Aoi YukiAyumu MuraseYoko HikasaMaaya Uchida
Infinite Dendrogram
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2020: I
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2020
Director: Tomoki Kobayashi
Writer: Yuichiro Momose
Original creator: Sakon Kaido
Actor: Aoi Yuki, Aya Uchida, Ayumu Murase, Maaya Uchida, Makoto Koichi, Natsumi Haruse, Satoshi Hino, Shiori Izawa, Soma Saito, Yoko Hikasa, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Yui Ogura, Yuki Kuwahara, Yuki Takada, Yuko Ono
Keywords: anime, MMORPG, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 episodes
Website category: Anime 2020
Review date: 10 October 2022
It's another light novel adaptation about a virtual reality MMORPG. I've watched plenty of those, so I tried this too. I liked the first half, apart from that annoying bear, but I lost interest around the time when the big bad (Mr Franklin) started bragging.
Our hero's name is Reiji Mukudori (real life) or Ray Starling (game). He wanders around a fantasy adventure world, acquires a sentient weapon girl and has adventures. He's likeable enough, but there's nothing noteworthy about him beyond his inability to understand how money works in fantasy RPGs. Stop thinking of it as money. It's the game's reward for your adventures. Every so often, I'd be telling Starling to stop being weird and just take the cash. That said, though, that's a symptom of his general inability to see this game as a game. Its computer-generated NPCs are human-level AIs that die permanently if they're killed, whereas the "death penalty" for a human is a forced log-out for 24 hours. (Before you ask, this is the year 2043.)
This is terrifying if you stop and think about it, since this is an extremely dangerous game world that's full of monsters, deathtraps and other entertainments for bored players. (I'm reminded of Deca-Dence, except that that show went about a thousand times further than this one.) Apparently, Starling is unusual for regarding the NPCs as people in a world.
This game world has some mildly distinctive features. Players have an Embryo, which is a sentient weapon, vehicle, fortress or something else. It grows with you and spends most of its time in the form of a girl. Theoretically, this could have been interesting... but anime's full of this sort of thing and in practice they're just yet more anime girls.
The throwaway nature of death is definitely a problem. It doesn't apply for NPCs, but our heroes aren't NPCs. You're never scared for them. Mr Franklin's increasingly over-the-top plans for killing everyone just come across as a string of opportunities for Heroes To Look Cool. This needn't necessarily doom a show, though, and I quite enjoyed the early episodes of random dungeoneering, making friends and generally just exploring MMORPG-world. The tone's light. This can be a problem, but the show made me laugh from time to time. There are, though...
1. Kuma Kuma Bloody Kuma (not his real name). Starling's real-life brother is also a player and he goes around in a bear costume, talks in a Fat Voice and says "kuma" (i.e. "bear") at the end of his sentences. This is meant to be a distraction to stop you from wondering about his hidden identity (doesn't work), but I hated him and wanted to fast-forward through his scenes.
2. The show isn't trying very hard to suggest reality. A character who sobs won't actually sob, but will say "shiku shiku" (which means "sobbing"). Ditto for "nomu nomu" (drinking, gulping) and "gokkun" (swallowing).
3. The odd bit of hammy manifesto dialogue.
4. Mr Franklin, who killed the show's second half. He's a gloating villain for the sake of being a gloating villain. He's Eeeeeeeeeeevil. He won't shut up. I couldn't really believe in him. He has a motivation for his actions, but it's such a childish one that it hardly counts.
The cast is a mixed bag. I liked Marie Adler, the morally conflicted Hugo and to a small extent Rook Holmes. On the other hand, though, the show does nothing with that chap with a succubus Embryo, while the Superior players are badass but not particularly interesting. Figaro's likeable, though. I get the impression that the original light novel series has a sprawling cast and perhaps a bit of a problem with focus.
This isn't a dreadful show at all, but it feels like an early work from a writer who doesn't yet have a firm grip on what they're doing. Sometimes it's amusing, but it lacks weight and there was more than one episode where I'd find myself drifting because the show hadn't held my attention. I don't hate it. There's absolutely no chance of me ever rewatching it.