Dissonant Serenity

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There's maiming and killing afoot. Screaming and cursing, the clattering of swords, gunfire. Faces distorted with pain and hate. It's terrifying, but it is to be expected.

But what, when you see peace in the middle of horror? One is smiling—not vicious, not insane, not stoic—but calm, gentle... seeming almost enlightened. As they slit throats left and right. They are the eye of the storm, the calm center of destruction and their serenity is so off that it's more terrifying than any fury.

Villains and heroes can be dissonantly serene in battle mode, but it's rarely the main character who does that. Mysterious and frail-looking characters of whom one wouldn't expect such prowess often make it look like the easiest thing in the world to vanquish the enemy.

Another deceivingly harmless state of mind, although uncomprehending: Psychopathic Manchild. Also likely to overlap with While Rome Burns. The Comically Serious is this trope Played for Laughs. Tranquil Fury seems similar on paper but is very different in practice.


Examples of Dissonant Serenity include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Diclonii from Elfen Lied are masters of this, especially Lucy. The anime opens with her calmly walking through a high-security military unit, stark naked but for a large metal helmet, gently humming to herself whilst hideously ripping apart and mutilating dozens of soldiers.
  • Tohma Seguchi from the Gravitation series is an example of this. Many times during the manga, as the antics of those around him decimate whole sections of Tokyo, Tohma calmly assesses and responds in an eerie calm, only fully losing his temper once in the series upon seeing a re-creation of his best friend's most traumatic moment.
  • Haguro in Wolf Guy Wolfen Crest started as this, always calm and relaxed except for short bursts of Power Born of Madness physical violence. Then he suffered a Villainous Breakdown and got much, much worse.
  • Many of the eponymous warriors in Claymore, but especially Teresa of the Faint Smile, who is named for her habitual demonstration of the trope. She never gets angry and keeps her slight, Mona-Lisa smile even when ripping an Awakened Being's arm off.
  • Naruto has a group of characters raised on Tranquil Fury (ANBU), but Sai seems to be a special exception that falls into this.
    • The Fifth Mizukage appears to maintain a smile at all times, even when threatening to kill her bodyguard because she thinks he called her "old" (he didn't by the way).
    • Suigetsu fits this partially: as Kisame noted, ever since he was a kid he's always smiled even while he's mutilating people (and usually any other time he sees something bad happening to someone else), but if something bad might happen to him he'll display a more normal range of facial emotion.
  • Phantom Thief Sai from Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro.
  • Grove from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, when he does that spirit attack thing. In his case, it can be justified: When not in his spirit form, Grove is immensely weak and bedridden; using the power nearly kills him every time, but he's free from his crippled body while it's active.
  • Yu Narukami in Persona 4: The Animation doesn't let anything get to him, in contrast to his more emotional partners. For example, when Teddie bites him through the TV screen in episode 3, he remarks how the pain makes him want to cry, even though he doesn't look to be in any lasting pain. His friends note this as well.
  • Crusnik 02 (aka Abel Nightroad) in many scenes of Trinity Blood.
  • Soujiro Seta in Rurouni Kenshin is a master of this. He has a good excuse.
  • Ultimo from the manga of the same name, is a robot boy that embodies good and is always smiling. Even as he tells he is threatening his mortal enemy, ripping off one of his arms or indirectly killing nearby civilians during their fights, the smile never leaves.
  • From Code Geass, I give you Schniezel. Seemingly a kindly, reasonable fellow, greatly different from his siblings, he maintains a calm, serene demeanor throughout the entire series. He continues to have this serene manner even while ordering the deaths of millions, announcing to his sister his plans for global domination, and gunning that sister down when she tried to stop him from nuking every major city on the planet, killing billions. What's that about reasonable again?
    • Rolo fits this trope, as well. In one sequence, he greeted some childhood friends with a warm smile before slaughtering them mercilessly.
  • Ryoko Asakura in Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu has the unnerving habit of still being the sweetest, nicest girl you've ever met, while attempting to slice you up with a knife. She was also unusually cheerful afterwards, smiling as she politely delivers a stern but calm warning to Kyon while her body was being disintegrated.
    • Itsuki as well, often creeping out Kyon due to his constant smile capable of resisting the possibility of an End of the World Special.
  • To a certain extent, Hisoka in Hunter X Hunter.
  • Seishirou in X 1999 and Tokyo Babylon.
  • Johan in Monster is this trope. To the most frightening degrees possible. Of course, those moments when he doesn't have that expression end up equally terrifying.
  • Kaworu in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Also, during Third Impact, Giant Naked Rei/Lilith is smiling peacefully, and she maintains this same smile even as her body falls apart and her head is sliced in half.
  • Lust and others in Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • King Bradley. Even when stabbing Marta, who was hiding inside Al's armor he had that gentle smile on his face.
    • Ling Yao was this up until Lan Fan was injured.
  • Shizuru from My-HiME manages to maintain her calm demeanor even when she goes a-huntin' for blood. This change also comes with what appear to be a pair of colorless Mind Control Eyes.
  • The Lord of Nightmares from Slayers Next embodies this trope, dishing out apocalyptic destruction while never once raising her voice above an emotionless monotone.
  • Nurse Takano Miyo from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni often talks in a stoned calm, friendly tone about horrible ritualistic murders. Considering that most of the rest of the cast tends to go psychotically Ax Crazy, her nonchalant attitude sticks out.
  • Legato Bluesummers in Trigun.
    • And in some scenes of the Trigun Maximum manga, Knives butchers entire communities without any apparent emotion.
  • Sosuke Aizen from Bleach is the embodiment of this trope. It helps that to all appearances, his belief that he has nothing to worry about is entirely justified. It makes his loss of composure at the end of Deicide all the more stark as a result.
    • Retsu Unohana definitely fits this trope real well as she always smiles even when she's threatening you.
    • And Gin is always smiling.
    • Mizuiro is this when he confronts Aizen. The others are panicking around him. Instead, he simply begins experimenting with molotov cocktails and empty bottles with almost clinical detachment. He's more fascinated than afraid. His companions even point out how scary a person he is.
    • Tsukishima personifies this trope. He's screwed up Ichigo's friends and family and not only has he made them happy about it, but his polite, gentle manner actually creates the impression Ichigo is being completely unreasonable to be horrified by it.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn's Byakuran is almost always seen with a polite smile and closed eyes. He only opens them when he is making a serious statement or is noticeably distressed.
    • We'd be lying if we didn't count Reborn in this too.
  • Several characters in Kara no Kyoukai show this, including the protagonist.
    • Worth noting is that the protagonist is this while holding a knife to the throat of her love interest, making this easily one of the most chilling moments on this page.
  • Akira Hojo from Sanctuary.
