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Variable-Length Chain

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This whip's stretch factor is off the chain.

"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. A necessity for function of most Whip Swords.

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.

Usually paired with Chain Pain, Chained by Fashion, Whip Sword, and Lightning Lash, especially the Pure Electricity variant. Sometimes uses Instant Knots.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach
    • Nnoitra Jiruga 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.
    • Renji's Whip Sword shikai and bankai follow this trope. Justified with bankai by a lack of physical connection between each boney link.
  • Daimos has metal jaws on chains shooting from his wrists. This is actually a combination of two weapons from Tadao Nagahama's previous Super Robot show Combattler V, the Battler Gallager (jaws) and Choudenji Crane (actually a wrecking ball with a similar chain).
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: It's very subtle but it is there. Tengen Uzui's dual cleavers are connected by a medium-length chain, so he can swing his blades like one during some of his attacks; how long the chain is depends if and when Tengen's cleavers are resting on his back or in use during battle when the swords are on his hands the chain connecting them appear a little longer so Tengen is never restricted during his wide swings; obviously, no explanation is given for the variable lengths, they are just subtle enough so the audience can give a pass, possibly not even noticing it.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Hades produces powerful magical chains from his hands as his signature magic. It's later revealed that before he used magic his preferred weapon was a chain-blade.
    • Virgo wears a pair of chain shackles in her wrists. She uses them to attack in a filler episode by extending the chains.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero-: Michael-12 comes with an attachable chain so the blade isn't lost when it's launched. Where Kagura keeps several dozen metres worth of chain? Who knows?
  • Grenadier: Touka wields a ball and chain that must be several hundred feet long, yet somehow retracts into her staff.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Gouf's heat rod, a metal tentacle that somehow all fits within a forearm only slightly larger than normal. 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 Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin's redesigned the original with a substantially beefed-up arm and slimmed-down heat rod.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz: The redesign of Altron Gundam's dual dragon fangs to be dragon-shaped claws with a seemingly endless "chain" of red boxes that connected them to the Gundam's arms, officially stated to be 250 meters in length.
  • Hellsing: In one scene Walter's Razor Floss stretches across a corridor, in another he slices skyscrapers with it.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Kurapika 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.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Toji Fushiguro's cursed tool The Chain of a Thousand Miles, which he used in his fight against Satoru Gojo. It can extend endlessly as long as one end is hidden from sight; he attached other weapons of his to fight with them at range
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Signum's Empathic Weapon Levantine can change into a Variable-Length Chain form since it's a magical weapon with a connection to hyperspace.
  • My-Otome: Shizuru Viola 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. Her My-HiME incarnation's element (a naginata with Whip Sword capabilities) also works this way, as she's able to swing it, wrap the blade around a bell several feet away several times, destroy the bell, and then wrap it around Natsuki before pulling it in.
  • Naruto
    • In the third movie, Lee combines a set of metal bars into nunchaku, then pulls them apart into a chain that is somehow long enough to wrap around a Giant Mook and propel him high into the air.
    • Hidan's tri-bladed scythe has a variable-length cable attached to it, allowing him to use it like a kusarigama or even pull himself through midair by the cable.
    • Naruto's mother, Kushina Uzumaki, could summon chains from her body powerful enough to hold down Tailed Beasts. Her distant clanswoman, Karin, later awakens the same ability. Tobi/Obito Uchiha, after gaining the Rinnegan, and Madara Uchiha, after his resurrection and regaining his Rinnegan from Obito, used this ability derived from power of the Demonic Statue of the Outer Path to extract, reseal, and/or control the Tailed Beasts. Justified on the basis that the chains are solidified constructs of chakra and they could generate chain links as long as they have sufficient energy to create and sustain them.
  • Pokémon Adventures: 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.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyouko's Whip Spear can disassemble into several segments, connected by extendable chains, and the whole mess moves as if it's controlled by telekinesis. It's powered by magic, of course, so it doesn't have to make physical sense (the spear itself can also spontaneously grow or shrink).
  • 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. In fact, whipping an arm towards an opponent, instantly tossing out a half-dozen weapons that trail chains or ropes into the depths of his sleeve is his favorite opening move. Kunai, meteor shots, huge iron claws, sai, daggers, and, yes, the occasional yo-yo all fly out to ensnare anyone too slow to dodge the barrage, somehow not impaling them or slashing them to ribbons. (Of course, this has the added benefit that, if the enemy does dodge, Mousse can easily reel in those weapons back into their hiding places.)
  • Ronin Warriors: The Dark Warlord Anubis carries a kusarigama that has a claw attached via a long chain. The length of the chain varies according to his wishes.
  • Sailor Moon
    • Sailor Venus' Love Me Chain is shown to work this way (justified via magic).
    • Tuxedo Mask has a Variable Length Cane.
  • Saint Seiya
    • Andromeda Shun's armor is mystic in nature and the chains are somewhat sentient on their own, but some of his attacks can get downright ridiculous. 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. 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. Shun did explain during the battle against the Cerberus Saint that the length and power of the chains is directly proportional to the amount of cosmos the user possesses, and 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. And Shun loves to mention his chain can reach even different dimensions.
    • This also applies to other weapons such as Balrog Lune's whip, or the chains hidden in the grip of the Libra Gold Cloth's shields, which turn them into a combination Epic Flail + Deadly Disc + Killer Yoyo.
  • Soul Eater: Tsubaki, kusarigama mode. 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.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo!: A similar example to Sailor Venus' Love Me Chain is Cure Lemonade's Prism Chain, summoning a pair of two chains. Though, the chains are made of magical butterflies.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In her modern outfit, Catwoman stores her whip on her back where it hangs down like a cat's tail when she's not using it. It's not nearly long enough compared to when she draws it, and there's no obvious means of where the extra length is stored (especially since she can draw or store it instantly).
  • Ghost Rider: Ghost Rider's Hellfire Chain, possibly justified by the fact that it is a magical artifact.
  • Lady Death: In "Goddess Returns", Brock gives Lady Death a Morph Weapon called the Scynister which has three forms — a short sword, a sickle, and a kusarigama-like weapon whose chain can be as short or long as Lady Death needs.
  • Spawn: Justified for Spawn, what with having made a Deal with the Devil for his powers.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • It has been stated that being able to extend is one of the Lasso of Truth's abilities. In Volume 2, Issue #219 of ''The Flash, Diana states the Lasso's length has no limit.
    • The DC Rebirth'' version of Nubia wields the Staff of Understanding which can transform into a bladed lasso with unlimited range.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Deadly Duo: Hsiao Pin-fu, one half of the titular duo, uses a compressed bladed flail as his weapon, which he could carry in one hand... and somehow extend across an entire pier, almost effortlessly.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Roxy wears her chain whip as a belt when not in use. It seems to get a lot longer when she actually wields it. Considering that Ramona pulls a giant war hammer out of her purse a few seconds after Roxy shows off the belt, it could just be the Pilgrim-verse's Cartoon Physics coming into play.

