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They've tried belts, zippers, crystals, wings, bones, and even their kid sister's glowy floaty Sparkles, but none of those made them look Badass and super powerful (more like a cute Rummage Sale Reject)... so what's a budding Mons, summon monster, or enslaved freedom fighter to do?
Get Chained, by Fashion.
Simply put, characters who are impossibly powerful tend to be incredibly dangerous, so they get limited, sealed, or bound to imprison them (in this particular case it must have been with chains). Like that'll work. To show this, when the chains inevitably break because the character is just that powerful, they'll often choose to keep the locked manacles as reminders of their captivity (humility, rare) or displays of their indomitability (Pride, common). Then, there's always cases where they either can't remove the manacles or don't care to.
The manacles will have short lengths of chain still attached, which will rarely ever impede movement and will nonetheless still be long enough to act as whips or to choke opponents. Sneaking up on someone while hauling noisy chains around can prove difficult, which may constitute The Croc Is Ticking.
Anime and Manga
- Chains are often used to indicate Super Strength or other superhuman powers in otherwise cute and completely harmless looking characters. Good examples are Yuugi Hoshiguma, Suika Ibuki and Kasen Ibara from the Touhou series. Of course, fashion-chained cuties, superhuman or not, and especially female ones, may easily drift away into Fetish-Fan Service Territory.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Exodia is a Sealed Evil in a Can, split into five pieces and each piece bound. Yugi put him back together in the first episode, and he had chains on his limbs.
- In the card game, there exists Exodia Necross, which is basically a playable-monster-version of the assembled Exodia. He still has the chains and manacles on him... except they're all broken.
- Free from Soul Eater. For some bizarre reason he keeps his ball and chain attached to his foot. Not that it really impedes him any.
- Cheza from Wolf's Rain, who has golden manacles and a neck chain from her time in the scientist's People Jar. Subverted in that they're so not chain-like that they look like a matching necklace and bracelets, but considering the only thing she'd respond to was the blood of a wolf (believed extinct for two centuries), the scientists understandably didn't think she'd ever move enough to get out. Or that Darcia would break in and bust her out himself.
- Iron Maiden from Shaman King.
- Mukuro from Yu Yu Hakusho was once a slave. Even after she becomes one of the most powerful demons in Makai, she continues to wear a manacle around one of her wrists.
- Homura from Saiyuki, anyone? Those chains are supposed to be keeping his hands together, right? Then whose idea was it to make it so long?! They don't even impede his movements.
- This was lampshaded in the first anime series, where Homoura puts the longer chains on Goku, and he comments how helpful they were in a fight.
- Goku was like for a while, too, in the entirety of Saiyuki Gaiden, and in flashbacks in Saiyuki. He does eventually get rid of them. And also, all of the main characters wear chains in the opening credits to the first anime series ( as well as tight leather pants and no shirts ). The mangaka originally wrote yaoi and the franchise is heavily marketed towards girls and women, after all.
- This was lampshaded in the first anime series, where Homoura puts the longer chains on Goku, and he comments how helpful they were in a fight.
- Mai-HiME Destiny's Mayo Kagura finds herself shackled with a pair of really bulky (and nigh-unbreakable) dragon handcuffs, which act as a Power Limiter for the evil Dragon Priestess lurking within her.
- Lanancuras of Shinzo has rock armor. Turns out that's the last bit of the asteroid that restrained his power, and once it's all knocked off of him in battle, he goes from powerful too god-like.
- Hinted at in Saint Seiya. Shun, Bronze Saint of Andromeda, wields the Nebula Chains on each arm: the right-arm one, with a pointed end, is meant for offense; the left-arm one, with a circular weight, defends (although it can suffer from The Worf Barrage from time to time.) While he uses these as his primary tools most of the time, woe to the foe that destroys them or forces him to take them off—at that point, Shun will shed his inhibitions, explode his Cosmo, and summon the unbeatable attack Nebula Storm.
- The characters of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle wore chains on their goth-y outfits in the Human Chess-obsessed Mafia world they stopped off in after the series took a turn for the confusing. It Makes Sense in Context, but not much.
- In King of Thorn, Alice's protector is adorned with chains, which it can also manipulate as weapons.
- Kurapika's nen ability is the ability to materialize a variety of chains from his hands with different powers.
- In Digimon Savers, Belphemon wears chains that bind him in his dormant form. In both that and his awake form, he is able to shoot lasers made out of green fire from them.
- Virgo is also manacled, showing her servitude to her master. She doesn't mind, though.
- Ikari in Eyeshield 21. He's not the most powerful character in the series, so much that his teammates have to chain him up so you'd usually see him restrained until critical time comes, but he's pretty showy about his Berserk Button.
