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"We are all bound to the throne of the Supreme Being by a flexible chain which restrains without enslaving us."
—Joseph de Maistre
Lots of characters use chains and whips, mostly because it's cool. However, these often have the pesky problem of having limited reach, and if they're long they'll be heavy and bulky to carry. So how do you keep the cool while downplaying these inconveniences? By using Variable Length Chains! They grow long to reach a target, short when being carried, and even disappear entirely depending on needs.
Usually this is a stylistic effect that's never addressed. When it is, the extra length and weight of chains are usually said to be stored in Hammerspace, or the weapon is actually magical, empathic or somehow alive and able to prestidigitate more links as needed.
- Shizuru Viola in Mai-Otome has some sort of dual-bladed fighting stick (a bit like Darth Maul, only less - or arguably more - teched up). Said blades discombobulate into chains of blade-chunks, but these appear to be variable-length and often greatly exceed the length of blade available when the weapon is in one piece. That said, all Otome technology seems to rely heavily on hammerspace so anything is probably possible.
- Nnoitra in Bleach has a chain connecting his axe to his outfit, the length of which seems to vary.
- Hisagi's shikai, as he can throw the blades at enemies a fair distance away and retract the chains easily.
- Daimos has metal jaws on chains shooting from his wrists (though since we never see the other end of the chains, it overlaps with Hyperspace Arsenal
- In Naruto's third movie, Lee combines a set of metal bars into nunchacks, then pulls them apart into a chain which is somehow long enough to wrap around a Giant Mook and propel him high into the air.
- Kurapika of Hunter X Hunter uses an arsenal of such chains in combat. Justified, as the in-universe magic (Nen arts & skills) features a school of controlling items and averted as the chains are actually the manifestation of Kurapika's summoning Nen skill
- Andromeda Shun of Saint Seiya IS this trope. It's justified, in that his armor is mystic in nature and the chains are somewhat sentient on their own, but some of his attacks can get downright ridiculous. Really, the page picture doesn't do his mastery of this trope justice. In the Poseidon arc his fight with Io Scylla has him create a giant web of chains to stop an attack... and still have enough to attack Scylla. When idle, the lengths of the Nebula Chain hang about 1 or 2 feet long from each of his arms. However, he can unspool them to several dozen yards in a defensive ring around himself; by his own words, the chain can extend across the entire galaxy (and across dimensions!) to strike at a foe.
- Shun did explain during the battle against the Cerberus Saint that the lenght and power of the chains is directly proportional to the amount of cosmos the user possesses. Moreover, if we take into account the flashback in which his teacher lectures him and his fellow trainees about how a Saint's cosmos is limitless...well, you get the idea.
- Shun is definitely this trope incarnate along with the rest of saint from Andromeda Island, in sanctuary arc Shun's chain is capable to reach Saga in Pope's Chamber from Gemini Temple. And Shun loves to mention his chain can reach even different dimension, so don't ask how long...
- The Nebula Chain's "variable length" property is explicitly displayed during the Dark Saints arc, when, after Seiya has fallen into a ravine, Shun pulls him up with one of his chains—not by hoisting the chain up like rope, as anyone else would have done, but by retracting it into Hammerspace as if it were measuring tape.
- In Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus' Love Me Chain is shown to work this way (justified via magic).
- And Tuxedo Mask has a Variable Length Cane.
- Touka of Grenadier, who wields a ball and chain that must be several hundred feet long, yet somehow retracts into her staff.
- Tsubaki, kusarigama mode, in Soul Eater. Especially apparent when Black Star uses his Trap Star technique. Given that she's one of the ridiculously large proportion of human-weapon shapeshifter characters in the series, this is passable.
- Signum's Empathic Weapon Levantine can change into a Variable-Length Chain form, since it's a magical weapon with a connection to hyperspace.
- Gojyo's Shakujo chain in Saiyuki
- In Pokémon Special, Yellow's fishing line. This would be averted if her rod had a reel, but no, her line is simply tied to the end of her rod.
- Madoka Magica: Kyouko's Whip Spear.
- Pretty much any whip-type weapon in the Gundam franchise, the most Egregious being the Gouf's heat rod (a metal tentacle that somehow all fits within a forearm only slightly larger than normal) and Gundam Nataku's dragon fang (a dragon-shaped claw with a seemingly endless "chain" of red boxes, officially stated to be 250 meters in length).
- The Gouf got two "corrections" which made the concept more believable: Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team introduced the Gouf Custom, a remodel whose heat rod is simply a wire with a magnetic anchor on the end, while Gundam The Origin's redesigned the original with a substantially beefed-up arm and slimmed-down heat rod.
- From Ranma ½, Mousse's entire fighting style consists of things stored in Hammerspace, so it's not surprising that his arsenal contains chains which, when he does use them, shoot out rapidly and usually instantly wrap themselves around his target.
- Hades from Fairy Tail produces magical chains from his hands as his signature magic.
- Ghost Rider, possibly justified by the fact his chain in a magical artifact.
- Justified for Spawn, what with having made a Deal with the Devil for his powers.
- Doug Sangnoir uses a pair of these in Drunkard's Walk II while battling a superboomer; in this case it's justified because they're magical constructs whose length and movement are entirely under his control.
- The hooked chains that Pinhead uses as his Weapon of Choice in the Hellraiser series.
