The most obvious visual on the Pandora Hearts volume covers are the metallic chains around the characters. We have seen the theme of chains binding a Contractor to a Chain at the limb(s) within the actual series, namely with Break at his right arm. Maybe this is an idea carried over to the cover imagery, with chains wrapped around limbs indicating a contract.

This raises some interesting questions for characters like Ada later on. But characters like Lottie, Lily, Glen, and Leo, who most definitely are Contractors, don't have chains binding their limbs. Could this be because they're Baskervilles? Yet the Baskervilles Gilbert and Echo have tightly wrapped chains. How to make sense of these patterns? Is it degree of control over the Chain, the nature and willingness of the relationship?

(Click on the pictures for a larger version.)
Volume 1: Oz VOLUME 1: Oz

Oz takes a confident pose, grasping the gold Lacie music watch in his right hand and a slightly broken chain in his left. The chain wraps around his arm, but his own grip on it suggests it is a willing commitment, and probably represents his voluntary contract with Alice.

The left half of Oz's body is dressed in the white robes of his Coming of Age ceremony. They are lines with gold and green, colors associated with the Vessalius dukedom, while the coat's underside is crimson and clotted like blood. His outfit is in tatters, likely showing his time in the Abyss.

The right half of his body is dressed in the clothes he acquires after escaping from the Abyss: white shirt, yellow-rimmed black vest, striped green shorts, and a bright red tie. Look for this tie on some of the rabbit dolls, designating them as Oz.

His cover symbol is the Lacie music watch, showing the paramount role the watch plays in his life. It is symbolic of his connection to Jack and the past of 100 years ago as well as his guide to the future.

Overall, the watch and the change of clothes represent the passage of time, since Oz did jump 10 years into the future, although this also has the more ominous symbolism of Oz's illegal contract ticking away.
Volume 2: Gilbert VOLUME 2: Gilbert

Gilbert's posture and expression is a lot more passive than Oz's. His right hand is bandaged with white ribbon from the being wounded by resisting Zwei's Doldum puppet strings. His left hand is wrapped in chains more tightly than Oz's, and he has no grip on them. This is the hand that releases his Raven Chain, which is too powerful for him to properly control. The chain isn't broken.

He is dressed in his usual black trench-coat, with parts of it blending into blue as one of Gilbert's signature colors. But its coattails are disintegrating into black feathers. Black feathers are also his cover symbol, showing his past as the one designated by Glen to acquire the Raven Chain, his present connection to Raven, his access to the Abyss, and even his tie to the Baskervilles.

There are three main feathers, which could be symbolic of his three attempts to contract with Raven. There are also five smaller, loose feathers on the bottom, possibly representing the five black-feathered chains, traditionally owned by Glen, that Raven is part of. Glen wanted to transfer all five of them to Gilbert, but that plan fell through.
Volume 3: Break VOLUME 3: Break

Break's posture is very withdrawn and defensive. He is not weak, but he is protecting any vulnerabilities he may have. His sword is held in front of him to ward off approach. His color scheme is purple and white, with a bit of red from Mad Hatter.

His left hand holds both his cane-sword and his chain, showing that his melee and Contractor skills are like second nature to him and don't require active control. The chain hangs loosely on his left arm, but winds around his sword, and then extends to the side where it is slightly broken. The reddish chain to the left of it is Mad Hatter's, as are the reddish wings.

His right hand covers his left eye, hiding his hollow eye socket and the story behind it. Break has to actively protect his secrets. He is tricky and resourceful, and even the fact that he disguises his sword as a cane attests to this.

Emily is perched on his left shoulder. The doll probably represents the little Sinclair girl that Break abandoned in the process of trying to reverse her family's massacre. Though Break changed his name and personality since then, he still feels enormously guilty about what happened, and perhaps made the Emily doll to represent that. Though others have forgotten, Break still carries his past on his shoulder.

His cover symbol is the illegal Contractor seal, foreshadowing what we would later learn about his past. Only one fourth of it is visible, which reinforces that he's trying to hide it.
Volume 4: Sharon VOLUME 4: Sharon

Sharon sits on the floor like a goddess. Her luxurious dress is sprawled on the floor around her in a circle. It is many shades of pink, with occasional hints of turquoise, and decked with frills and bows.

The top half of her dress circle is neat and tidy. Next to it are a tea kettle, a cut of tea, some sweets, and probably sugar, suggesting refinement and relaxation. Her cover symbol, on the right, is a Lily of the Valley, symbolic of sweetness, humility, and renewed happiness. This shows what kind of atmosphere she creates for those around her.