  • In between fluctuations from unbridled fury to calm brutality to psychotic glee, Rob Lucci gets a couple moments of this in his fight with Luffy in One Piece.
    • Anyone with the Will of D in the series always has a wide smile on their faces when faced with death. Gol D. Roger, Jaguar D. Saul and even Portgas D. Ace had these smiles before they died, so did Luffy during the Loguetown arc when Buggy was about to execute him.
  • "I will not return you to the darkness... You, I will burn to ashes".
    • And one short battle involved Miyu against a Fetish Fuel clad schoolgirl Shinma with a flute who sported a similar grin.
  • Hakkai in Saiyuki is like this most of the time, utterly calm with a cheerful smile in battle and all other situations.
  • One of Evangeline A.K. McDowell's crowning moments of awesome during the Kyoto Arc involved this. Give that girl her powers back for a little while and she'll freeze the world with the snap of her fingers and a smile on her face.
    • The lead Negi Springfield does this during his Unstoppable Rage against Wilhelm.
    • Seeing Fate Averruncus display anything other than that look of utter calm on his face is so rare as to be unheard of. Even when he's caught completely off-guard (does not happen often) or is losing a fight (happens even less often), his face betrays only the slightest hint of surprise or annoyance.
  • Hansel and Gretel from Black Lagoon. Seriously, they rival Johan when it comes to cheerfully and politely committing unthinkable atrocities.
    • While Revy normally displays a wide range of emotions, all the way from affection to psychotic rage, she seems to settle on a mix of tranquility and boredom whenever she comes down with Whitman Fever.
    • Balalaika even more so. Nothing says "I love my job" like grinning while snapping a Yakuza leader's neck, stopping to engage in a philosophic debate about the nature of the human condition with a would-be assassin whom she has just had shot or politely apologizing to Lagoon Company for any inconvenience they may have experienced during their last mission which ends with some unlucky bastard's apartment exploding.
      • What about Sawyer the Cleaner, who smiles cheerfully when she's gotten across that the smell that people were complaining about was the ooze from some bodies that decomposed badly before she was called in while everybody else is losing their lunch? Or Claude "Torch" Weaver, who wields a flamethrower and casually talks about how he burned his wife to death in five minutes,, or Shenhua, who can calmly carry on a conversation with a woman she's trying to kill?
  • Mr. Tick Jefferson from Baccano!! is genuinely happy so long as he gets to use his scissors to cut something. This "something" can be anything from hair, to paper, to human flesh.
    • Ladd's girlfriend Lua always has a perpetually vacant smile on her face, despite her lover's frequent promises to murder her.
    • Elmer's been through a lot and is a crowning example of this trope.
  • Shiro from Deadman Wonderland. She's shown completely ripping apart a bunch of guards, and smiling an extremely childish and happy smile.
  • Takeru (TK) has a touch of this in Digimon Adventure 02. Normally his reaction to seeing Digimon attacked or manipulated by evil is outright anger and fury (a result of the childhood trauma of watching his own Digimon die), but in his confrontation with the Digimon Kaiser, he suddenly gains a strange Dissonant Serenity and calm smile, while catching a whip in his bare hand and turning Crusader From Hell on everyone.
  • Kirika from Noir defines this trope - from beginning to end, she never displays anything other than calm concentration while killing hundreds of people.
    • Altena also qualifies, and her creepy-ass village of Noir worshippers/sacrificial lambs that suddenly pull out guns and start killing elite members of the Soldats could also qualify.
  • Shou Kano in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a tendency to occasionally laugh cheerfully and apparently without malice while utterly destroying his opponents. Generally these are the fights that don't really have any personal meaning to him: other fights reveal something more along the lines of a Slasher Smile or at least a businesslike attitude.
    • Later on, we're introduced to one of the assistant instructors of Diego "Laughing Fist" Carlos, the Meatman, a rather large warrior who was charged with insuring that a bomb on the ship that several of the characters are riding goes off. When asked what he thinks will happen to HIM when the bomb goes off (by the characters who were trying to disarm it and therefore have to get past him first), he responds that he'll "calmly defeat" them and then run away before the bomb blows up.
  • In "Samurai Deeper Kyo", Kyo scares lots of people with his bloodlust in battle, but he is later repossessed by Kyoshiro, who scares people even more as he calmly slaughters elite mooks without showing any intensity in his expression.
  • Kasumi Tendo tends towards this in Ranma ½ as the varying antics, feuds and outright wars brought on by Ranma's various fiancees and insecurities take their toll on the Tendo household she never, ever seems to break a sweat or be anything but utterly sweet and smiling (occasionally looking worried when something truly disastrous occurs).
  • Fumio from Saitama Chainsaw Shoujo: "When I started this chainsaw today... my heart stopped working."
  • Ogami from Code Breaker, while burning a bunch of people to death. To quote Sakura, "He looked cold and peaceful... yet cruel."
  • "Big sis, big sis, my arm came off."
  • In Black Butler, the demonic butler Sebastian is a master of Dissonant Serenity.
  • Carol of Project ARMS is a cute little girl with the power to break and twist things with a thought. When she fights Ryo, she happily sets about breaking every bone in his body while laughing. "Yay!" Keith White would also count, when he gently hugs Alice while she cries to him about how she is under so much pressure and just wants to be free for once. He kindly tells her that it's clear that he needs to change how she and the other children are being treated - before signaling for the kids to be shot.
  • Kamui from Gintama is like this sometimes.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, this was a defining trait of Sousuke's beautiful mother's death. When she was falling to her death, her face never showed a hint of terror or despair, and she calmly accepted her fate. Kalinin recalls from that instance that she was "surreally beautiful." Interestingly enough, this trait was apparently inherited by her son. As numerous instances afterwards, Sousuke has been described in very similar terms as being "surreally beautiful" the way he calmly massacres people.
  • D.Gray-man mostly goes in for straightforward Slasher Smiles, so the exceptions tend to stick out. Such as in Chapter 182, when Allen accidentally wakes up the Fourteenth Noah inside himself. The Messiah should not smile like this when he's impaled on a sword and has a terrifyingly powerful monster less than a foot from his face. His expression barely changes even when Kanda almost stabs him in the head.
  • While granting that like his other murders, it's kind of unclear whether or not it was intentional, the Claw in Gun X Sword exhibits this strongly in a scene where he deals with a mutinous subordinate. Personality-wise, the Claw is an affable Friend to All Living Things. So, he offers the subordinate a handshake (cue him squeezing the guy's hand hard enough to crack bone). Then, the Claw says that if the guy doesn't want a handshake, how about a hug. Not only is the hug also hard enough that you hear bones breaking, but when the Claw strokes the guy's back with his clawed hand, it's implied (but not shown) that he is ripping open his flesh. Throughout this horrible scene, the Claw is speaking in a gentle voice.
  • Russia from Axis Powers Hetalia. He acts rather childish and sweet, even when saying something threatening or disturbing.
  • Yoshii Kazuho from Texhnolyze always has a calm, pleasant smile on his face, even as he goes around shooting people and blowing them up with bombs.
  • Chizuru of Seitokai no Ichizon.

