Chained Soldier Volume 1 looks action-packed from the cover and title but turns in a surprising direction. Written by Takahiro with art by Yohei Takemura, translation by Christine Dashiell, and lettering by Brandon Bovia, the Yen Press manga merges science fiction with the traditional harem genre. While the world-building about Japan and the encroaching Mato dimension is interesting, Chained Soldier Volume 1 focuses on putting protagonist Yuuki Wakura in compromised situations with girls.
Though romance, nudity, etc., are not problematic on their own, it made the rest of the story seem like filler tossed in. The story starts fascinating as we learn about this world through an—albeit typical—male gaze. Yuuki attends school, and he enjoys cooking and cleaning. After the Mato dimension showed up around Japan, some people died or disappeared, including Yuuki’s sister. But with their arrival, gender equality dramatically shifted, and not in the way you think.
Chained Soldier Volume 1 Is A New World?
Women and girls receive deferential treatment, and men have fewer rights in this world. The reason for all this is that “peaches” from the Mato dimension give women and girls powers; however, it does not give men abilities. So the government tasks women with protecting Japan from Mato, including guarding Mato’s stationary locations. Since women and girls are the only ones able to combat Mato effectively, laws changed to focus on their comfort.
Women and girls travel in separate train cars from the opposite sex, and men require a pass from their partner to allow them into the women’s cars. Chained Soldier Volume 1 sets up a unique world. However, the potential fizzles out.
Although the world is engaging at first, given the change in power dynamics, Chained Soldier Volume 1 makes this shift forgettable thanks to the relationship between Yuuki and Kyouka Uzen, the commander of the 7th squad who rescues Yuuki when he winds up having a “Mato mishap.” Though Kyouka uses her ability to transform Yuuki into a monster able to fight, her ability requires Kyouka to reward him, taking away her control over her body. You can guess where this heads. The rewards scale with the level of the challenge and can include a kiss, stripping, and the like.
The expectations for a unique story devolve into a traditional account with all the ecchi tropes. We see the events through the usual male protagonist Yuuki, who winds up in a Love Hina situation, complete with spying on naked underage girls. The hope you have for Chained Soldier Volume 1 to be entertaining in a way that subverts vanishes. Because of the rigid gender binary, it is unlikely there will be trans or nonbinary characters, another direction the manga could have chosen.
Same Old, Same Old
There is nothing wrong with staying in traditional storytelling avenues. What harms Chained Soldier Volume 1 is the implication the trajectory is somewhere new only to wind up in the same place. We do not learn much about the characters, including Yuuki, except for his lustful thoughts that put Kyouka in uncomfortable positions.
The story implies an outwardly innocent guy is subject to his base desires by the surrounding women and girls. It is exhausting seeing stories about women and girls turning men into beasts. Despite the promise, Chained Soldier Volume 1 drags, and little is entertaining or funny. Though the end has a twist, given the tropes, it is easy to guess where the series is heading. Explicit content warning is fine. But explicit does not mean messing with little girls. Period.