  • The Ancestral Trail: Melek's rope explicitly lengthens on several occasions when they need it to. It's ambiguous whether this is a property of the rope or Melek himself.
  • 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.
  • Garrett, P.I.: 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.
  • Judge Dee: the Shrimp and the Crab fight with a chain fitted with iron weights, lengthened and shortened as required (or rather, the Shrimp does, the Crab coaches him) and hidden under the Shrimp's robes. An envious Ma Jong asks if he can learn this technique, but the Crab tells him large men can't master it because they always try to hit too hard. Using it correctly requires mastering the exact distance for the short end and the long end of the chain, as well as reeling one in to lengthen the other.
  • Known Space: The "variable sword" consists of a handle that contains a spool of monofilament 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.
  • The Wheel of Time: The leash between a damane's collar and her sul'dam's bracelet seems to be jointed, or woven, or even both, and is explicitly noted to be of variable length, from about a metre long to roughly three depending on need.
  • Xanth: In Ogre, Ogre, Smash must solve some puzzles using a ball of twine that can be rolled out to any length.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS: This is a justified trope with the monowire whips. 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.

    Video Games 
  • Arcana Heart 3: Scharlachrot has one, and she can throw magical fulcrums onto the field to temper/strengthen her special attacks.
  • Batman: Arkham City: Catwoman gets a Variable Length Whip. It's necessary to jump across streets between buildings.
  • Castlevania: The Belmont Clan's upgraded Vampire Killer whip. Some games also have the whip Nebula, which is a direct Shout-Out to Saint Seiya, with the more common version of it automatically homing towards enemies. The whip equivalent of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow trilogy is combat cross, an alchemically/magically-enhanced weapon with a very long chain conveniently stored inside the cross. With the suitable upgrade, a player can use the weapon as a grappling hook to slowly descend from the anchoring point to the floor a few stories below.
  • Dark Seal: The Knight can extend and twirl around his morningstar very quickly.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Rider's chains tend to vary in length many times in any given scene. Also an example of Chained by Fashion.
    • Gilgamesh's Chain of Heaven (also known as "Enkidu," named for his sole friend) tends to vary in length and thickness from scene to scene as well, and even sometimes appears like multiple separate chains instead of a single one. Expanded universe material heavily implies, but hasn't been confirmed yet, that this is because the chain is literally the corpse of Enkidu, who in this setting is a shapeshifting clay doll.
  • Garden Gnome Carnage: The rope holding the garden gnome, it shrinks and lengthens, always the distance from him to his house, even as both move around.
  • God of War: Kratos' Blades of Chaos/Athena/Exile have less than a foot of chain when on his back, and can become several dozen meters long when in Boss Battle cinematics. Justified because the blades are explicitly stated to be magical.
  • Guilty Gear: In Axl Low's idle sprite, the chain on his kusarigama is short enough that the whole thing isn't as long as he is tall. However, when battle comes around, some attacks can extend the chain the entire length of the screen! And his Instant Kills show the chains stretching beyond that. His intro pose in Xrd additionally depicts Axl twirling twin rods in his hands before linking them together to form a longer staff that's seen during a scant number of attacks in the XX installments. He then yanks on both ends to free the chains holding his weapon together, leaving Axl with his default kusarigama. Apparently, the chains are stored in Hammerspace.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Selphie, with a jump rope substituting for the nunchucks she wielded in Final Fantasy VIII. Interestingly, she doesn't have this trope in FFVIII.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • The Hookshot (and its variations, the Longshot and Clawshot) plays this straight in some incarnations, and averts it in others. 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. While some games have the device simply contain this chain within themselves, higher-graphical games have the chain visible around the exterior of the device, with the Clawshots in particular having it rotate as it is deployed.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: In the Wii edition, 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.