"My smile becomes more beautiful the angrier I get."

  • Hosaka of Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun. He always wears a calm smile and speaks in a polite manner even as he throws Shinobu out of a helicopter and curb stomps Shungo with the intent to kill him in the last episode.
  • The climax of the Kyoto arc in Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of Darkness): Tsuzuki has just stabbed Muraki, and called out Touda to burn down the lab. As the place burns and breaks down, he sits there numbly, doing nothing. It takes Hisoka to get him to even consider not staying there to die.
  • Contractors of Darker than Black frequently kill in gruesome ways with little emotion and no remorse.
  • While not the one perpetrating the violence, as seen here, Oora of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei is such a massive space cadet that she can calmly sit down in the aftermath of one of Chiri's rampages and never drops her permanent vacant smile.
  • Kyubey of Puella Magi Madoka Magica keeps his Frozen Cat Smile and friendly voice, no matter what horrors are going on around him. Justified because he's a member of an alien race which is unable to feel any emotions (the ones that do are considered mentally ill).
  • Natives of the various Countries Of Hats in Kino's Journey often act this way. And then there's Kino herself, who remains eerily calm in the face of things that would send the average person screaming and running in the other direction. Probably because she's seen worse.
  • The original Ion from the Tales of the Abyss manga gaiden based on him. He almost always has a calm, friendly smile on his face even when he's killing one of his Replicas or talking about how the world is trash.
  • There's a sequence early on in Death Note where Light Yagami sets up criminals to die throughout the day. The animation contrasts scenes of prison inmates collapsing and dying of heart attacks, along with the general panic and confusion of the guards and the other inmates, with scenes of Light going about his normal routine, like casually walking through a shaft of sunlight on his way to school, cheerfully playing a game during gym class, and opening a bag of potato chips at lunch. The effect is magnificently creepy.
    • This becomes a critical fact at one point. While Light is being monitored by cameras from almost every angle, he still manages to write names on a hidden scrap of the Death Note without so much as batting an eyebrow. Even L remarks that Kira has basically already elevated himself to the level of God if he can knowingly kill people without the slightest change in expression.
  • The Big Bad of Togari, Sena, is never shown without a calm smile plastered on his face, to contrast with Tobei's Unstoppable Rage. Not that he indulges in Tranquil Fury, mind you; he never even feels fury.
  • Medaka Box: Both Kumagawa and Zenkichi are the Trope Codifiers; Kumagawa brings a creepy edge to it, while Zenkichi is much more sincere.
  • Shin demonstrates this in the Area 88 OVA. When confronted by three Paris thugs, Shin just smiles. He remains calm as he snatches a knife from one of the thugs and hurls it into a robber's shoulder. The thugs are completely unnerved. Given that Shin is struggling with war trauma, his Dissonant Serenity is a sign that something is off.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Cyclops of the X-Men frequently displays this attitude in combat. Including, on at least two occasions, while fighting blind. He's just that much of a control freak.

