Summer Reading — Infinite Dendrogram

Infinite Dendrogram

Today we’ll discuss Infinite Dendrogram volume 1. Lots of spoilers in this post!

I guess I’ll start off by admitting that this story probably just isn’t for me. How should I put it… I find the concept of a virtual reality world setting to be very intriguing, but I care quite little for MMO games and all the tiny details that make up telling a story about someone playing a video game. I really think virtual reality would be an interesting topic to explore, if the story was about things like how such technology would affect individuals, society at large, and the way people relate to one another. But the foundation for VR light novels seems to basically just be about a boy getting better at a game, not so different from all those card game anime and manga like Yu-Gi-Oh. That’s fine of course, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. But I just don’t care for reading page after page about player classes, job skills, level-up abilities, item crafting, monster stats, unlockable treasures, magic bonuses, environment effects, buffs and debuffs, guild formations, and so on.

I might as well also admit that I’m also quite weary of medieval Europe swords ‘n sorcery being the setting for these stories every single time. When the protagonist was given the chance to pick a land to play in, there were seven options given to him. I thought six of them sounded rather interesting. I specifically thought to myself, Please please please don’t choose Kingdom of Altar. And then of course that’s what he chose. I get that Dragon Quest is popular in Japan, but can we please have a little more creativity from time to time? We already have Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, Overlord, Re:Zero, Rising of the Shield Hero, Konosuba, Danmachi, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Death March, and The Faraway Paladin. I get enough Western Europe from media as it is. Why can’t we be interested in other parts of the world, other time periods, and other folklore/mythologies?

Setting all that aside, I still feel Infinite Dendrogram is a hard story to get into. The main characters are, at least to me, not very interesting. The lead boy Reiji and his partner, the Embryo girl Nemesis, both feel very generic. I can’t think of much to say about Reiji. He’s a nice guy who helps everyone out, but I know hardly anything about him. Nemesis at least has some personality, but it still feels rather one-note (and even then, her vengeance shtick feels underutilized). None of the side characters fare any better. And though the world is depicted as being basically 100% realistic, the characters all treat everything like a game. The protagonist gets bit by a wolf, but he doesn’t scream in pain. He just notes that he lost 27 health points. I just can’t care about the characters when I get nothing from them.

Of course, not every story has to be focused on its characters–it can be more about the setting or the plot. The story in this case is focused on the VR world’s Kingdom of Altar, which is under threat of being conquered by another nation. I find it hard to care too much about it though, because at the end of the day this is just a game. Perhaps if there was more focus on the A.I. people who live in the game, I would be more invested in the big events happening in their world.

But as they say, that’s all just my opinion. Perhaps all of you enjoyed it more! I do think the prose is well-written, and the translation felt top-notch too. I also really liked the artwork. So really, if you’re a big fan of the VRMMO setup, Infinite Dendrogram is probably a solid enough read. Feel free to share your thoughts below!

5 responses to “Summer Reading — Infinite Dendrogram

    • Let’s see, if you sick of medieval Europe swords ‘n sorcery, and want to read other folklore/mythology, I suggest you to read yokai manga like Nurarihyon no Mago or Monsuga. There’s not many novel with yokai genre, but you’ll find it a lot in manga. Or better, you should just read H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. You’ll find a mindblowing mythology there.

      It’s kinda sad that you didn’t see the potential of this novel. Infinite Dendrogram is a novel with a lot of possibilities. It’s on different level compared to Only Sense Online or Paying to Win in VRMMO. And it’s just plainly rude to line this novel together with Yu-Gi-Oh or the like. I suggest you to re-read this novel when you’re on different mood.

      • Thanks for the manga suggestions — I have enjoyed yokai-themed stories in the past. I’ve actually been rewatching the anime for Tokyo Ravens recently, which involves facets of Japanese folklore in its magic system and gives them a creative modern-day spin.

        And I’ve read some of Lovecraft’s stories too. Very imaginative, though a bit long-winded! Perhaps I’ll try another one this October.

        I can see people appreciating Infinite Dendrogram for its extraordinary attention to detail in regard to its game mechanics. I personally kept wanting the story to move along, but most of this volume felt solely devoted to explaining things about the game.

  1. Well, H. P. Lovecraft is an author from almost a century ago. What could I say for his writing style, old-school?

    Firstly I read infinite dendrogram was from syosetu, in the raw Japanese web novel form. It got six volumes there. It developed into very interesting direction. Well, the first volume mostly contains introduction of infinite dendrogram world, but if the LN was not too far apart from the WN, you can expect a good story from the next incoming volumes.

  2. > And though the world is depicted as being basically 100% realistic, the characters all treat everything like a game.

    After having read volume 2, that’s, for lack of better words, hilarious in hindsight? It’s a bit hard to tell after only 2 volumes, but the question of how animate the game’s citizens are appears to shape up as a central plot point.

    That being said, it still gave the distinct vibe of Western fantasy (albeit with a Mecha). So, given your genre-fatigue, it might not be overly enjoyable. For any connoisseur of JRPGs, VRMMOGPs and quirky characters, however, I would heartily recommend this series. Except when they have a low tolerance to bear puns – those can be over-bearing.

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