Ray Starling recently joined the VRMMO Infinite Dendrogram and plans on meeting up with his brother who has been playing it for two years. It’s incredibly realistic and offers an infinite number of playing possibilities!
What did you watch?
Oh look, another virtual reality massively multiplayer online game anime. It didn’t take much for me to pick this one up as it’s one of the genres that tend to resonate with me. I’m a big fan of fantasy and science fiction so it’s always nice to find something that crosses the divide and uses elements of both. It was one of the first shows I selected and even though it was only thirteen episodes in length, there were a couple of breaks in the schedule which meant it ended up being the last one from Winter 2020 to finish. Well, let’s dive in and don’t forget that there will be spoilers.
Reiji Mukudori had put off joining the newest VRMMO Infinite Dendrogram but finally gave in to the pressure from his brother who had been playing since day one. After going through the introduction tutorial and creating his online persona – Ray Starling, he was implanted with an Embryo, a special kind of artificial intelligence that provides the player with information and tactical support. All Embryos take on a physical form and it varies from Master to Master. Now in the game, Ray met up with his brother Shu, but not before bumping into a knight looking for her little sister.
Shu revealed that this might be one of the infinite quests that present themselves during the game. Ray examined the note the knight left him and sure enough, he was given a time limit to rescue a Tian, a non-player character. After a harrowing fight, Ray found himself up against a number of giant insects. Just as things were looking bad for Ray and the Tian, Milianne Grandria, his Embryo activated, revealing herself as Nemesis, a sword maiden. Ray managed to win against the odds and saved the girl, but this was just the beginning.
What did you think?
I find that I am left with mixed emotions for this one. There was a pretty big secret that was revealed in a pretty clumsy way. That annoyed me and there was also a lot of exposition delivered while the characters sat around eating and drinking tea. Almost all of it could have been handled better with a little bit of show and not tell. That said, when it wasn’t handing out exposition dumps it was a lot of fun and made for some very interesting ideas about reality and how the game may not necessarily be what it seemed. On the whole, it was a positive viewing experience, but it was far from perfect.
What was your favourite moment?
Ray went on another quest which lasted a couple of episodes with another player called Hugo. They were trying to rescue a child from a gang of kidnappers who extort money out of the victims family. Failure to pay means the death of the child. This was a very dark arc and I really enjoyed it, especially as we’d pretty much just found out that the Tians were just real people and the game world of Infinite Dendrogram wasn’t a game but another world. Ray and Hugo split up and attacked the base trying to defeat the leaders of the gang and rescue the children. Unfortunately, a large number of the children had been turned into walking corpses by the Lich that controlled the gang.
Thinking that they had won, Ray and Hugo take the surviving children back to their families, but the two gang leaders were resurrected and merged into a unique boss monster that chased after them. Ray and Nemesis attempted to stop the monster and buy Hugo the time to escape with the children. Ray was knocked unconscious at one point, but Nemesis continued to fight alone. Finally, Ray returned to the fight and together they won. It was a dark and thrilling arc.
What was your least favourite moment?
This could be any number of the exposition meals, however, there was one episode that had three or four separate exposition meals. It was infuriating and took a lot of the shine off the series, which I was really enjoying at that point. Each of these meals provided a lot of information, but it could have been done with so much more finesse. It was just lazy writing and the animation may have come into the decision too. It’s obviously much easier to animated a bunch of talking heads.
Who was your favourite character?
I enjoyed Ray and Nemesis as characters. Their interactions seemed to be quite well done and felt natural, however, there was one character that continued to be more and more interesting as the series progressed. He was Rook Holmes. In Infinite Dendrogram, the players chose a career that will determine their skills and certain abilities. Ray was a paladin which seems like a fairly standard decision. Rook was a pimp! Yep, a pimp! And the best part of this was that he didn’t know what a pimp was, but assumed it was like an animal tamer as he had the ability to control others. This was a brilliant idea and made me laugh every time he introduced himself. On top of that, Rook had one of the more interesting backstories and he ended up being quite the cunning warrior.
Who was your least favourite character?
Maybe not my least favourite character, but a character that should have had far more potential was Franklin. He ended up being the main villain in the first season and everything Frankin did was over the top and didn’t seem to have much in the way of justification other than Franklin wanted to kill Ray because he interfered with Franklin’s plans at an earlier date. It turns out that Frankin is a girl and has some serious psychotic tendencies. The series ended with Franklin sending Hugo, his/her sister in the real world, away so that she/he wouldn’t be held back in his/her evil plans. I feel like there needed to be a bit more revealed about Franklin’s motivation for any of this to have a real impact beyond Franklin just being a villain.
Would you like some more?
I would definitely watch another season, but I would also hope that some of the criticisms of this season are handled a little better. Like everyone else, I want to find out what’s going on, but I don’t want to be told while I watch a group of characters eating dinner. Show me that the nation is in a mess since the last war, make me see the world for what it is through Ray’s interactions and observations. There’s a lot of potential for this series to be something special and at the moment, it’s not hitting the highs that it should be.
What have you learnt?
It’s funny how often I find myself learning from other’s mistakes and I’m not going to complain about it one bit. There are times that I see it happen and then realise that I may have done something similar in my own work. It helps to see that mistake somewhere else for me to put the issue into focus. My goal isn’t to criticize other stories, however. I want to be entertained pure and simple. If I can learn from it as well, then all the better. So, my lesson from Infinite Dendrogram is all about exposition and how I should always look at what I’ve done and ask myself if there is a way to show it in a more impactful way. The answer is most likely, yes!
Other Posts in the Series
- Season One
- Episode 1 – The Beginning of Possibility
- Episode 2 – Tomb Labyrinth
- Episode 3 – Superior
- Episode 4 – Like a Flag Flying the Reversal
- Episode 5 – La Porte de l’Enfer
- Episode 6 – Beyond the Radix Point
- Episode 7 – Showdown City
- Episode 8 – Clash of the Superiors
- Episode 9 – The Beginning of Madness
- Episode 10 – The Movement on the Board
- Episode 11 – The Right Arm of the Victor
- Episode 12 – King of Destruction
- Episode 13 – Those Who Bind the Possibilities
- Bonus Posts