You would not believe the day I'm having.

  • Victor Ray from One Hundred Bullets is able to keep his emotions in check and can execute his mission utmost efficiency. One time he was able to give off a lecture about the origins of the trust IN THE MIDDLE OF A GUNFIGHT without even breaking a sweat.
  • Jan Arrah/Element Lad/the Progenitor in Legion Lost, when he explains to the Legion the horrors he's suffered that drove him UTTERLY INSANE. And then he kills one of them because he forgot who she was.
  • In Blackest Night, Sinestro does this when he gains the power of The Entity, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Life.
  • In Sin City, Kevin's facial expresion never changes. He always has that calm, content face. All the time. And it's so fucking creepy.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

The Dude: Will you just take it easy, Walter?
Walter: I'm calmer than you are.

  • Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye always looks like she is having an orgasm when killing people. She is.
  • John Ryder from The Hitcher.
  • This may be a stretch for serenity, but Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now doesn't act like a normal man surrounded by gunfire and explosions. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
  • Gary Oldman's character in Leon, Léon: The Professional when he's killing Matilda's family while cheerfully humming along to the classical music in his headphones.
  • Event Horizon. "Where we're going, we won't need eyes to see." Also a pretty Badass line even with no context at all. And you can twist it to work for so many different scenarios.
  • In Nine, apart from briefly screaming at 9, 6 was very calm before he died.
  • Captain Miller, in Saving Private Ryan, is astonishingly calm during moments of phenomenal stress, i.e., the Normandy Landings. The problem is, his jitters catch up with him later; No matter how calm he may appear, Miller is a man on the ragged edge who knows he's right on the point of losing it. Ironically, this lends him the serenity he needs to be a Father to His Men.
  • Kevin, from the movie Sin City. Oh god, KEVIN. He even smiles as his HEAD is being cut off.
  • Avatar: Quaritch. While destroying the Na'vi home, killing several Na'vi in the process, he just sits back and sips on his coffee.
    • Another example: a pilot and scientist just went rogue to help two prisoners escape (those are the good guys, by the way.) He pauses just long enough to tell everyone "Masks on" before booting open the atmospherically sealed door, striding into the hangar and opening fire on the fleeing aircraft. After a total of about 45 seconds of taking careful aim, firing, and then looking angry/disappointed that they left, he's FINALLY handed a mask and it's shown that he was holding his breath the entire time while looking totally focused, if not placid. Colonel Badass indeed.
      • There was no pause to say "Masks on", there just happened to be enough time for him to say it in moving from where he was standing to the door. Luckily for everyone else it the room, that space of time was a few seconds and no one died from him gassing the place by kicking the door open. Considering his absolute single-mindedness in stopping that aircraft by any and all means... what if he'd been closer to the door?
      • (This is actually standard military procedure in a toxic environment. Yell "Gas Gas Gas", close your mouth, mask up, THEN exhale to clear the gas from the inside of your mask. If you can't do that INSTANTANEOUSLY in all situations, you are unlikely to graduate. And that's on Earth, now, on an alien world? They would drill that five times a day)
  • In The Matrix films, various characters wear completely blank expressions while fighting, often further emphasized by impenetrable sunglasses.
  • More appropriately, Amon Göth from Schindler's List fits the description to the tip, as he walks around the camp, casually glancing about while Jews are murdered and tortured. "Can you believe this? As if I don't have enough to do, they come up with this? I have to find every rag buried up here and burn it," he says as he watches the incineration of Jews' bodies.
  • Star Trek III the Search For Spock features Kirk stuck with a Klingon being about as calm as hammy TOS-era Klingons get (as in, shouting monotonically) either because he's in the catbird seat or in some sort of battle trance:

Kirk: You fool, look around you! The planet's destroying itself!
Kruge: Yes, exhilarating, isn't it?

  • In Inception, when the dream is collapsing and everyone else is running around frantically, what does Mal do? She calmly walks through the destruction and is amused at how Dom gave Saito the wrong documents.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Fiver may have used this trope in Watership Down to defeat a larger rabbit by being overly polite and calm for the situation, freaking the other guy way the heck out.
  • Chiun from the book series The Destroyer matches this. An 80 year old Korean man, he is calm and gentle... as he rips open throats and kills anyone who messes with him.
  • In the Star Trek novel Vendetta, a survivor of a Borg attack on his world describes having seen the personification of death. Much like many cultures on Earth, his had portrayed death as a skeletal figure in black, but instead he describes death as a smiling child walking and skipping through the scenes of destruction.
  • Captain Tushin and Prince Bagration exhibited forms of Dissonant Serenity during the Battle of Schöngraben in War and Peace. Captain Tushin might have briefly lapsed into Psychopathic Manchild for his disturbing calm though.
  • Lara and Thomas Raith in The Dresden Files.
    • Harry himself during a flashback in White Night, while he tortures a ghoul to death.

"Dios." Ramírez breathed. He stared at me for a moment. "I've never seen you like this."
"Like what?"
"Cold."

