Series Review

Anime Hajime Review: Infinite Dendrogram

Original Run: January 9, 2020 - April 16, 2020
Number of Episodes: 13
Genre: Fantasy, Isekai
Based on the Series Created By: Sakon Kaidou

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Infinite Dendrogram. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Infinite Dendrogram is a hyper-realistic virtual reality MMORPG. Inside, players can do whatever they want. If they wish to be a hero, they can. If they choose to be a villain, they can. There are no limitations.

Reiji Mukudori, a.k.a., Ray Starling (voiced by Soma Saito), has recently got his hands on a copy of Infinite Dendrogram. Upon entering, Ray discovers that both players and highly advanced A.I. have crafted an entire living, breathing world. Although new to the game, Ray is a bit of a natural and always seems to triumph over opponents far above his skill level.

While on his journey, Ray meets many unique players and NPCs, including his loyal partner and sword, Nemesis (voiced by Yuko Ono). However, the full extent of a game where anything is possible proves to be far more challenging than Ray could have imagined.

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Series Positives

Infinite Dendrogram went from simple mediocrity to overly-complex mediocrity. To frame this show, we can’t look at it in terms of bad or good. To its core, this series was bland and instantly forgettable.

If you want to experience an anime with no weight, then you need not look any further than Infinite Dendrogram. But more on that in due time.

To acknowledge some positivity, the animation was fairly decent. The visuals weren’t anything to write home about, but they did have some meat behind them. There was scale, commendable uses of color, and the action scenes were akin to something entertaining. I hesitate to use the words “fun” in fear that it may give off the wrong impression.

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Nevertheless, whenever there was a fight scene in Infinite Dendrogram, and there were quite a few, there was some noticeable punch, provided the presence – or, rather, lack of presence – of one crucial aspect that we will get to in the next section.

Easily the most engaging segment of this series came during the siege of the city of Gideon. Here was where we got some much-needed variety out of this show. At the start of the story, the titular Infinite Dendrogram was a game described as a world of endless possibilities; a player could do and be anything they wanted. On the whole, I would consider that notion a lie, but in this instance, there was a hint of truth.

For starters, this siege arc began with a duel between two of the game’s most powerful players. Sure enough, their face-off was big, flashy, and ridiculous, all of which should be expected when anything was possible. What was even better was there being nothing at stake during this fight.

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According to the rules of Infinite Dendrogram, a duel was a risk-free test of strength. Players could fight to the death and not suffer the usual punishment for getting killed. So, this was just a display of pure skill, as well as the most interesting moment of the series.

Following the duel, we also got battles that starred two characters who had never been given much screentime beforehand. These two fights indicated that Infinite Dendrogram hosted many skilled players who put effort into getting good at the game. After all, this series, no matter what it might have said to the contrary, was a game.

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Although Infinite Dendrogram was set in this grand fantasy world, it was nothing more than a video game. There were no destinies or prophecies; no chosen hero to fight some ultimate evil. And to mistake this for being anything more than that would have been troubling since consequences weren’t really a thing.

Hence why Infinite Dendrogram, the series, failed. It thought it was something it could have never been.

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Series Negatives

I am no stranger to getting attached to video game characters. I am a huge fan of the Fire Emblem series, and for those of you who don’t know, those games have a perma-death feature. Once someone dies in battle, they are gone for good. One wrong move can instantly doom a fighter you’ve been strengthening since the start, and trust me, it sucks.

In Infinite Dendrogram, NPCs were also vulnerable to perma-death. However, like any video game ever, players – a.k.a., most of the damn characters – were not. As a result, there was never anything at stake. Should a player fall, all that would happen to them would be a twenty-four hour lockout. That may have been annoying, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

However, holy s@#$, this series tried to make it seem like it was.

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I know it was established that time worked differently between the real world and the virtual one (twenty-four hours outside of game equaled thirty-two hours in-game). I can see why that could have been devastating to a particular mission, but this show sort of shot itself in the foot when it actively had players log out on their own accord.

That then makes me wonder, what happened when players needed to eat, or go to the bathroom, or do anything outside of the game? By the way, all those things either happened or were acknowledged in the series.

I will say, I found out something more boring that a paint-by-numbers isekai anime: An isekai anime that doesn’t want to be a true isekai anime. This whole time difference concept made absolutely no sense.

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Now, I can hear some of you thinking:

Odyssey, this was a fantasy story, and there was no need to dissect and get hung up by its logic.

That should be true, and the only reason it isn’t is thanks to this series not being even the slightest bit interesting. Had Infinite Dendrogram grabbed my attention at all, I might have been willing to overlook this point. But when a show has a protagonist like Ray Starling, that becomes impossible.

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Wow, Ray was flat. I’ve seen plain white walls with more personality than this guy. He wasn’t anything special; he had no unique powers or abilities. Ray was only an above-average player. And yet, he, somehow, became one of the most important figures of this world. Why? What about him was supposed to indicate anything special?

Remember how I said fights in this series were decent provided they excluded a certain aspect. Ray was that aspect. Any face-off he was not a part of became so much more interesting to watch. This was a character that had negative charisma. Ray actually took from Infinite Dendrogram.

Ray had cringy catchphrases (notice the plural), his best move was to take damage, he spoke in failed inspirational speeches, and there were dozens of better, more exciting characters than him. And yet for some reason, he was the main hero everyone latched on to, and it was annoying.

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Final Thoughts

There are good shows. There are bad shows. And then there are boring shows. Take a wild guess which one this was.

The story wasn’t anything spectacular. The rules of this world didn’t make any sense. There weren’t any consequences to anything. And above all else, we had a main character whose most notable skill was sucking personality away from everything around him.

Unless you want to experience mediocre, the answer is simple.

Infinite Dendrogram is a series you can skip.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Infinite Dendrogram? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you have read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

6 comments

  1. I feel like outside of the .hack series that actually had something to say and even a premise to make the stakes more real in a sense other shows from SAO and others who feel they have to copy SAO try to add tension and stakes but they all seem to fail at it pretty hard in one way or another and mostly end up being bad or boring. SAO tries to be convuluted and seems confused on if its audience are young adults, teens, or children along with another set of of problems that most have said plenty of times, dendogram I just didn’t feel anything for it and I don’t know if that was just the author playing it safe and didn’t want to be too complicated or what but yeah I can’t say I cared enough to finish it after ep 5. this is probably Bofuri where yeah it can get repetitive at times does succeed in the fact that it wasn’t trying to be anything complicated or convuluted it was simple and it just had fun with the idea of how most newbies who play games or MMO’s in general for the first time and how online games have broken rules that can be abused till they’re patched lol I do think we will find an actual fictional game series that will do and surpass what .hack brought to the table in terms of story telling through video games but until then may I suggest the king’s avatar? lol

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You know this wasn’t a game, right? They made way too many references to it being too realistic and even had one of the “overseers” mentioning that it was funny that they all thought it was just a game right before they killed loads of Tian children and turned them into zombies. They may have not outright confirmed it, but they may as well have.

    It certainly was fairly bland though and all the poor exposition didn’t help things, so I’m not going to defend that aspect of the show. Also, Ray didn’t really get any development, so that made him that much more boring.

    I think there were some interesting ideas behind it, but the execution could have been far better.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A great story told very poorly. Oh, and somebody please explain to me how Ray had to lose his arm? Didn’t quite see the reasoning, there. . .

    Liked by 2 people

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