Anime adaptations of an established work, whether light novel, manga, visual novel, video game, or whatever else, are a tricky business. The medium of anime is almost always vastly different from what they are adapting from, and what works well in the original medium might translate poorly to animation. The job is only made harder by the strict episode limits these adaptations are usually given; most are only allowed around 13 episodes to make their mark, having to hope against hope for a second season or more.
With that in mind, Jeskai Angel, TWWK, and I take a look at the currently-airing anime adaptation of Infinite Dendrogram, which we covered the first two volumes of and will be discussing the third volume on February 21st. This post will look specifically at how the first volume had been adapted, a.k.a. the first four episodes of the anime.
Jeskai: Well, how about that Infinite Dendrogram episode 1? I am pleased. I felt like it was a solid opening that explained the world while holding back from excessive exposition. It introduced some major characters and especially established Ray’s compassionate, conscientious disposition that leads his constantly playing hero. And it managed to hint at the series’s broader questions about reality, personhood, and the nature of this so-called game. It seemed like a very faithful adaptation of the opening events of vol. 1, and I think the series has a lot of promise.
Frank (stardf29): Yeah, so far the anime adaptation is pretty good. Obviously, a lot of assorted world info was left out so this first episode could cover the content it needed to, but for the most part, nothing super-important was left out; the only thing that probably should have been explained was how Vengeance is Mine worked. Story-wise, as you mentioned, many of the story’s major points have already gotten some establishment, so things are good on that point. Visuals aren’t anything stand-out but they look fine, so I don’t have any complaints there. I will say, I was not quite expecting Shu or Nemesis to sound quite like they did, but I do like their voice acting. Shu is appropriately over-the-top, while Nemesis has that haughtiness to her, and while I wasn’t quite expecting their exact vocal styles, they definitely work. Alas, I guess having to sub this episode quickly means the subs don’t get the top-tier bear puns the light novel translation did, and we have to stick with “grizz”. Ah well.
Jeskai: Yeah, I was taken aback by Nemesis’s voice at first, but I think it will work out. I felt that Nemesis’s character as a whole got a little bit shortchanged (including but not limited to explaining Vengeance Is Mine) in this episode, but I assume there will be more chances to develop her in the future. And regarding the subtitles’ inadequate handling of the puns, I guess you’ll just have to…grin and bear it.
Twwk: You guys said it all kuma kuma. Very enjoyable and it captured much of the spirit of the light novel right from the start kuma kuma. The one drawback for me is the animation—not great, but good enough. My hope is that the series generates buzz and gets viewers, and that we’ll get future seasons with stronger animation.
Twwk: Just watched episode two of Infinite Dendrogram—was it hinted at that Ray’s brother is famous in the first light novel volume? I don’t remember that part.
Jeskai: Yeah, it was pretty indirect, but the hints were there. Shu accidentally making his avatar the same as his IRL appearance is mentioned to be a problem, and while the reason isn’t stated, the clear implication is that Shu is somehow famous / important / popular and would be recognized without his goofy animal costumes. Dendro episode 2 thoughts: a slower paced episode with a good bit of world-building and introductions to some more major characters. Good, but nothing amazing aside from Nemesis; she’s hilarious. Also why haven’t they explained Nemesis’s abilities yet? Ray used them more this ep. but it still hasn’t been stated (for the benefit of those who haven’t read the novel) how they work.
Frank: As for why Nemesis’s abilities haven’t been explained yet: there’s actuallya series of short side “episodes” that explain various expositional stuff, and apparently the mechanics of Nemesis’s abilities were in one of those episodes. Unfortunately, as of this moment those episodes aren’t being officially translated… Ray did mention briefly the mechanics of Vengeance is Mine indirectly when he was about to face off against Figaro, but yeah, I do think it’d be better for these things to be explained better in the main anime.
Jeskai: We meet lots of new characters, some of whom won’t actually be important for quite some time, but whose future roles are foreshadowed here. Marie was great; she came off as a even more sketchy / suspicious to me than she did in the LN, but I’m not sure if that’s actually because of how the character was portrayed by the anime or simply because now I already know her secret.
Twwk: This episode was such an info dump…I think to it’s detriment. What works on paper doesn’t necessarily do the same on the screen, and I think this episode demonstrates that. It was messy and without flow. I don’t even know our party of four (if I’m a viewer without knowledge from the light novels), so I don’t want to get inundated by all this info and new characters. A lot of character development is just ahead…but gosh, if I didn’t know what was coming, I know that I’d have dropped this series by this point.
Frank: I definitely like how Marie is portrayed, too, and yeah, it probably is influenced by what I know about her now. That said, it’s unfortunate they never explained Babi’s G-rated “seduction”; that was one of the best jokes in the novel. Though I suppose that is one of the lesser concerns about this adaptation…
Jeskai: This series continues to be underwhelming and disappointing. The adaptation superficially captures the major story beats, but without any of what makes the LNs so great. It sacrifices character development to speed through a series of plot points. This episode in particular seemed way too…shounen-y. Like, Ray was saying and doing stuff that felt like a generic shounen protagonist, even though I never got that vibe from him when reading the books.
I discovered the Log Horizon anime was on Crunchyroll and watched it recently. It really forms an amazing contrast to Infinite Dendrogram’s anime adaptation. The premises are similar — a strangely realistic game world (Dendro) vs. a game world become real (LH), so there are a lot of game mechanics involved with how the world operates. In both, the “players” can’t permanently die. In both, the so-called “NPCs” are acting surprisingly human. In both, there are issues with PK-ing. In both, an early crisis involves needing to rescue children. Et cetera. It’s not like one is plagiarizing the other, but there are enough points of resemblance to make them easy to compare.
I loved Dendro from vol. 1 onwards; the light novels are fantastic. When I read the first LH volume, I reported feeling a bit ambivalent about it; it wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t interest me enough to order the next volume, either. I’m glad I checked out the LH anime adaptation, though, because it seems to me like one of those special cases where the anime surpasses the quality of the LN (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime springs to mind as another instance). Compared to both vol. 1 of the LH LN and to Dendro’s anime, the LH anime does a much better job of presenting humor, developing the characters in a way that I can care about them, and explaining the game mechanics the world runs on without totally derailing the plot for exposition dumps. Oh, and the visuals and music in the LH anime are superior to those in Dendro’s anime. It feels like Log Horizon is the anime adaptation that Dendro deserved to receive.
Frank: It seems to me that the Dendro anime is very much an “advertisement” anime: one made mainly to promote the sales of the original light novel, rather than for the art of the adaptation itself. The adaptation is definitely more focused on the action scenes and stuff designed to appeal to general anime viewers. So yeah, while it’s not the worst adaptation I’ve seen, it definitely feels lacking. This was particularly clear with the end of ep. 4, where they barely spent any time at all with the aftermath of the Gardranda battle and the dead tians, which I felt was a major part of the story in the novels. (They also completely glossed over the “job” Rook had to get Marilyn. What a travesty.) Also, from the title of the next episode, looks like ep. 5 will cover up to just past halfway of vol. 2. That’s… quite a lot of ground to cover, so yeah, definitely not expecting that episode to be anything.
Twwk: I made it through episode four, but that’s it. I’ve dropped the show.
Jeskai: Same here. Watched episode 5, but I’m just not enjoying this show. It’s an outright bad adaptation.
Frank: I’m still watching, because I apparently like to have something mediocre but familiar to watch every anime season. And if I want quality Dendro, I’ll just read the novels. Speaking of which…
So the anime adaptation of Infinite Dendrogram might not have lived up to expectations, but thankfully the original light novels are still great. So meet back with us on the 21st as we dive into Volume 3!