  • Warrior Cats: Pretty much everyone. They aren't outright happy or excited (except maybe Lionblaze), but no one seems to be at all fazed by all the bloody battles in the series. Noteworthy quotes from various characters:

"I'd welcome any cat who'd help me rip out their entrails."
"Just a few scratches. Mostly WindClan blood."
"Is there any blood?" (Said by an excited little kitten)

    • It should be noted that, most of the time, their battles are non-lethal. They fight to prove their superiority and defend their homes, not to kill, which even in battle is considered outright murder. When a cat accidentally dies during a border skirmish it is a huge deal. When a life-or-death battle actually happens, they are much more serious about it.
    • Sol stays calm and composed all the time, even when surrounded by enemies and accused of murder. He is so calm, other cats often find it unsettling. The only times he's lost his cool is whenever he's making a speech (and he's really more "incensed" than angry), and when Hollyleaf apparently pushes his Berserk Button, and even then he recovers in less than half a second.
  • Jonah in The Bible, with the boat he's on going through a storm and the pagan crewmen about him frantically praying to their deities... is asleep. So, pretty old trope eh?
    • So was Jesus, one of the times they were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Another time he was so zen he was able to Walking on Water.
  • Over the course of countless pressures, near death experiences, sacrifices and losses and manipulations, Rand Al'Thor, The Dragon Reborn of The Wheel of Time had become increasingly volatile, prone to losing his temper at the drop of a hat (oh, and he heard voices a lot), but in book 12 his slow building psychosis reached its zenith when he is almost captured by Semirhage and forced to almost kill the woman he loves, and he becomes this trope for the rest of the book, greatly freaking out those already familiar with his building insanity.
  • Mace Windu in Shatterpoint. "I don't like Windu... he has the same look cleaning his weapons as he does using them."
  • In the NUMA Series novel Valhalla Rising, at one point the hero Dirk Pitt is desperately throwing stuff at The Brute, but gets his clock cleaned. In steps his friend Al Giordino. The Brute tries to crush Giordino; his response is to reach out and start strangling The Brute, cool as you like. Eventually The Brute, running out of air, is forced to concede.
  • Griboyedov in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, especially during the attack on the embassy.
  • Sir Thomas Maculay in Lays of Ancient Rome describes Mars this way:

He smiles a smile more dreadful
Then his own most dreadful frown
When he sees a thick black cloud of smoke
Rise up from the conquered town.

  • Played with in the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, where POTUS Thomas Thorn's incredible calmness even in tense situations is comforting to some, annoying to others.
  • As Rudyard Kipling in The Ballad of Boh Da Thone described The Captain remembering old times when he tried to catch his archenemy:

In his eye lit the passionless passion of slaughter

  • In Forgotten Realms novel The Making of a Mage resentful Elminster (age 17) witnessed how one magelord summoned and tried to command the incumbent Magister. Dorgon "Stonecloak" Heamiiolothtar was one of a handful of people who were given this title by the gods of magic rather that won in a fight, but he kept it longer than anyone except Azuth.[1] Dorgon poked "with mild curiosity" the artifact supposed to make him powerless, ascertained that it indeed is a challenge, teleported across the room and beam-diced half of the magelords and they flunkies present at the party before anyone could reach the door. Then suspended in the air all present magelords, Mind Probed, judged and beheaded them one by one. All the while wearing much the same expression, ignoring their spells and complaining about their inability to throw at him something really interesting.
  • In Discworld's Night Watch, Carcer is this trope. This man will smile serenely as he's stabbing you, and then with a look of childlike innocence, go "Who, me?" to any bystanders, as if he didn't just kill someone in cold blood.
  • During Act I, Scene III of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a heavy storm hits Rome, the earth shakes, fire is seen in the skies and lions, ghosts and burning men walk the streets of Rome. And into this, enters Cassius, who smiles contentedly and calls it "a very pleasing night to honest men."
    • Later Mark Antony imagines a similar situation in which Ceasar's ghost stands beside Ate, the Goddess of Vengance "come hot from hell ", he then yells ""Havoc!" " and she lets go of the leashes to a pack of Hell Hounds borrowed from Mars himself, engulfing the whole country of Italy in a bitter war that drags on so long that the people become so accustomed to the carnage that "mothers shall but smile" at the sight of their children's bodies being brought home so horribly mutilated that they are barely even recognizable anymore. Though the fact that these thoughts fill him with the warm an' fuzzies is another matter entirely, one with elements of several Revenge Tropes involved.
  • In the Honor Harrington novel In Enemy Hands, when Honor is in State Sec custody, she finds that the "deadness" and "cold-eyed patience" of some is even worse than the others' fiercely delighted hatred. In Echoes of Honor a similar observation is made of Oscar Saint-Just.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: In the book Collateral Damage, Paula Woodley talks to Lizzie Fox about her husband Karl Woodley. She asks Lizzie if she's being too sadistic, and she says this in the tone of someone discussing the weather. Of course, she had been abused by her Complete Monster Domestic Abuser husband for years. No decent person could fault her for wanting to make him pay for that!

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • From Doctor Who: Information: Kill. Kill. Kill.
    • The Cybermen can apply as well. The Daleks have one emotion (anger), but all that's left of the Cybermen is pure logic.
    • Series 6 offers both the Antibodies ("You will experience a tingling sensation and then death") and the robots in the Two Streams hospital ("This is a kindness.") Basically, evil robots in the Whoniverse are either absolute monotone or this. No, the Daleks don't count, they're not robots.
    • The Doctor himself applies as well, especially the Tenth and Eleventh ones. You know he's mad when he starts yelling and screaming, but when he gets quiet again you know its time to be scared.
      • Hello, Dalek.
  • From Joss Whedon's Firefly: River Tam displayed this trait in a few episodes. But then, she was batshit, so that is also to be expected.
    • A more typical example is Wash, at least as long as he's piloting; check out the scene in the pilot episode when the Reavers are chasing them: he's the only one in the entire ship who's completely calm. Wash's dissonance works both ways: He's very calm when, say, he's being chased by Reavers or has to pull off some crazy ass aerial stunt, but he acts panicked when things really aren't that bad.