    • There are also enemies that swing around a ball and chain in the 2D games; the chain extends up to the edge of the screen when they fling the ball at you, and then retracts so they can swing it around some more.
  • Ninja Spirit has the Rising Dragon, a kusarigama whose chain can be extended and spun to sweep across the screen.
  • Odin Sphere: Velvet's Weapon, Graveryl, is two Psypher crystals linked together by a chain that initially only looks about as long as she is tall. In gameplay, it's capable of reaching extreme lengths with certain attacks. The Updated Re-release gives her a unique attack where the chain is seen reaching throughout the entire screen to attack all foes.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: Dhelmise's anchor is attached to one such chain, and it uses it in an Epic Flail fashion. It is also used to coil around Pokémon during the Anchor Shot move, preventing them from escaping.
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones: The Dark Prince's Daggertail, its normal form, is a few links of spiked chain that are embedded in the Prince's arm, but the Dark Prince can lengthen it into a combat-worthy chain.
  • Ratchet & Clank: The Swingshot always has enough cable to reach the next Versa-Target, despite not having any obvious storage space or rapid fabrication/deconstruction ability for said cable. This goes away after the second game, where the Swingshot (briefly called the Hypershot) fires a light-based cable.
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: In "Friends To The End", Bolo can extend or shrink the length of his chain when he's hanging from it.
  • Soulcalibur: Ivy used alchemy and a fragment of Soul Edge to forge her weapon. The prototype that she made using only alchemy is so pathetic it's her Joke Weapon in Soul Calibur II. 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.
  • Super Robot Wars: The chains connected to Giganscudo Duro's Rocket Anchors. The attachments on its arms they come out of don't look nearly big enough for them to retract into.
  • Touhou Project: Remilia Scarlet uses those in the fighting games. They also chase you wherever you are.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Killdra uses chains to fight, which she can make any size or length she wants.
  • RWBY:
    • Blake's weapon, Gambol Shroud, is attached to a ribbon which lets her whip it around. The ribbon's length is not set, with the reach depending on whatever would make the coolest fight. Cruelly subverted towards the end of Volume 8, where the ribbon is not long enough for Blake to be able to save Yang from falling into the Void Between the Worlds.
    • Penny Polendina's weapons are floating swords connected to her by, and controlled via, metal strings. The strings do appear to have a finite length at times, but due to the show's visual style, it's hard to tell what it might be. They're always exactly as long as she needs.


    Web Original 
  • Worm: Flechette has a chain-generating machine that effectively grants her this.

    Web Videos 
  • 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.
  • Sockbaby: Ronnie can use his leisure suit neck chain as a weapon. (Apparently it's electrified, too.)

    Western Animation 
  • Castlevania (2017): When Trevor finds the Morningstar whip in the abandoned Belmont estate, it's only a few feet long. In the battle against Dracula and his generals, the whip is suddenly long enough to reach across the massive hallways of the castle, and its chain's length keeps on varying from episode to episode where it's used.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: 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.
  • The Legend of Korra: The Republic City police are metalbenders, and can move around the city on cables attached to their wrists. 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.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The string of Ladybug's Killer Yo-Yo is as long as she wants it to be. Of course, it is magical.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: "Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm": Sandy uses a necklace-length piece of string to MacGyver a grappling hook for she and Spongebob to swing to safety on.
  • Steven Universe: Amethyst's whip is as long as it needs to be, being anywhere from her height to ten times that length (in the same scene, even). Justified, as Gem weapons are made of a magical Hard Light, same as their bodies.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: El Tigre's claw hands are on chains whose length is plot-appropriate.


Video Example(s):


Kurapika's chains

Kurapika fights using chains with various powers, symbolizing his unbreakable willpower and desire to see the Phantom Troupe dragged down to hell.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VariableLengthChain

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