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!