Infinite Dendrogram

Infinite Dendrogram

Infinite Dendrogram anime series cover art
Infinite Dendrogram

Series Overview

Infinite Dendrogram (<Infinite Dendrogram>-インフィニット・デンドログラム-) is your typical, trash-tier, isekai, fantasy series. Since yesterday’s review was on a masterpiece, Promare, I figured a good way to follow that up would be with a horrible anime, Infinite Dendrogram.

Back in the day, game-centric isekai anime involved getting stuck within a game — think Sword Art Online. But there’s been a more recent trend to game-centric isekai series in which the characters aren’t actually stuck within the game. So, does this still count as an isekai? Yes; it’s still another world.

However, what’s interesting about these series is that the whole idea of “if you die in the game, you die in real life” is missing. For example, if someone dies in Infinite Dendrogram, they’re simply locked out of their account for something like 48 hours.

How does a series without any real penalty for dying keep viewers engaged then?

It actually does this in a pretty clever way. While players are locked out of the game for 48 hours, that’s something like a week in in-game time. And for a significant number of players, the game is more real to them than their actual lives — so missing a week is a pretty big deal.

This is compounded by the fact that NPCs are basically just as emotionally real as the players themselves are — and if they die, they don’t come back. So if a player dies, then comes back after a week, there’s a fairly good chance their NPC best friend will be dead because the player wasn’t there to protect them.

And that’s the real plot of Infinite Dendrogram. It’s a story about a young man who views this virtual world as real and wants to protect the friends he’s made within it.

Characters

Ray Starling is the protagonist of the series. In typical isekai protagonist fashion, he’s an absolute white knight without any other personality traits. He also has a bunch of overpowered abilities, again, like any other isekai protagonist. There’s not really much else to say about him than that.

Nemesis is Ray’s “embryo,” which is basically a summon. Every player in Infinite Dendrogram has an embryo which themselves separated into different classes and rarities. Nemesis is a “Maiden”-type embryo, which I guess just means she can take the form of a cute anime girl. But her true form is that of a weapon (the exact weapon changes throughout the series).

Shu is Ray’s older brother who has been playing Infinite Dendrogram since it released two years prior. I’m just going to spoil this because I don’t think you should watch the series anyway: he’s what’s known as a superior — someone who’s overpowered by nature. Shu also constantly wears a bear costume and says “kuma” (bear) a lot.

Shu and Ray Starling from the anime series Infinite Dendrogram
Shu and Ray Starling

Rook Holmes and Hugo Lesseps are two friends Ray makes within the game. as with Ray, there’s not really much to say about these two. Rook isn’t as strong as Ray, but his embryo, Babylon, seems to be on the same level as Nemesis. Hugo has a less powerful embryo but has more natural talent.

The last character I’ll mention is one I really don’t understand at all: Dr. Franklin. Dr. Franklin is a superior class player (like Shu), but I’m not sure why. He’s not strong and even acknowledges this, so it’s unclear why he’s a superior. Franklin is also the antagonist of the series, and even after he was defeated I don’t know why he was evil in the first place.

Why is Infinite Dendrogram so Bad?

Perhaps you don’t think Infinite Dendrogram seems that bad based on what I’ve said about it. If this is what you’re thinking, then allow me to correct that mistaken understanding you have.

Maybe some people like this, but my first issue with the series is that it doesn’t seem to know what kind of series it wants to be. Some characters use swords and magic, like Ray, which is what you would expect. But then there’s also Shu, a bear who uses a chaingun, and Hugo, who literally pilots a mech to fight.

The next issue I have is with the stakes of the series. I mentioned earlier how the series gets around the low stakes associated with death in-game, but it doesn’t go far enough. Just because Ray doesn’t want to die in-game doesn’t mean most players feel the same way. And due to this, we get people like Franklin who are just evil because why not?

Ray Starling holding Nemesis in sword form from the anime series Infinite Dendrogram
Ray Starling holding Nemesis in sword form

Continuing on with Franklin, I also just think his character makes no sense. In the final episode Hugo randomly refers to Franklin as his older sister, so I guess Franklin was a girl all along? This was never explained and actually goes against a lot of the build-up of the relationship between Hugo and Franklin.

Then, of course, we have the power system. The Infinite Dendrogram game is rigged from the start. When a character is created, they get random stats and a random embryo — which usually mirror each other in strength.

What this means is that those known as superiors are simply superiors because their characters rolled good stats and skills — and they also got a good (and rare) embryo. Strong characters are strong because of RNG, and weak characters are weak for the same reason. That’s all there is to it, which means there’s no room for development.

