Infinite Dendrogram: The Shield of Miracles

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

This is another second half of a two-parter where the second half is a bit too short. The author attempts to say something in the afterword about not wanting to do short-story volumes, which is why he puts them after volumes occasionally (as he does here), but it does mean that the climax of this arc feels a bit underwhelming. Ray, Nemesis and B3 finish their investigation of the Master who married and had a child with a tian, but it’s cut short by a monster from the past who has once more risen at this exact time to start killing everyone. (I will give props to the monster, as most of these ‘black shapeless thing that fires beams that kill you’ sorts are mindless, implacable types, but this monster wants to see dying people despair, and has a nice line in maniacal laughing.) Naturally, Ray and Nemesis have to save the day, and they do, pretty simply. This allows us to read a story about Rook as a detective trying to catch a egocentric Master.

One thing that Dendrogram does here is play a bit with the idea of being darker than it is. For the most part, so far this series has been as shiny as Ray, with lots of life-or-death situations but very little real death. Being an actual game rather than a “trapped in a game world” game helps, but the actual plotting lampshades itself at times. We get a master who Ray and B3 realize is, in reality, a terminal patient. It is strongly hinted that the reason he has not come back to the game world is that he is dead. And, I feel it’s OK to spoil this since it’s of no surprise whatsoever, in the end he turns out to have survived the miracle surgery and is merely recovering. This is not a book that is going to make pregnant women and young idealistic kids sad. Likewise Tsukuyo, who we met last time when she was trying to get Ray to join her Society and baiting him with healing his arm, ends up magically healing EVERYONE (including Ray, and Ray’s arm) from the monster attacks, and her reasoning is essentially “I’m such a ditz, tee hee”. She and Ray are eerily similar in mnny ways.

Of course, not everyone is as into Dendrogram as Ray is. B3 treats this game as a game, and the tians as NPCs. She also really likes to roleplay her character, and really really likes to kill other players. Since this is an actual game this time, and the players she kills are actual jerks and losers, your sympathy naturally falls with her. It’s a refreshing contrast from Ray, who is essentially the exact same person in the game as he is outside it. Here B3 actually is her “outside” self most of the time, but when she gets her killing on she puts on her mask and turns into a sneering villain sort. I hope we see more of her. I’m less excited at seeing Gerbera, Rook’s opponent in the short story who does not really come off very well until we get inside her head for the epilogue. I think Rook finds her annoying. I did too.

So not the best volume of Dendrogram, but it didn’t really do anything wrong either. A solid effort.

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