Watch For: flowers, roses, mysterious hands, ribbons, pearls, chains, cages, feathers, wings, butterflies, skulls, crowns, crosses, chessboards, curtains, stars, rabbits, mirrors, earrings, colors.

We've seen the theme of chains binding many characters in Pandora Hearts, and I think ribbons are a more subtle and versatile extension of that theme. In a very literal sense they represent being tied up. This could be elaborated into connection, manipulation, and/or control. Puppet strings. And, in the Pandora Hearts pilot, this is said explicitly: "You see only what you want to see. That's why you can't see the [Chains] playing with the strings just above you!!"

Jack has had two ribbons on his right hand so far. One in the picture of "drugged" Jack with dark Alice, and one in the picture of "dark" Jack with Oz:
Oz YangJack Yin

In this picture of the present, he has a white ribbon. The female (Lacie?) hand has a matching white ribbon. Oz here has black ribbons on his left arm and right leg. He also had the same limbs wrapped in blue ribbons in the blue rose picture of him studying the Lacie melody.

In the picture from 100 years ago, during the Sablier tragedy, Jack has a red ribbon:
Dark Alice with "Drugged" Jack

Is there a significance to loose ribbons versus tied ribbons? Do the colors matter? Red usually means passion, White can mean purity, Black... could mean a lot of things. The red ribbon tying up Jack's hand is accentuated by a black rose, indicating that the passion it represents is a violent or vengeful one. The "dark" Jack in the Yin Yang picture is likewise wearing black rose earrings (hover mouse over Jack for detail) as opposed to his regular bound red/blue teardrop ones, suggesting the kind of influence he either hears or is listening to.

Right and left hands are also important. Jack has his right, active, sword hand tied up. Oz had his receptive, passive hand wrapped.

But Alice herself is bound by red AND white ribbon to her twin. The red likely stands for the rivalry between them. Then again, this could also be the Red String of Fate from Japanese legend, said to tie together people connected by inescapable fate. When tied around the little finger, it is a sign of lovers, but other kinds of relationships bind hands, wrists, and other body parts. The string is unbreakable.

Alyss on her own has black ribbons wrapped around her arms, throat, and torso (corset), in stark contrast to the rest of her whiteness. This could possibly represent how her violent insanity affects her coherent expression.

What is the difference between ribbons around arms versus legs? I would say that arms represent purposeful action whereas legs represent overall freedom and mobility. Therefore, ribbons on arms could represent restraint, influence, or direction over the mind, and ribbons on legs could represent the same over the body.

Gil has a blue ribbon wrapped all around his left hand - the Raven hand that seals B-Rabbit, which has been rather ineffectual as of late since Oz had been accessing B-Rabbit power on his own. Alice has red ribbons tied to her legs, indicating how much control she lost over her B-Rabbit self:

Alice Twins
Alice Red RibbonsAlyss White Ribbon

Notice that Alice has a cage-like structure on her left leg in both the picture on the bed with Jack an din the red dress with Oz and Gil, whereas Alyss has the cage-structure on her right leg. Aside from the binding symbolism of cages, this also brings in a "mirroring" aspect to the polarity symbolism. You also see this in the picture of dark Alice over Jack with a light Alice in the mirror. It suggests that opposite ends of the spectrum - which appear to be in conflict - don't just contain the seed to give rise to each other such as in a Yin Yang, and don't just flow towards harmonious integration, but are all immediate (though inverted) reflections of each other.

Dark Alice with Jack also has cages on her right arm, and over her torso like a corset. More on cages later.

To further solidify the link between ribbons and chains, we have a picture of Oz and Gilbert being linked by a white ribbon from Oz's right hand to Gil's left:
Gilbert and Oz Chains

There are bands of tattered black and white ribbons around them, and here we see that there are chains underneath. Although I think the symbolism of ribbons is softer and more subtle than chains, they may still be akin to silk gloves that hide the steel chains of bondage. Also note that Oz is holding a white feather. More on that later.

typically correlate to relationship ties, and while they can often be combined with actual steel chains, the chains themselves are a direct link between the living human world and the Abyss - and between Chain and Contractor in particular. Such a chain wraps around a person's limb(s) - using Break as an example, his right arm - in ways eerily similar to how chains bind characters on the manga volume covers. Once the illegal Contractor seal arrow completes a full circle, the Contractor is dragged to the Abyss and the connecting chain between Chain to Contractor is broken.

So what are we to make of the broken and unbroken chains that we see on the manga covers?
This turns out to be a much more abstract question but, to get started, here's a quick comparison of the characters' chains:

(Unbroken, Slightly Broken, Very Broken)

Volume 1: Oz - slightly broken.
Volume 2: Gilbert - unbroken.
Volume 3: Break - slightly broken.
Volume 4: Sharon - unbroken.
Volume 5: Vincent - very broken.
Volume 6: Lottie - slightly broken.
Volume 7: Jack - very broken.
Volume 8: Cheshire - slightly broken.
Volume 9: Echo - unbroken.
Volume 10: Glen - unbroken.
Volume 11: Reim - slightly broken.
Volume 12: Ada - unbroken.
Volume 13: Lily - unbroken.
Volume 14: Elliot - unbroken.
Volume 15: Rufus - unbroken.
Volume 16: Leo - unbroken.
Volume 17: Lacie - unbroken.
Volume 18: Levi - unbroken.

(In-Depth Look at Volume Covers)
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DISCLAIMER: Pandora Hearts and all the characters, story, and art therein is copyright Jun Mochizuki. No copyright infringement is intended, and I hope that this essay inspires more people to read/watch Pandora Hearts! Translations are by Yen Press and Fallen Syndicate. Visit the Thanks page to see who else helped!