By Sakon Kaidou and Taiki. Released in Japan by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.
At long last, after a year’s time, including a volume of short stories and a prequel, we are back with the main plot of Infinite Dendrogram. The plot itself involves a lot of setting things up for future books, though we also get one we’ve seen before, which is that the admins do not all get along with each other, and some of them are perfectly willing to destroy people’s lives if it means that they get to see their players evolve into a higher and stronger level. Once again, you are trying to figure out: is this a game? Is this some world pretending to be a game? How “real” are the NPCs? Certainly Ray has no issue with treating them as real, something which the princess appreciates, as she’s trying to get her little sister married off and out of harms way. Sadly, she’s as socially inept as every other woman in Ray’s orbit, so goes about it in exactly the wrong way.
There is also another plotline going on, and to be honest it involves one of my least favorite parts of the short story volume, which is the woman who was spurned by her real-life lover, so goes around destroying couples. She’s finally out of jail, and desperate to meet Figaro, who everyone realizes she is desperately in love with. The issue is that everyone is pretty sure that Figaro would much rather duel her than woo her, if indeed he’s realized what she’s after at all. What follows is admittedly predictable, but also probably the best part of the book, and reminds you that it’s not always wise to assume that characters who are super-focused on one thing are ALWAYS focused on that one thing. And, if nothing else, certainly provides contrast with Ray Starling, who may be our hero but can’t even dress himself properly, let along realize how many girls like him.
It has to be said: Ray may be a college student, but in terms of emotional depth he’s more like Tsukuyo than, say, B3. He is a chuuni, something Nemesis is trying to point out to him when she desperately attempts to get him an outfit that does not scream “bwa ha ha” but can’t quite make it. Of course, it’s that straightforward chuuni part of him that also lets him win the day – going up against a villain who loves to watch people’s emotional reactions to things, especially if it’s tragedy, Ray is simply pissed off beyond all measure, and manages to not only hand the guy his ass but also terrify him. (Given he has constellation-based powers, I sort of wanted Lucy from Fairy Tail to show up and beat his ass.) Admittedly, given what we’ve seen of Shu (whose past as a sentai actor is gone into here) and his oft-mentioned, never-seen older sister, Nemesis may have a long wait.
As I said, there’s lots of setup here, and not all of it has payoff. This has the feel of a story that’s nowhere near done, and provided the anime didn’t kill the franchise, we should be able to enjoy it for some time to come.