He is a leaf on the wind. Watch how he soars.

    • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the finale of season 5 - Dawn realizes that she is going to be sacrificed in a ritual to open up a portal and bring about an apocalypse; she responds by calmly folding her clothing and placing it on a chair, in case that is the only thing left of her after the ritual is done.
  • Gem and Gemma from Power Rangers RPM have the same cheerful smiles on their faces whether they're talking about friendship, explosions, military strategy, or the horrible conditions at a forced-labor factory they spent several months imprisoned in.
  • Subverted by a Japanese monk in Lexx, who serenely keeps meditating and is ignored by the wandering alien probe droids. It turns out he's not meditating, just briefly unconscious from having donated half his insides to an organ-harvesting cult... and the probes only ignore him because the surgery sewed shut his "poop chute."
  • Charlie Crews in Life. Most of the time. When he thinks he's on to the people behind his framing, however, he chucks all that Zen stuff out the window. Literally, in one scene.
  • Snafu in The Pacific. Snafu's usually deadpan calm whether he's just shooting the breeze or prying gold teeth out of a dead Japanese soldier's mouth. When Sledge admits he's scared and Captain Ack Ack states "Everyone is; any man who says he's not is either lying or dead", a quick shot of Snafu makes you wonder what that makes him.
    • He also manages to sound calm about things when it's apparent that he really isn't. When Snafu talks Sledge out of taking up his own habit of prospecting for gold teeth among dead Japanese soldiers, his warning about "diseases that'll make you sick" is less his worrying about hygiene and more a cover to let him express his concern about the comparatively idealistic Sledge starting down the same road he's traveled.
    • Despite everything, Okinawa almost breaks him: he nearly starts a fight with Sledge, who's probably the person he's closest to, and it's only after Peck climbs up on an exposed ridge and fires at the enemy and Hamm is shot saving him that he seems to go back to his usual self. Even then, there's still a slight change in his demeanor.
  • The Sci-Fi Channel's miniseries adaptation of Dune had a minor Harkonnen officer who was a Mook Lieutenant. When said officer's troops get ambushed by the Fremen, he fights back until he sees Paul Atreides calmly walking through all the bloodshed and explosions and coming straight at him. The officer promptly tries to run, but he doesn't get far...
  • An episode of Smallville involves Clark and Lionel Luthor switching bodies. In order to lure Lionel-in-Clark's-body back to the prison to reverse the process, they manage to convince him that the change will be permanent if he eliminates his old body. In order to do this, he stages a full scale prison riot, then walks through the chaos with the most supreme confidence.
  • In Supernatural, a group of pagan gods meet to discuss about the upcoming Judeo-Christian apocalypse. Lucifer finds them, explains his disdain for the pagans to Mercury, and calmly kills each and every one of these gods (except for Kali, who got away).
  • In The Mentalist after killing the Red John imposter, as everyone in the mall runs screaming Patrick sits down and finishes off his tea while asking for a check.
    • In many cases Patrick displays far more calm and control than seems sane in tense situations.
  • Brother Mouzone of The Wire. Whether firing a warning shot into someone's arm, lying on the floor gut-shot, or sitting in a folding chair reading The New Republic, it's all the same to him.
    • Same for Marlo Stanfield who orders many murders with the same level of emotion you would expect from someone ordering a sandwich.
  • The little girl in Alien Abduction Incident in Lake County is disturbingly unemotional, considering that aliens are abducting/killing everyone in her family. In the end, she is so passe about the whole thing that not only does she let the aliens into the house, but she is the only one seen going with them willing as opposed to the others, who are all put into trances.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Bound to happen in Warhammer 40,000, where it's mainly the province of the Eldar and, presumably, the Necrons.
    • This is less to do with the aforementioned factions fitting entirely into the trope (plenty of Eldar are quite Axe Crazy in battle and when they speak at all Necrons are more Creepy Monotone) and more to do with how every single other faction is ALWAYS SHOUTING! ALL THE TIME! and as a result they seem positively catatonic in comparison.
  • Friend Computer in Paranoia can embody this trope, depending on how the game-runner decides to depict its voice.
    • Friend Computer just wants you to be happy. Happiness is mandatory. Failure to be happy is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution.
      • Please report to the nearest Internal Security office for routine brainscrub therapy. Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice daycycle.
  • Fourth Edition Monks are portrayed this way, at least in the fluff. Although obviously up to the player on how they act, most powers are described as something along the lines of "floating through the chaotic battle like a leaf on the wind." While, incidentally, executing Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs or simply sending entire enemy groups (or one giant dragon/demon/abomination) flying with a "mere flick of the wrist."


Video Games[edit | hide]

Nyx Avatar: Let us finish this! It is the path of your choosing!!

