemen with a smile that can make anyone melt. He does this as a coping mechanism so he doesn't outright cry all the time. He wants a real family and feels that creating this fake family will be enough, but deep down he knows that isn't true. But the other members of the Host Club keep up Tamaki's false family facade to keep up his smile since they know that when their Lord finally cracks and stops playing pretend he won't be the same and they want him to be happy.
"The worst kind of pain is faking a smile to stop the tears from falling."