Infinite Dendrogram: Clash of the Superiors

By Sakon Kaidou and Taiki. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

It is very common, in both light novels and manga, for a volume to be augmented at times by various side stories and extra chapters. Particularly if content is running a bit short. For the most part, I’ve found that these extra stories are not as good as the main fare – either they’re totally unrelated, in which case they read as the author’s attempt to get their early work collected, or they’re a bit more fanservicey and subpar, because they’re meant to be taken as stand-alone and not have an impact on the main storyline. That said, there are exceptions, and I’m pleased to say that Infinite Dendrogram’s third volume is one of them. The main bulk of the book takes up the first 2/3 or so, and is perfectly serviceable, though the reader may be annoyed that it’s all setup, with the payoff being in the next volume. The stories afterwards range from very good to excellent.

In the main storyline, we see Ray dealing with the aftermath of his heroics in Book 2, and finding that even though most players didn’t give a rat’s ass about the piles of dead NPC children, the actual NPCs certainly did. As a result, he not only gets a huge reward, but also many tearful thanks for taking out such reprehensible killers. Ray handles this with his usual awkwardness, and then goes to see what Marie used their other reward money for, which turns out to be box seats for a fight between two Superior Players – something that’s unprecedented. As it turns out, Ray’s brother is also very involved in this, as Figaro, one of the fighters, is a good friend of his. (It’s becoming quite clear Ray’s brother is one of the top fighters in the game, but he’s hiding that from Ray for now.) The fight is quite well-written, and I liked the Chinese-styled opponent as well. But, as I noted, it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.

The two side stories do a great deal to expand on the others Ray met in the first book. The first deals with Rook trying to get a new monster for his party. We get some hints of a disturbing backstory for Rook’s real-life person, who seems to have been through a lot, and also shows off he is far more than the cute innocent boy who is the perfect underage ‘pimp’ – Rook will go far. Even better is Marie’s story, which dovetails up with some of the other events in Book 2, i.e. the missing princess who was thought to be kidnapped by the child murdering gang. I don’t actually want to spoil this one too much, but suffice it to say that Marie shows off immense depth in both her online player persona as well as her real life character. I don’t game, but honestly the way that she created a character and built up traits based on her past felt very real to me. Plus there are many stupid thugs getting handed their asses, which never grows old. I also liked the denoument, even though the mystery wasn’t really the point of the story.

I’d been waffling back and forth about this series, which seemed to excite other readers more than me. The third volume is a definite step forward, though, and I can honestly say I’m greatly looking forward to the next one.

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