- Sloth in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. Although the chains and manacles are probably to get him to do things rather than to keep him from doing things. He'd rather not do anything.
- Haruko in FLCL has a manacle around her right wrist with a single chain link still attached. The chain link rattles as if being tugged on by some unseen force at certain points in the story in response to Atomsk - the chain link is a piece of his nose ring.
- A later series by Studio Gainax, Melody of Oblivion has Sayoko, who wears manacles which do the exact same thing as Haruko's, pointing toward the man she's in love with. The manacles are left over from when she was going to be sacrificed, but was saved by Kurofune. Also, they stop pointing toward him and start pointing to Bocca about midway through the series, for obvious reasons.
- Karura, from Utawarerumono was introduced as being heavily chained in the deepest hold of a slave ship that was sinking in a storm. When she escapes, she's still wearing the thick, heavy chained collar around her neck. She implies to Eruruu that it's probably impossible to remove, though she refers to it as a "necklace" when chatting with Aruruu, likely to avoid having to explain the horrors of slavery to such a young child.
- Superman's enemy Doomsday beat the entire Justice League to a pulp while still half-bound in the massive steel-cabled straitjacket used to seal him in the can.
- In the Silver Age, the Amazons of Wonder Woman kept their former slave shackles as handy bullet-bouncing bracelets.
- One Iron Man comic book has ol' Shellhead cabled in front of a huge laser cannon. When he gets down from there he still has cuffs and cables on his wrists, but he doesn't have time to take them off since he still has to defeat The Living Laser. At least he figures out that the cables could come in handy if he sweeps them across the floor to trip up some henchmen.
- On the cover of an Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comic, Sonic himself wore broken manacles since the arc had him currently framed for murder.
- Ex-con The Absorbing Man carries his prison ball-and-chain as a weapon. (Since he was wearing it at the time he got his powers, it has the same magic properties he does, so this is a matter of practicality.)
- King Kong.
- Juggernaut in X Men the Last Stand. He just never bothered to take his restraints off.
- The rather inappropriately titled (under the circumstances) Hercules Unchained, as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000
- In Friday the 13 th, Part VII, Jason Voorhees has a length of chain hanging from his neck, left over from the end of Part VI, when Tommy Jarvis chained him to a big damn rock and anchored him at the bottom of the lake.
- Prince Josua of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn wears the manacle around his left wrist that his brother, King Elias, imprisoned him with. In his case, it's the humble version of the trope, and serves to emphasize his personality. It also gets a Chekhov's Gun moment at the end of the story, when it saves his life from Elias' sword blow.
- In The Scar, a castaway recounts the story of how the avanc, a gargantuan sea monster, swam out the side of a vast wall of water and plunged into the titular crack in the world, dragging along the boat-city of Armada, to which it had been tethered as a means of propulsion. Twenty miles of chain coil around its body as it falls.
- In Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley's ghost is weighed down by long chains.
- Harry Potter has the Bloody Baron, ghost of Slytherin House, whose distinguishing features are being covered in chains and blood. The last book reveals that he wears them out of guilt for killing Rowena Ravenclaw's daughter, which drove him to kill himself.
- In The Silmarillion, Morgoth chains an elf named Maedhros halfway up a cliff, and leaves him hanging there fixed by his right hand. When Maedhros is rescued (with the help of a giant eagle), they can't open or break the manacle, or pull it free from the rock. So they cut off his hand and leave it there.
Live Action TV
- Kamen Rider Kiva has chains on his right leg and shoulders which act as Restraining Bolts, removed only when he triggers his Finishing Move and Super Mode, respectively. Chains also form a large part of Kiva's motif, whenever he changes into Bashaa, Garuru or Dogga chains appear all over the parts of his armor that change, they also spread over Kiva's body during his transformation sequence.
- Additionally, the original King of Checkmate Four wears a costume bedecked with chains; when Wataru declares himself King near the end of the series, he starts wearing the same outfit.
- It's not just limited to the Kiva's either, Kamen Rider Rey from King Of Hell's Castle has loads of chains wrapped around his arms, but instead of restraining wings, they are restraining huge ass claws.
- In the Doctor Who story Battlefield, world-destroying demon the Destroyer is chained when summoned. Then Morgaine releases him when the Doctor stops her taking Excalibur.
- In some versions of the myth of Prometheus, even after being Chained to a Rock for a few thousand years and freed by Hercules, Zeus relented but had to enforce his permanent sentence. Thus, Prometheus would continue to wear a wreath and a ring of chains. It's said that humans began to wear wreaths and rings in tribute to him.
- The late Junkyard Dog.
- The Undertaker during his Badass Biker gimmick.
- John Cena when he was the "Doctor of Thuganomics" until they changed his entire gimmick.
- Abyss used to come to the ring with chains draped across his shoulders. Said chains would often be used as weapons in his matches.