Conclusion

Infinite Dendrogram is a 2/10 because it has bad characters, bad plot, bad series mechanics, bad animation, and boring art. The only reason I haven’t given it a 1 is that it at least attempts to have interesting sub-arcs at times — like the superior tournament.

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4 Replies to “Infinite Dendrogram”

  1. I think this series suffers from a problem that I’ve noticed a lot of anime based on light novels do. Particularly isekai. A lot of exposition is glossed over or dumped completely and viewers are just expected to fill in the blanks themselves.

    Overall I found this series pretty bland. However I thought it hinted at enough interesting concepts that the source material might be worth checking out.

    All that said I think a couple of your criticisms were unfair because they weren’t entirely accurate.

    One example is Hugo and Franklin. One of the episodes had a flashback of their real life alter egos. In the flashback Hugo (Yuri) and Franklin (Francesca) were sisters with an abusive father. Franklin was the older sister and ended up leaving home when she was old enough and had enough of their father. Hugo (Yuri) was a child when her sister left and they lost touch until meeting up again in Infinite Dendrogram where Hugo was desperate to reconnect with her sister. So the fact that they were sisters wasn’t a last minute reveal in the finale through a line of dialogue.

    I suspect the novels do a better job of explaining the games’ mechanics. However I think the anime did a reasonable job of showing that whilst Ray was pretty OP for a newbie he wasn’t the most OP player in the game. Even some of the OP abilities he has have to be used strategically because of their inbuilt limitations and drawbacks.

    It is constantly teased that Infinite Dendrogram might not just be a game. We’re never given a definitive answer but I think that mystery is the carrot on a stick that kept me somewhat interested. There is the constant question over whether or not the Tians are real living beings or just NPCs. One thing the series could have done to signicantly boost my engagement would have been to show some stories from Tian characters point of view. For the most part we only ever see the story from Ray and other player’s POV. If the Tian’s are real people it would be good to get to see a few more of their characters developed.

    1. I don’t remember that flashback of Hugo and Franklin at all. I went back and found it, and although it does give Hugo’s backstory, it doesn’t actually mention anything about Franklin being related to him(her). The reveal that Franklin is Hugo’s sister still comes in the final episode, and it still doesn’t make all that much sense in the context of Hugo and Franklin’s relationship. Throughout the rest of the series, we see Hugo looking up to Franklin as a mentor, but still not really understanding who Franklin is as a person. And that also doesn’t change the fact that Franklin has no reason to be an antagonist in the first place.

      As for Ray’s power level, I get that he’s not overpowered compared to other players in the game. However, my point was that a player’s power level is largely determined by the stats, class, and embryo that they randomly roll upon character creation. For example, let’s say that there are five starting levels: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. And as you progress through the game, you can gain an additional 5 levels by ranking up and learning how to play. This means that if you roll level 1 stats, your max level will only ever be 6. While someone who rolls level 5 stats at the start can max out at level 10. This is basically how the series sets up the game world. Sure, you can grow and improve, but your natural skill ceiling is determined by the random stats and abilities you rolled at the start.

      Notice how all of the strongest characters in the series have superior-class embryos. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a flawed system from the start. Those who start with the best stuff will be the strongest.

      1. I’ve been skimming through character bios for Hugo and Franklin and I sort of think that’s what the anime does as well. You can sort of fill in the gaps if you try hard enough and pay close enough attention but it’s probably laid out much more clearly in the original novel.

        I’ve only watched the series once but I was reading reviews as it was airing and someone might have spoiled their relationship for me before the finale. I honestly can’t remember. For whatever reason the reveal of their relationship in the finale didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere to me. Like I said though, it might be because I read it somewhere in advance and can’t remember.

        I get what you are saying about the game not being balanced and I think I have less of a problem with it because it feels like it might not be a bug but a feature. If Infinite Dendrogram isn’t really a game or if it’s something more than a game which is often hinted at throughout the series then normal rules of game balance need not apply.

        I can’t remember if the anime included this but I’ve started reading the manga and it explicitly stated that the first quest Ray received was a high level one not suitable for a new player. Ray’s brother explained that was because everything in the game happens organically and quests are generated through circumstance with no thought given to game balance.

        1. The anime did include that the first quest Ray received was a high-level one. But I don’t necessarily see that as an issue from a gameplay perspective. It’s up to the player to accept or decline each quest — so if a quest is too difficult for the player, they can either decline it or simply fail it. It’s not like Ray had to complete that quest to proceed.

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