    • The main character when he prepares to summon his Persona for the first time. Just calmly whispering Per so na
  • The Engineer in Team Fortress 2, who in his Introduction Trailer peacefully plays guitar and drinks beer while 210+ attackers are being slaughtered by his turrets.
    • Additionally, the end of the "Meet the Sandvich" trailer has the Heavy standing on a ledge and eating the eponymous sandwich while battle rages around him.
    • And most of the Spy's Man On Fire soundbites, "I appear to have burst into flames" and "I do believe I'm on fire", are delivered far more coolly than the panicked cries and screams of most of the other classes'.
    • One of Medic's taunts involves him playing his bonesaw like a violin. In the middle of a chaotic battlefield.
  • Yuyuko Saigyouji from the Touhou Series, even though she is portrayed as a Big Eater with Obfuscating Stupidity most of times, possibly belong to this trope when she fights seriously. This feature is evident in Perfect Cherry Blossom.
  • Dimentio of Super Paper Mario fame. What makes it even creepier is that it's never actually revealed whether he's wearing an actual mask, or it's his face.
  • Suikoden V has Sagiri, a former assassin turned detective who always wears a smile. She was conditioned from a young age to always smile, mostly because the Queen Bitch assigned to training her thought it would be funny to see people killed by a smiling little girl. One other character, Nakula, watched his father get killed as a child, and her smile is the reason he recognized her as an adult.
  • Nessiah of Yggdra Union.
  • Melissa Pierce Eve from Parasite Eve. Her opening act consists of her setting the entire opera troupe and audience on fire through the power of her awakened mitochondria. She continues to sing her aria as calm and detached as she can be, even as the stage itself catches fire and blazes all around her.
  • The fighting game BlazBlue features a young boy named Carl Clover, whose profession is bounty hunter. He is accompanied by his "sister", a semi-sentient doll/bio-cyber weapon which has long, sharp claws and is fueled by Carl's subconscious hate and desire to kill. Carl lets his courteous manners and innocent smile slip on a single occasion - namely, when Haku-men fills him in on this.
    • That doll, Nirvana really is his sister. Gotta love alchemical experiments. Cleverly, the game initially implies that Nirvana (the doll) is driving Carl to his madness. Then Valkenhayn talks to Nirvana, and it's revealed that Carl's insanity is hurting her. Meep.
  • In Dead or Alive 4, both Helena and Christie remain completely calm in their pre-showdown conversation, even though they're in a skyscraper that is being rocked by explosions and is sure to collapse at any moment.
    • This is even more jarring for Helena, who has just found out that Christie was the one who killed her mother when trying to assassinate Helena.
  • Walter, the Implacable Man of Silent Hill 4, who never drops that creepy smile of his, not even when his face is splattered with blood or when he's being shot at.
    • And this song from the same game qualifies. It sounds like something that would play in a safe area. Here's a hint: The section it plays in is anything but safe.
  • In Mother 3, at the end of the game, once you've reached the very top of the tower, before you face the Final Boss, the happiest, most light-hearted songs from the trilogy play. As for the boss himself, the mastermind behind the entire Crapsack World your home has become and a Complete Monster by now, Porky Minch, he's surprisingly calm and cheerful, despite the bombastic battle themes and the fact that he's now an Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Wilhelm, the Big Bad of the Xenosaga trilogy. He's eternally calm and placid throughout all three games and only appears to exhibit bemused intrigue over everything. His Villainous Breakdown moment in the Grand Finale consists of a single audible gasp. Dude is ice cold.
  • Neverwinter Nights does not possess the capacity for characters to change their facial expression. So people in combat and close to death have exactly the same expression as people sitting in a garden eating breakfast. The voices and the music do change in combat, though.
  • The lack of Dissonant Serenity was an early clue to Bastila's eventual Face Heel Turn in Knights of the Old Republic. She was visibly snarling in the flashback sequence of her dueling Revan.
  • Samara from the Mass Effect series fits this one: snarky pilot Joker remarks that she could probably shoot him "in a very tranquil way...which does not make me feel any better about it."
    • The LOKI mechs also count; their calm and polite "Please reconsider your agressive attitude" lines while being set on fire or shot to pieces are actually quite creepy.
    • Joker himself. Well, at least in Mass Effect, he's dead calm when doing the impossible (with everything on the line). In Mass Effect 2, he's more laid back in such situations, though still pretty stoic.
    • Shepard, constantly. If he/she isn't stoic during a crazy situation, Shepard is exasperated at the craziness of what is going around him.
  • Sephiroth as he destroys Nibelheim in Cloud's flashback scene in Final Fantasy VII.
    • And during his battle with Cloud in Advent Children. His expression upon being defeated is a look of mild surprise.
    • In fact, Sephiroth's been made to be a Triumphant Example of this Trope. You will rarely hear him raise his voice or shout (even when he is being struck by a weapon), he never loses his composure, and he will usually have either two looks: an amused smirk or a just a simple frown. Oh, and don't ever expect to see him bleed.
  • Half Life's G-man remains cool and businesslike in corpse-littered, alien-ravaged Black Mesa.
  • In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, arms warriors get the Deadly Calm talent (which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin)
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the Cobra Unit each used a codename taken from the emotions people feel on the battlefield. Thus, The Pain, The Fury, The Sorrow, The End. What was The Boss's codename? The Joy. She does stay relatively calm throughout, too, even as she knows she'll die.
    • Interesting case. Although The Joy remains relatively calm, she is not shown smiling through much of the game. The Sorrow on the other hand is rarely seen unhappy, even as he's sending the ghosts of everyone you killed after you.
      • Although, by heavy implication canon and how the game records your stats, he should have only killed the cobras by that point.
  • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, you can go fishing in the same area that Kyogre and Groudon are battling.
  • This trope is DEFCON's bread and butter. As all of civilization is destroyed in a nuclear war, the player watches things unfold through a tactical computer depicting the carnage through simple wireframe models and numbers. This is accompanied by quiet piano music.
  • One of the endings in Anchorhead involves the player character, who has by then Gone Mad from the Revelation by reading through the black book in the church, calmly clawing her own eyes out.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Oasis from Sluggy Freelance gets this a lot. For example ...
    • She also flies in to impassioned rages at the drop of a hat. I.E. The very next strip.
  • This the basis of the Xkcd "Roller Coaster Chess" (aspired to meme): people taking advantage of cameras on roller coasters to get in pictures of themselves pretending to focus on a game of chess instead of throwing their arms out and screaming like the rest of the riders.
  • Frankie and Stein has Stein acting this way... a lot. From Grave Robbing grinningly, to stealing a brain with a grin on his face, to excitedly explaining what he's going to do next half-way through creating his own Frankenstein's Monster with blood all over his face. Only, he's a little more upbeat than serene. This strip, in particular.
  • In Troops of Doom, this is part of what makes Legonians so creepy. They always have that little smile on their faces, even when they're snarling out threats of gruesome revenge.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Slade of Teen Titans.
  • From The Simpsons: As an epic Mafia war unfolds on their front lawn, Marge urges Homer into the house, but he points out that the one of the Yakuza is just standing in the middle of the fighting, arms crossed, not doing anything. "The little guy hasn't done anything yet! He's gonna do something, and you know it's gonna be good!" Homer still gets pushed inside, and immediately afterwards we hear the sounds of one loud karate yell, one connected blow, and about three bodies hitting the ground. Cue Homer's disappointed groan.
    • Not to mention the same little guy's reaction to being hurled through their window - calmly getting up. brushing off the glass, bowing to them, apologizing and walking out the front door.
  • Futurama: Bender's cigar starts a fire in a museum exhibit containing very rare, and flammable, silk tapestries. Soon the whole room is ablaze, with everyone cowering in fear. Except for Fry, who spent the whole episode drinking coffee (spending his $300 rebate on 100 cups of coffee). He drinks the last of the 100 cups and turns from a gibbering mess into a paragon of peace and serenity. He is able to put out all of the fires and rescue everyone while moving in extreme fast motion (Leela would later attest to seeing only a bright, orange blur).
  • Overlapping with their casual danger dialogue, in the Kim Possible episode "Ill Suited" once they sort out their relationship problems Kim is all smiles while fighting a battle-suited Ron, even though the person remote-controlling the suit is trying to kill her.
  • Many of Ren's more psychotic moments in The Ren and Stimpy Show. He'll go from a raging lunatic to calm yet scary as hell. In one episode, "Sven Hoek," he comes home to find that Stimpy and Sven have destroyed the house and his most prized posessions. He storms up to the two, raging mad... and then he snaps, and instantly cools down, saying in the creepiest serene/unhinged voice: "Oooh, what I'm gonna do to yooou... I'm so angry!... First, I'm gonna tear your lips out!... Yeah! And then, I'm gonna gggGOUGE your eyes out! Yeah... That's what I'M gonna do. Oh; you're scared, huh? Next, I'm gonna t-t-tTEAR your arms, out of the sockets! Then I'm gonna hicha, and yer gonna faaall... And I'm gonna look down, and I'm gonna laaaugh..."
  • In ThunderCats (2011) Eccentric Mentor the Drifter bets The Hero Lion-O that he can't split the willow reed the Drifter holds in his mouth. Lion-O is given three swings of his sword to try. After a very brief Face Fault when he realizes the finesse-less Lion-O intends to charge him Barbarian Hero style, the Drifter shuts his eyes, smiles, and proceeds to bust out Wuxia-level Not Quite Flight Nonchalant Dodges and Dance Battler moves, all while keeping the same expression and delivering taunts in a relaxed, conversational tone, to make a point about Lion-O's lack of swordsmanship.