- The late Hercules Hernandez.
- Russian or Soviet wrestlers (in particular, the trio of Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, and Krusher Krushchev) often exhibit this trope. One consequence of this tendency is the Russian chain match, a variation of the strap match in which the wrestlers are joined together by the chain.
- The Warhammer 40000 character, Kharn the Betrayer, has a massive bundle of chains around the hand in which he holds his chain-axe. Yep. And he still has Intiative 5. To compare, you only have Intiative 3. He has an excuse - he's the favourite champion of the chaos god, Khorne.
- Justified - he chains his axe to his wrist so he doesn't lose it when he goes into one of his bloody frenzies. Which he does a lot.
- It helps with the speed that, before becoming chosen champino of the Patron God of Ax Crazy, he was already a Super Serum-modified Space Marine in Powered Armour that boosts strength. The divine favour's just the icing on the blood-soaked mightily-thewed death-cake.
- From the same setting, the Black Templars chapter of Astartes usually have several chains strung about their Power Armor. These chains are symbolic, tying their weapons to their arms as a sign that they will not let them go as long as the battle goes on, and to carry various lanterns which represent them bringing the light of the God-Emperor with them.
- The page image depicts a Kyton/Chain Devil from Dungeons and Dragons. They have a magical ability to control any and all chains.
- King Kondo from Monsterpocalypse
- Lawgivers, one of the spectre types from Orpheus, are wrapped in copious amounts of chains, which they can also use as weapons. The chains show they are under the direct control of the game's Eldritch Abomination, and have no free will of their own.
- Anima from Final Fantasy X appears heavily bound by chains. But then you reach her Overdrive...
- One of the Golden Axe iterations had a playable character who was a Giant still wearing manacles. And yes, he was the strongest of them all.
- Wolf Link in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess has a manacle and a short length of chain around his weapon paw (Left for the Game Cube, Right for the Wii) Of course, Link didn't break it; Midna did. He keeps it for the rest of the game.
- The chain also jingles somewhat audibly when he moves.
- Twilit Igniter Fyrus, the boss in the second dungeon, Goron Mines, also retains his chains after breaking them, which are both his weapons and the key to taking him down.
- Guilty Gear's Potemkin is a particular case. In the beginning, his gloves and collar are both a weapon and an Explosive Leash, designed to explode should he disobey or try to take them off. At the end of the first game, the dictatorship of his country is eventually overthrown and his devices are deactivated, but as of XX he still has them as a keepsake of his former life as a slave. (shotgun gloves help.) However, Potemkin's Magnum Opera move reveals their nature of Power Limiters, as he disintegrates them away and destroys the opponent in a single punch.
- Your character in Oblivion starts as a prisoner, with (pre-broken) manacles among your beginning equipment. Many players like to hang onto them- not only do they look pretty snazzy, but as they're weightless they're a good choice to put custom enchantments on.
- I believe they are also the only non-armoured handwear in the game, making them a choice item for people who want to stick to plain clothes.
- City of Heroes features the Giant Monster Jack in Irons, who is basically Smash Mook, who occasionally spawns to Drop the Hammer on Heroes in one particular Zone. His game model features manacles, an iron neck-brace, and a lot of chains.
- The game also features chains (and barbed wire) as ubiquitous costume options in character creation, which are often used by PCs to invoke this trope.
- Due to being Sealed Evil in a Can and the Bonus Boss, The Forgotten One from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence was required to be Chained By Fashion. You have to wonder whether resident vampire lord Walter was conscientiously imprisoning him for the good of mankind... or just being a Jerkass to a defeated rival.
- Cody in Street Fighter Alpha 3 still wears, as part of his prison uniform, a pair of long-chained handcuffs. It's pretty clear during several victory poses that he can take them off at will, rather than actually being bound by them. He merely wears them for the challenge.
- For a more straight example. Oro in Street Fighter III bound one of his arm because of his power.
- Billy Coen, the male lead of Resident Evil Zero, spends the entire game wearing a broken pair of handcuffs on his left wrist. They're probably symbolic, or something.
- The enemy Cerberus from Final Fantasy IX features manacles with broken chains on its forelegs.
- The Shadow Stalker boss in Kingdom Hearts II is wrapped in chains. When it turns into Dark Thorn, it has manacles hobbling its legs, and manacles with broken chains hanging from its wrists.
- The various forms of Iron Imprisoner from Birth by Sleep - and the fewer chains it's wearing, the more pain you're in for. By the time it's completely free...
- Karura keeps an immense iron ring around her neck. Don't worry, she has superhuman strength. She keeps it to remind herself that she is a normal woman and not a princess of a country that (justifiably, apparently they were huge jerkasses) turned on her race and killed/drove them all out, though she dismisses offers to remove it as it is CLEARLY much too heavy.
