Infinite Dendrogram Light Novel Review: My valiant attempt to hype the anime

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With the recent announcement of an anime adaptation, I thought I’d take a stab at light novel reviews by posting my thoughts on the source material for Infinite Dendrogram. I’ve read up to volume 8 of the official English release, and I’m going to use some direct quotes from the later volumes. However, they shouldn’t reveal any future plot points, so the goal is to stay spoiler-free.

“You can become a hero or the demon king, a king or a slave, a good person or an evil person. You can do something, or you can do nothing… Just like the Embryo in your left hand, what’s about to begin is infinite in possibility.”


The story of Infinite Dendrogram centers around a VRMMO with the same name, released as a seemingly unprecedented success in realistic “full dive” immersion. Our main character is Reiji Mukudori, known online as Ray Starling. He is invited to play Infinite Dendrogram by his brother, and we follow him as he discovers the world within the game.

Along with his brother and other player characters, Ray fights alongside Nemesis, his “Embryo” born from his actions within the game. Embryo are an in-game special item that is unique to each player and can take almost any shape, even a tank. Nemesis is even more unique as a Maiden-type Embryo, with a human-like appearance and a mind of her own.

“I’d never cared much for any NPCs who’d died in other games, but it was different here. It gave me a lump in my throat. Even if I knew this was a game, I didn’t think I could ever get used to seeing people die here. That might’ve been because *Infinite Dendrogram* was simply far too realistic.”


At its core, I think series explores the line between reality and fiction, with a healthy dose of artificial intelligence to spice things up. The world of Infinite Dendrogram is a somewhat standard fantasy world, and the players choose to inhabit one of its major kingdoms. However, the world has its own history, and the NPCs, called “tians”, will interact “realistically” with the players, which almost makes it akin to an isekai.

This fact becomes important because it can often become difficult to tell the difference between a player and a tian, allowing the series to pose the general question of what truly separates the two. The tians worship the players as undying “Masters”, but they also have their own lives to live.

“I… I can’t log out,” I muttered as I fell to my knees.

“You sound like the protagonist of a death game VRMMO story,” Nemesis commented.

Sorry if it comes at a disappointment, but the drama in this series isn’t driven by a mysterious game master trapping its users in the game. In fact, most of the conflict in this series is character-driven. The game definitely throw in its fair share of twists, with insane boss and the like, but the story seems to heavily emphasize character choice.

As a result, the story tends to have really strong character development. On a surface level, you can clearly see how Ray improves himself within the game and gains new abilities, but you can also see how he changes on a personal level. Especially as he interacts more with the tians, there’s a lot going on.


As a fair warning, the story uses a ton of foreshadowing. Ray is regularly getting caught up in some unknown entity’s secret plot. I tend to like that aspect, but I’m not always sure. On the one hand, it makes nearly every scene important, as the scene is invariably referenced in some later reveal. And to be fair, there are some legitimately surprising reveals in this series.

However, some of these reveals tend to be super obvious, which makes me sometimes wonder if the story is giving itself away too much. You could argue that these reveals are intentionally put in to point out how dense Ray is, though. Part of me wonders how an anime adaptation might handle those little hints.


And to top it all off, the series just has a nice sense of humor in general. For example, the series has a character with a chess piece name ask what castling is or has another character immediately throw a new shield like Captain America. I really enjoy jokes like that. There’s clearly some deeper mystery going on at any given point, but the series never seems to forget that the players are just having fun at the end of the day. You may have to sit through a few bear puns, though.

So, that’s my general take on Infinite Dendrogram. It’s available in English if you’re interested in reading it, and I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, the anime’s on its way, and I’m hoping it turns out well.


Goblin Slayer: Influence of adaptation on events in the light novel

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Is this a discussion?

Spoilers for Goblin Slayer

I know I said I’d do series reviews, but I couldn’t help myself with this topic. While I was on vacation for the winter holidays, I had a lot of time for reading light novels. With that extra time, I ended up reading the Goblin Slayer light novel up to the point where the anime ends. While it’s still uncertain whether we’re getting a second season, I did notice that the order of events in the light novel noticeably differed from what we saw in the anime. Obviously, this post will have spoilers about those events.

Goblin Slayer faces off against a goblin lord

The anime ended with the dramatic fight against goblin lord attacking Goblin Slayer’s home village. However, the light novel has this entire encounter in the first volume, before the group goes to the Water City and meets the Sword Maiden. This has an interesting consequence. As you may recall, there’s a specific scene in the Water City arc in which Priestess and Goblin Slayer wake up together in the same bed. At the time, I remember questioning why Priestess doesn’t bring up the fact that Goblin Slayer is not wearing his helmet, as it’s the first time we’ve seen that in the anime.

Goblin Slayer is revived by Priestess

In the light novel, this behavior makes sense, since Goblin Slayer reveals his face to her as a reward for defeating the goblin lord. So, Priestess has already seen his face by the time they sleep together. But that’s really just a minor gripe, as the anime explains this away by having Priestess say she didn’t see Goblin Slayer’s face clearly at the time.

High Elf sneaks

What’s more interesting is that the anime chooses to end on that fight in the first place. As opposed to the events of the Water City arc, the attack on the farm is personal, and it’s a battle Goblin Slayer acknowledges is impossible to win alone. As a result, the stakes for the fight become a lot higher, since it’s not just Goblin Slayer’s survival that’s in question. What better way to end a series?

Goblin Slayer is a weirdo

Additionally, the fight forces him to call upon the aid of every adventurer he has met up to that point despite his reputation as a largely unsociable guy. That means the fight is building upon the interactions we’ve seen throughout the entire series, making it a fitting conclusion. Sure, it’s probably just a result of the adaptation benefiting from hindsight. The fight serves pretty much the same purpose as the finale for the light novel, but it’s missing the time aspect, time to show how other adventurers see Goblin Slayer.

That's not a goblin

I think the events work either way, but I personally think it’s fun to see how the anime takes advantage of its season constraints to construct a slightly different, but ultimately appropriate, story experience. I’ve always been really bad at seeing the specific ways an anime adaptation builds upon its source material, and I think this might be a clear example to help me out. It’s something to think about, right?