The bottom half of her dress circle is wilder and torn, revealing even her left leg in way that would probably not be proper decorum for a Victorian lady. This shows Sharon's more dangerous and violent side, which she displays to enemies, but also to friends who trigger her short temper.

A chain wraps twice around her foot, with one end going under her dress and the other end dipping off the page. The chain is not broken, but unlike everyone else's, it is green and flowering. This likely shows that she has a fruitful and harmonious relationship with her Chain, Equus. In this context, instead of bondage, the chain being around Sharon's foot indicates that Equus' ability is linked to travel.

White Lilies, symbols of purity and majesty, grow along the length of the chain, and she holds one in her left hand.
VOlume 5: Vincent VOLUME 5: Vincent

Vincent extends his right hand in a threatening manner, as if he could reach through the page and grab you. The twirl of his hair and clothes suggest a sudden, swift turning motion. His expression is confident and focused.

He wears his usual layered robe: black with gold rim on the outside, white on the inside. Perhaps this is a play on his dual nature. His clothes are tinged blue like Gilbert's, since that is a color seen often around these siblings. Vincent proudly displays the pointed sword/dagger-cross of the Nightray dukedom.

His left hand is hidden behind him, but from where it would be fully extended some chains curling in opposite directions: one gray, one light blue. Is this one chain making a loop? Or are these two distinct chains, one for Doormouse and one for the Queen of Hearts? The blue chain comes down to Vincent's feet (click on the cover for full picture), where it disintegrates around the body of a decapitated pink rabbit plushie.

The upward-curving of the two chains is completely broken off from its extension in the top left. It's as if it were cut by the giant scissors in the background, Vincen't cover symbol. Scissors are Vincen't favorite covert weapon besides his secret Headhunter chain, but these are not the scissors he has right now. These elaborate scissors are the ones he left in Alice's room back in Sablier 100 years ago, and thereby represent his secret past.

Volume 6: Lottie VOLUME 6: Lottie

Lottie appears dressed in vibrant Baskerville red, with some pink frills and black fishnet underneath. She also has a pink rose in her hair and pink pom-poms to tie her cloak, which is stylishly tattered at the bottom. Cute, yet psychotic.

Her demeanor is both seductive and sadistic. What chains she has do not bind her and, instead, she has them in a tightening noose around the throat of a B-Rabbit Alice doll. She is not one to shy away from violence, but engages in it with orgasmic passion.

But she is not completely free. Around both of her wrists and ankles are shackles... yet these shackles have no chains. What are they for? Does this indicate a willing servitude that doesn't require chains, such as her loyalty to Glen?

In the top right corner of her cloak is also some kind of circular clasp from which extends a belt-like thing. It's almost like a leash. At least I can't figure out what else it could be for.

Her cover symbol is a five-pointed crown with crosses. Is there something about Lottie we don't yet know? Is she royalty? Or is this simply a symbol of her dominatrix-like nature?
Volume 7: Jack VOLUME 7: Jack

Both Jack and Vincent are extending their hand towards the viewer, yet manage to pull off such different impressions. Jack's entrance is warm and beckoning, making you feel like everything will be all right if you just take his hand. Chains shatter all around him, promising liberation from bondage. This is the look of a hero about to save the day.

He wears the standard Vessalius colors: green, yellow, and white, plus some black. But his green coat is splashed with blue, giving him an overall turquoise appearance, like the cascading water he's been likened to by Reim. Although Glen senses the water in Jack not as awesome power, but a clear reflection that he can't fathom. Jack's teardrop earrings are also blue. Behind him is his cover symbol: expanding ripples.

These are the same ripples we see when Jack interacts with Oz, and the same ripples we see when we first meet Alice. They are the watery depths of the Abyss, and they were chosen as Jack's defining characteristic. Perhaps this is just because that is where we normally see him, but what if there's more to it?

The yellow in his coat glows gold - literally glows! - and spills over even into his turquoise coat. Curious. Gold, of course, is the color of the Abyss lights, and of the beautiful Golden Wold that the Abyss was before something went horribly wrong. Is Jack permeated by this power to the point of emanating it as an aura? He often comes and goes in a flurry of Abyss lights, and his clothes are sometimes dappled with golden lights.

Also notice his braid. Ever wonder why it's so freakishly long? Alice had braids when she was human, too, but after she died they became chain projectile weapons with spikes on the ends. Could Jack's braid be representing a chain, as well?
Volume 8: Cheshire VOLUME 8: Cheshire

Cheshire is in a fetal position, and his active right hand is protectively hugging a crazy-eyed White Rabbit doll representative of the Will of the Abyss whom he zealously serves.