- Kukuri's guardian angel Abraxas in 11eyes, a representation of her soul, is restrained as much as possible. Its mouth and eyes are covered and its hands are bound. Yet it can still unleash some powerful mace attacks.
- Regal Bryant in Tales of Symphonia. In the sequel, he's taken them off, only to end up back in handcuffs. Sometimes it would appear as if Regal likes being in handcuffs.
- In Fate/stay night there's Berserker, the Greek hero Herakles, and there's Gilgamesh's magical chain, "Enkidu", which responds to any divinity a captive has by growing stronger. As the son of Zeus, Berserker's divinity is highest ever seen in the series (since Gilgamesh lost most of his long beforehand). Despite that, Berserker still manages to break free with sheer strength and rage in order to protect his summoner. He's not a straight example in that he doesn't wear any part of the chains afterwards indeed, Gilgamesh kills him shortly afterwards, but his "breaking free" moment is iconic, and a part of one of the game's video intros.
- And then there's Rider's fashionable and functional chains. Though they're not attached to any of her restraints, they're always around her.
- Mortal Kombat's poster boy Liu Kang is killed and resurrected as a zombie, complete with chains attached to his wrists. The opening video for MK: Armageddon even shows him using them in a whip-like manner to grab hold of another character, a move he isn't actually able to perform in the game.
- This one comes complete with total inexplicability: we saw Lang's death scene the previous game (Shang Tsung broke his neck), and there wee no chains on him then. And the zombie is explicitly Liu Kang's corpse (since we also see his spirit, mostly appearing to tell people how disgusted he is that his body was brought back wrong. So one has to assume that Raiden put chains on Liu Kang's corpse before bringing it back just to invoke this trope.
- Both Suika Ibuki and Yuugi Hoshiguma of Touhou Project wear manacles and chains, being oni and all. Suika also has three symbolic geometric shapes attached to her chains.
- In his character notes, ZUN even directly states that the chains were chosen to denote Suika's oni-ness. There's no way Yuugi wouldn't get her own jewelry.
- Kasen Ibara also has a manacle on her wrist, leading to fan speculation that she's secretly an oni.
- Bowser, of Mario fame has manacles. Given that he's a king and has never been depicted as being chained up, he only wears them truly because of Rule of Cool.
- In the GBA iterations of the Fire Emblem games, the General class has a chain which attaches their lance or axe to their arm. Why exactly this is helpful is uncertain, but that's made up for by the fact that watching a giant suit of armor throw a spear or an axe at someone and then yank it back via the chain is simply too cool to question.
- In a Concept Art, but never put in the game, Cornell would've had a prisoner outfit, complete with ball and chain as a costume.
- Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusades gives us Regnier. His chains are part of his armour, and you can buy different chains for bonuses to him.
- In the Warcraft universe, Liches, some of the most powerful undead creatures, have chains floating around them.
- God of War, anybody? Aries bestows upon Kratos the most badass weapons ever forged that doubly exist so that he can control Kratos.... for awhile anyway.
- Those chains however became undone at the end of III, signifying that his service to the Olympians is now over.
- Nessiah. In fact, his have a name: the Chains of Conviction.
- The Divine Dragon in Legend of Dragoon. The chains worked . . . for 11,000 years. One could call it Sealed Evil In a Can, but it's more like Sealed Dumbass In a Can given the nature of dragons in this game.
- Quite a few creatures in the Heroes of Might and Magic series, mostly the demonic ones. The sixth release has the Demented, a low-tier unit, but the most prominent example, hands down.
- The Qunari of Dragon Age fear mages even more than the rest of Thedas. Qunari mages are chained, collared, masked, have their mouths stitched shut, and are restrained with special control rods by their handlers. Despite this, in-game they are still as powerful and dangerous as any enemy mage.
- Though Voldo doesn't own costumes with chains on them, there is a memorable mission in Soul IV. Nightmare has ravaging the countryside and as you chase him down you come across a large town that is destroyed and abandoned. The description explains that in the chaos, many prisoners were released (possibly by nightmare) from the local dungeon including a guy who is found clanging onto a wall like a spider. He simply hisses at the hero and attacks him. He has so many restraints that he completely absorbs most damage and the only way to defeat him is by using power attacks to throw him forcibly across the walls for concussion damage.
- In Disney's Aladdin, the Genie's wrist cuffs disappear when Aladdin wishes for the Genie's freedom, but he ends up wearing them anyway later on.
- To hide the tan lines?
- "The only thing I'm a slave to is fashion."
- My Pet Monster had bright orange manacles with a snap-link in the middle. Mildly disturbing for a child's plush toy...
- Lady Gaga. Pick a costume.