- In the Scott Pilgrim movie Roxy wears her chain whip as a belt when not in use. It seems to get a lot longer when she actually wields it.
- Dragaera: The magical chain Spellbreaker used by protagonist Vlad Taltos, which aside from breaking enchantments, changes both the size and number of links when he's not looking. This is something that disturbs Vlad when he thinks about it too much.
- Melek's rope in The Ancestral Trail explicitly lengthens on several occasions when they need it to. It's ambiguous whether this is a property of the rope or Melek himself.
- Played with in Petty Pewter Gods, in which a creepy goddess loans Garrett a length of magical cord that can be manipulated in various ways, including elongating it as needed.
- In the Xanth novel Ogre, Ogre, Smash must solve some puzzles using a ball of twine that can be rolled out to any length.
- The "variable sword" in Larry Niven's Known Space universe. It consists of a handle which contains a spool of monofiliment wire. A variable length is then extended from the handle, and an electrical charge causes it to go rigid. Since the wire is so thin as to be practically invisible to the naked eye, a large colorful ball is stuck on the far end so the user can visually gauge how far the wire is extending.
- This is a justified trope with the monowire whips from GURPS: Ultra-Tech can switch automatically from one to seven yards long, allowing the user to enjoy the benefits of different sized whips. It's justified because there is a spool of monowire in the whip, and being so thin it could be miles long.
- Shadowrun has it pretty much the same way.
- Employed by Choke Chain of Mutants and Masterminds's META-4 setting due to her having been empowered by an agent of chaos.
- The Belmont's Vampire Killer whip in Castlevania.
- Some games also have the whip(sword) Nebula, which is a direct shoutout to the Saint Seiya version above, with the more common version of it automatically homing towards enemies.
- Krato's dual swordchucks in God of War have less than a foot of chain when on his back, and can become several dozen meters long when in Boss Fight cinematics. Justified because the blades are explicitly stated to be magic.
- Selphie in Kingdom Hearts. Interestingly, she doesn't have this trope in the Final Fantasy VIII, the game she originates from.
- If this trope doesn't make you think of Ivy's weapon then you haven't played Soul Calibur. Sort of justified since she used alchemy and a fragment of Soul Edge to forge it. The prototype that she made using only alchemy is so pathetic it's her Joke Weapon in Soul Calibur 2.
- Oddly enough, while most examples of this trope grow infinite chain links, Ivy's weapon keeps the same number and stretches the length between them the further out her weapon extends.
- The Dark Prince's daggertail from the Prince of Persia series fits pretty well. In its normal form, it's a few links of spiked chain that are embedded in the Prince's arm, but the Dark Prince can lengthen them to a combat-worthy chain.
- BloodRayne's harpoon which sounds exactly like the Prince's daggertail (many elements of BloodRayne appeared in Prince of Persia but cross game pollination is a different subject entirely).
- Rider's chains in Fate/stay night varied in length many times in any given scene. Also an example of Chained by Fashion.
- Also, we later find out that Gilgamesh the King of Heroes has some chains called the chains of heaven in his vault, said to be able to restrain anything up to and including a god.
- The chains connected to Giganscudo Duro's Rocket Anchors in Super Robot Wars. The attachments on its arms they come out of don't look nearly big enough for them to retract into.
- Averted with Chang Koehan of King of Fighters, as the chain to his iron ball is never animated.
- The Hookshot (and its variations, the Longshot and Clawshot) from The Legend of Zelda certainly qualifies, given it both has a chain long enough, and strong enough, to carry Link a considerable distance, while not having a notable chain hanging out from the device itself. Not to mention that the weapon is one handed and (in the case of the Clawshot) can be Dual Wielded.
- In the Wii edition of Twilight Princess, in one region of the Arbiter's Grounds, a chain which you pull out of the wall visibly grows as needed: you can see links popping into existence on the wall end of the chain. It's presumably a level layout error rather than really this trope, though.
- Scharlachrot from Arcana Heart 3 has one, and she can throw magical fulcrums onto the field to temper/strengthen her special attacks.
- In Sockbaby, Ronnie can use his leisure suit neck chain as a weapon. (Apparently it's electrified, too.)
- On Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara sent the "Scales of Justice" weapon image from JLA: Act of God to Spoony, who said one of the main things it would need to work was a much longer chain. Lo and behold this trope en effect when Linda Danvers uses it later, much to Linkara's frustration.
- Seeing as how the chain went from about a foot to six feet, it's really noticeable.
- Bear in mind that this is a universe where magic explicitly does not exist anymore.
- El Tigre the Adventures of Manny Rivera—El Tigre's claw hands are on chains whose length is plot-appropriate.
- One episode of Teen Titans had Robin grab a random hanging chain and tie it around the Monster of the Week.
- In the "Alaskan Bull Worm" episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Sandy uses a necklace-length piece of string to MacGyver a grappling hook for she and Spongebob to swing to safety on.
- In "Shirley the Medium," Courage uses an average-length clothesline to save Eustace and Muriel from being dragged into the demonic box, by wrapping it around the house three times.
- In Avatar: The Legend of Korra, the Republic City police are metalbenders, and can move around the city on cables attached to their wrists. Out of the episodes released, so far, no specific length has been noted for them, but they seem to be as long as they need to be. They are connected to a spool mounted on the officers' backs though, so it does not have to resort to Hammerspace.