Infinite Dendrogram: The Lunar Society

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

Despite very much being a book of two halves, this volume has essentially the same theme, one which I suspect will carry over into the next book (yes, it’s another cliffhanger). That theme is how Dendrogram gamers deal with the real world, and balancing the player’s real life with this thing that is more than just another game. We see Reiji starting college and immediately running into people he knows (and would rather forget) from the game. We see him interacting with someone who is exactly the same in the game as in real life, and someone who is seemingly the same, only to turn out to have a hidden side to her. And the second half deals with the fact that players can marry NPCs and father children in this game, though it’s difficult, for reasons which are actually expounded on in detail. We also see a major player log back in after a few weeks offline to find that he’s essentially missed the entire book series to date. There’s a lot going on.

The Lunar Society is, as I indicated above, the subject of the first half of the book, particularly its leader Tsukuyo, played by a real-life college medical student named… Tsukuyo. She’s a cross between Haruhi Suzumiya and Ryouko Mendou, and I suspect some readers may find her irritating. Ray finds her terrifying once he meets her outside the game, and his brother explaining the reason why (which immediately resolves his fear) is one of the funnier parts of the book. As a character, Tsukuyo is not the greatest, being exactly as she seems: a spoiled princess who’s desperate for anything to stave off her boredom and will kidnap people to get what she wants. That said, I like Haruhi and Ryouko, so I found her quite fun. I also liked her butler/assassin, who is exactly what you’d expect a butler/assassin to be like.

Tsukuyo is not the only gamer Reiji meets at his college; he also runs into Kozue, who is far more sensible and reserved – in fact, when we see her character in the game, B3 (or BBB), she seems almost exactly the same as she is in real life, just like Tsukuyo. This *is* a front, though, and leads into an interesting discussion of PKing in Dendrogram. I’ve gotten so used to Sword Art Online being the be-all end-all work on player killing that I’d forgotten that Dendrogram *is* a game, and that the penalty is not actually lethal, just annoying. The PK guild we see here (whose reasons for gathering around their leader I will groan about and try to skip past) has rules about only PKing those who want to duel, essentially – those who want a good fight, with an appropriate “reward” for losing. As for B3, while we don’t get into it due to narrative necessity and Ray’s stunning denseness about women, it’s implied that PKing turns her on. There’s all sorts of gamers.

We’re caught up with Japan now, though I think the next book is out soon if not already. Those who have enjoyed the series will find more to enjoy here, as the books keep examining what it is about this game that’s different and how its reality can suck you in. Plus maybe we’ll see Nemesis evolve past her jealousy? Nah, probably not.

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