All he's ever wanted was to shelter her from the evils of the world, and so he happily serves as keeper of the traumatic memories Alice locked away in his dimension. His cover symbol, the torn pieces of Alice's memories, are here as testament to his sense of purpose.

His right index finger is unraveling the bandages around the left eye that he got from Break, showing his perceptive vigilance. He has a very sharp, dangerous appearance, and his shoes are pointed and curved like scythes.

His left hand is clutching a disintegrating chain which leads up to the White Rabbit doll. Why? Whose Chain is who? The other three or four chains also aren't tied to Cheshire. They are all either wrapped around or released by the White Rabbit doll. The doll is dressed in purple.

Cheshire's colors here are black and red. The huge red ribbon is an exaggerated version of the ribbon he wore as a regular cat, but that one didn't have bells on the ends. The two ends of this ribbon are spiraling in opposite directions. Perhaps this represents an inner conflict he has, such as his love for both W-Rabbit and B-Rabbit Alice.

Volume 9: Echo VOLUME 9: Echo

Echo looks helpless and sad. Three out of four of her limbs are bound by chains, and none of the chains are broken. She has more chains than any other character except Elliot, who has the same number, but even Elliot has his legs free.

Her right active hand is especially constrained, with three chain wraps, while her passive left hand is slightly more free, with only two. This could mean that if she wants to disobey her Master, she has to do so in more subtle, cautious ways.

The chain around her right leg is the most loose of the three, and her left leg isn't chained at all, suggesting more physical than mental mobility. The stocking on that leg is also disheveled. It was probably drawn that way for a reason. Could this mean that she gets roughed up by Vincent if she acts on her own? That she's clumsy when trying to think for herself? Or that when not bound by her chained obligations she's able to relax and not be so uptight?

Her color scheme is blue and white, the colors of the feathers we've seen around her. She also has a black tie. The sleeves of her dress are way too long for her hands. This has the practical application of hiding her blade, but also the symbolic implication of her having limited utility of her own hands.

Echo has two cover symbols: the blue wings from St. Belligeron's Day and her gold hair wrap worn by Zwei. It is the duality that exists inside her. It's interesting to note that the wings are on the side of the leg that isn't bound.

Volume 10: Glen VOLUME 10: Glen

Glen has his back turned and is looking over his shoulder. Does he have reason to be suspicious? Then again, he has is back turned or is looking away in most of his pictures. His expression is calm and melancholy, which is also pretty common for him.

Glen's color scheme is black, red, and violet. His cape in particular is turning bright red towards the bottom, as if it's soaked in blood. Is this standard Baskerville red? Or is it symbolic of him ordering the massacre of Sablier?

Five rust-colored feathers drift in the background, likely representing his five signature Chains: Jabberwocky, Raven, Griffon, Dodo, and Owl. A lone reddish chain hangs leisurely across the page. Even though Glen's left hand isn't visible, the arc of the chain looks like it isn't tied to it. The chain isn't broken.

In his right hand Glen holds the Lacie music watch, and the Lacie Cross is his cover symbol. This shows the importance of Lacie in his life. She was his sister and he loved her dearly, but he had to live knowing it was his fault that she was born with the cursed red eyes, and that he would one day be forced to sacrifice her to the Abyss with his own hands.
Volume 11: Reim VOLUME 11: Reim

Reim is friendly and diligent as he sits among the pile of paperwork. Though, oddly, all the papers look blank, whereas the piles of paper in the volume's color insert have writing on them. His color scheme is grey and white, and his earrings are rectangles with hoops at the end.

His right hand is adjusting his glasses, all the better for doing his job. His left hand has a chain wrapped around the wrist. He would rather hold the papers than his chain, perhaps showing that he doesn't use it very often. The chain comes down to the floor and breaks in two.

His right leg is relaxed on the ground, but his left leg is raised and ready to get up if needed.

He has three candies falling out of his coat pocket. He probably keeps those around as treats for Break, but they also show Break's influence on him. Or maybe the papers with candy on them are the ones that Break was too lazy to handle himself.

Reim's cover symbol is the Pandora Cross, showing how his duties to Pandora consume his life.

Volume 12: Ada VOLUME 12: Ada

Ada's posture seems to be one of surrender. She's on her knees with her shoes off and her hands on the ground, staring off into the distance. Very unlike the cheerful and sweet Ada we normally see.

There is a blue chain wrapped around her left arm as well as her left ankle. Could this indicate that she is a Contractor? She certainly was desperate to rescue Oz from the Abyss all these years, and has learned much about sorcery and the occult to that end. It would only be a matter of time before she figured out how to ask for the help of a Chain.