Other[edit | hide]

  • The Disaster Girl meme embodies this to the fullest, the picture being a girl no older than five smiling almost sinisterly into the camera while firefighters are putting out a burning house in the background.
  • Title of a Sports Illustrated article: "Tom Maure Will Politely, Serenely Crush You."
  • In traditional art, angels are often portrayed this way when in battle with demons, they could be exhibiting Tranquil Fury, but the former is more likely.
  • A fundamental characteristic of Hindu gods. Under absolutely no circumstances are they to be portrayed with anything other than a completely stoic, non-emotional face no matter what the situation is. A god can be neck-deep in demons and oceans of blood and fire, but he's gotta be cool about it.
  • In a stare-down, the guy who stays composed in the face of bluster, threatening gestures, maybe even a brandished weapon or two can be far more intimidating than the other. Only a fool or someone supremely capable can remain calm in a volatile situation.
  • An arguable real-life example would be in Canadian Politics; during the recent Leaders' Debate, Stephen Harper (the current Prime Minister) managed to remain very calm even as the debate got increasingly heated and the questions from his rivals increasingly armor-piercing. Sure, it isn't VIOLENT so to speak, but it got pretty intense, and Harper managing to keep as calm as he was is either impressive, or creepy, or both, depending on what you think of the guy himself.
    • It really helped him that he was being grilled on all the wrong issues and that his\Conservative core values were hardly questioned at all. Just as one example, the PM put forth a plan to buy jets to replace the ones that will be retired in 5 years. Instead of attacking the plan for only researching one company, supposed kick-backs, not a good value, etc, the opposition continuously and passionately argued that we simply shouldn't buy more jets. So, of course, Harper calmly explained that a country can't operate militarily without jets. That said, he acts calm under fire too.
  • #10 on this Cracked list
  • From the realm of sports, specifically MMA, Fedor Emelianenko absolutely belongs here. Never has a a man made whaling on another man's face look more serene.

Notes

  1. who "resigned" by ascension to godhood