Ada's color scheme is black and white. She is wearing black fishnet embroidery on her head... possibly a sign of mourning, possibly for Oz while he was in the Abyss. She has blue roses and their petals on the ground around her, another symbol of wish-fulfillment and attaining the impossible which is linked to Contractors... or perhaps simply to her magic.

Her cover symbol is a cage hanging on chains. Maybe it's just showing her affinity for medieval torture devices, but maybe it stands for some kind of metaphorical imprisonment.

Volume 13: Lily VOLUME 13: Lily

Lily radiates confident enthusiasm in her red Baskerville cloak. Unlike Lottie's, her cloak isn't torn on the ends, perhaps saying that her psychotic tendencies are more innocent and less sadistic. Her hands are on her hips, saying she's ready for action.

Lily wears a lot of black, including three black bows, and also some white. She has a tassel coming down from her right ear.

Like Lottie and Glen, Lily is not bound by her chain. It hangs loosely behind her, and she even decorated it with whimsical stars, showing how much fun she's having at her job. The little wolf head dangling off the coils is representative of Bandersnatch, her fearsome Chain.

Lily's cover symbol is the demonic tattoo she was branded with because bad things kept happening around her. It represents both the ostracism she felt among normal humans, and the fulfilling sense of belonging that she found among the Baskervilles. Fang and Doug even tattooed her mark on themselves in solidarity.

Volume 14: Elliot VOLUME 14: Elliot

Elliot stands resolute and strong despite being bound by six chains.

These chains are swathed in black ribbon, symbolic of his contract being a secret unknown to him except as hints in dreams. They wrap both his arms, with the most around his sword arm, showing Humpty Dumpty's manipulation of his mind and actions. But his legs are free, showing that his ordinary physical mobility is unimpaired.

His right hand holds a sword, and his left hand is balled into a tight fist. Elliot's a fighter, and once he realized what was going on, he wasn't willing to back down from anyone, especially not Humpty Dumpty.

His clothes are a deep Nightray blue, and dappled across them is the silhouette of the Statice flower, which means "something that never changes." Aside from being fitting for Elliot's steadfast nature, it is also symbolic of his friendship with Leo, since the song he gifted to Leo bears the same name. Parts of his coat are streaked with series of diagonal lines. They look like scratches of cuts, damaging in some way.

Elliot's cover symbol is the Nightray family crest, which looks like a sharp sword-cross. This symbol looks much more prominent and darker than the symbols on other covers. It stands for his integrity, principles and honor, and his pride in the Nightray bloodline. It also stands for death, both his own and that of the Nightray family by his hands.
Volume 15: Rufus VOLUME 15: Rufus

Rufus sits relaxed by in control. His posture is secretive and mysterious.

With his right hand he holds his favorite weapon, a black fan. It is open and covering half his face, helping to hide any expressions he might make. Not that he's very expressive in general. He usually has quite the poker face going on without need for a fan.

A chain extends between his legs and up to his right hand, but we can't see what it's tied to.

His left hand holds down a scroll with writing on it. Rufus is quite the erudite, and he's very calculating in how he disseminates the vast amount of information at his disposal. Indeed, his cover symbol is a book. Arthur Barma's diary, to be precise, showing the pivotal role the information contained therein plays in his motives and actions. The cover has a design of a rectangle with a loop on each corner. It loosely parallels the Pandora Cross' design of four diamond-shaped gates linking into a central square.

Rufus' color scheme is an overwhelming red. He is swathed in opulent red robes with yellowish feather motif speckled with dots reminiscent of Abyss lights. A semi-transparent red scarf curls around him, as if to add to the obscurity.

Sakura (cherry blossom) petals rain down from above. Since sakura bloom so beautifully and die so quickly, they symbolize the transience of life in Japan, and have been used as metaphors for warriors killed in their youth. Well, Rufus is quite old so it's too late for him to die young, but perhaps his knowledge of history allows him to appreciate impermanence. This is reinforced by these wind-blown sakura appearing in many visions of 100 years ago.

Volume 16: Leo VOLUME 16: Leo (Special Edition Cover)

Leo is draped in lush folds of Baskerville red, which is tinged with hints of Glen's purple. The purple also appears in the black outfit that Leo is wearing, as well as in his black hair and eyes.

The cloak wraps around him, restricting the movement of his arms, and yet he wears it this way willingly, perhaps recognizing the helplessness of his situation. His active/projective right hand is completely hidden. His passive/receptive left hand is a little more free, suggesting that his actions are currently re-active, guided by instinct and emotion.

Leo's body language is both carefree and confident, yet still carrying the undertone of deep depression and hysteria. He has already lost everything important to him and now surrenders to the momentum of his fate, willing to play his role and finish what was his predecessor started 100 years ago, in an attempt to atone for everything that has gone wrong.

Leo's cover makes for an interesting contrast with Elliot's. Both are surrounded by six chains, but each responds to the chains very differently. Whereas Elliot is defiant, Leo is accepting. Whereas Elliot is bound, Leo is free. Indeed, Leo dominates them, resting his active right foot rests triumphantly on a reddish chain. The chains around Leo are, however, larger and thicker than on any other cover.

His cover symbol is a door to the Abyss. Though all the Abyss doors look the same, this one is most likely the Baskerville's door in Sablier. It looms behind him, representing his identity as a "Glen," his newfound purpose of destroying the Will of the Abyss, and everything he is willing to do to accomplish that.
Volume 17: Lacie VOLUME 17: Lacie (Special Edition Cover)

Lacie wears the summer dress she had on when she met Jack. This is her younger self, but she is not wild and spontaneous as we're used to. She looks quite sad and despondent, resigned to her fate. Maybe she was never as carefree as she appeared or, rather, lived her life that way to take her mind off the doom that hung over her. Her hair has her brother Glen's purple sheen.

Though Lacie is a Baskerville, her cover is very different from the other members of the family. She has no red cloak, and the cool colors surrounding her accentuate the crimson of her eyes. While other Baskervilles dominate their chains, both Lacie's hands are bound.

Because these chains aren't hers. There's five of them, and so these are probably Glen's five Chains of Conviction passing "judgment" upon her, dragging her down to the Abyss. But she bears no ill will towards her brother for this. Her right hand lightly caresses the chain.

Lacie's cover symbol looks like Abyss lights. These are the wisps of gold that she saw towards the end of her life, and indicate her destiny. They are an interesting match with Jack's aquatic ripples, since they both represent the purest essence of the Abyss: water and gold. Or, in Jack's case, water that reflects Lacie's light.

But, considering this is young Lacie on the cover, the symbol could be snow. The flecks on Lacie are white, not gold. Snowflakes and Abyss lights are drawn very similarly in the manga, and I think this may be intentional. Many scenes with a link to Abyss plot points happen in the snow: Lacie meeting Jack, Gil and Vince making their way to the Baskervilles.

Snowflakes are, after all, glistening frozen rain. They combine both light and water - the two main Abyss symbols - so it is fitting for Lacie to have them as hers. Snow is very meaningful to Jack, who treasures the memory of meeting Lacie above all others. But snow may be important for Lacie, too. During the time she spent with Jack, she was free of her cage and could be herself. It's a little unclear, but it's probably her who says "on snowy days like this my heart dances, as if something might appear at any time to take advantage of this white stillness."
Volume 18: Levi VOLUME 18: Levi

Levi's cover is quite different from all the preceding ones. It minimizes the whiteness of negative space and is missing the usual assortment of material props that dominate the other covers. Instead of the crimson Baskerville cloak, Levi is positioned with the Abyss at his back, colored in the Glens' rich royal purple. As head of the Baskervilles, he is the one most learned in the Abyss' mysteries.

Levi once said that "the Abyss is at once the beginning and the end of all things." True to this concept, the Abyss is depicted here not in its typical aquatic imagery, but in the likeness of a space nebula. Space nebulae consist of gas and dust: the raw materials from which worlds (stars and planets) are born, and to which they ultimately return.

Levi appears in the twilight of his life, bandaged to mask the inevitable breakdown of his body from bearing the Abyss' power. Its dark clouds wrap around him, ready to absorb him into its fathomless depths, and his physical form is shown dissolving into it.

Behind him are three unbroken chains, connecting the human world in front of him with the Abyss behind him, and intersecting at Levi as their nexus. These could represent Lacie, Oswald, and Jack - the people he used to carry out his Abyss experiments - but it's more likely they represent Lacie, Alice, and Alyss - the culmination of those experiments. Lacie, Alice, and Alyss are the ones able to reach between the two worlds, and Levi is the one who orchestrated their roles.

Levi's cover symbol is chains breaking around a cracked crystal. This recalls his analogy of the human world as a cracked crystal held together by special chains which keep it from being engulfed by the Abyss. Severance of these chains would trigger the collapse of reality. This symbol is Levi's essence because he gave Jack the idea to drop the human world into the Abyss in order to make Lacie happy, thereby starting the ball rolling for the tragedy of Sablier and the entire story a century later.
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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!