Monthly Archives: March 2019

Infinite Dendrogram’s Ray Starling is a Hero Among Heroes

For the people who are know me it will come as no surprise that I’m writing a piece on a VRMMO light novel. A fan of the fantasy genre and the Isekai and VRMMO stories that fill it (especially here in the west), I spend a lot of time reading stories about heroes and other worlds.

One of the series I’m fond of is Infinite Dendrogram, a light novel series being published in English by J-Novel Club. They’ve just started releasing the 9th volume (the latest in Japan) and the opening battle got me thinking about how great main character Ray Starling is.

If you’ve not read the series before then I highly encourage you to and you can find out more at J-Novel Club’s page here. I’m not reviewing the series so I don’t really want to stray from the meat of the article by getting into what the story is about right now.

Now over the course of nine books we’ve seen Ray tackle a number of awful and testing situations. He’s defeated powerful bosses and brought down plots to do harm to the kingdom he belongs to, but he’s never felt like a true hero in the way he does in this volume. Always the main character but never quite breaking out of that mould, I’ve been fond of Ray but now he’s won my respect. As an orphanage is about to be burnt to the ground, by an enemy who I won’t name, Ray bursts onto the scene dressed like a demon but with a heroic shine in his eyes. When they say looks can be deceiving they certainly had Ray in mind, that’s for sure…

The thing is, generally speaking characters do good things because they’re in the right place at the right time. Either that or they’re just OP enough where there is no real risk to their lives and thus are always willing to take up a challenge. In Ray’s case none of these are true – well, except that his life isn’t really at risk because Infinite Dendrogram is not a death game. Anyway, Ray races onto the scene with no real guarantee that he’ll make it through the fight alive. If he dies he’ll be given a death penalty and unable to log back in for a set amount of time, at which point there is no one to save the orphans. Knowing this he runs into danger to put everything on the line to accomplish his goal. It’s life or death but Ray will do his best and put up a fantastic fight for his beliefs. This all comes with a heroic speech about how standing still is the worst thing you can do, naturally.

Honestly reading this back makes Ray sound kind of insufferable, but he’s actually not. In fact I’d go so far as to say he’s one of the protagonists I like best in this particular genre and certainly from among the books J-Novel Club publish from it. He’s down to earth and modest while also being a little dense. Honestly author Sakon Kaido has done a great job crafting him into a really likeable hero, someone who isn’t OP or too unrealistic. Credit is also due to translator Andrew Hodgson, who does a great job at giving Ray a distinct and fitting ‘voice’. That goes double for this volume, which is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

In a genre filled to the brim with unlikable and or likeable but cookie-cutter protagonist, it’s just nice to have someone a bit different. Ray certainly shares similar traits to these other protagonists, but he’s also better than them. A hero to send shivers down your spine and truly make you believe in the concept. I never thought that I’d be this excited about a volume of Infinite Dendrogram, but there is something special about the way its written and how things are progressing. I’m not sure Ray is going to be overcome all the tests ahead of him, and frankly the series isn’t shy about meddling with some dark concepts so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s made to suffer – but that’s again. A true hero will raise again and so Ray will too.

Ultimately I just wanted to gush about how much I’m enjoying this book already, but I’ve never really talked about Infinite Dendrogram before either, so this seemed like a good opportunity, I really hope that the forthcoming anime adaption of Infinite Dendrogram does the series justice so you can all join in with my love for it!

NISIOISIN Is At His Best When Writing Mysteries

So my first interaction with NISIOISIN’s writing, like many, was with his Monogatari series. I’m up to date with the English releases of Monogatari and after more than ten volumes, I’ve grown attached to the way in which NISIOSIN crafts his stories. So attached in fact, that I’ve sought out some of the author’s other works.

For AnimeUKNews a few months ago I got the chance to review Vertical’s first omnibus volume (volumes 1-3 of the Japanese release) of Katanagatari, which I found to be fairly similar to Monogatari in terms of how its written. Nothing really happens until the end and it’s very comedy driven. Ultimately I think I’d been hoping for something more, especially after reading the second season of Monogatari. 

The second season of Monogatari is special because almost every book is narrated by a different member of the cast. This works out well for NISIOISIN because it shows off his abilities as a writer at great length because every story is so different. Some characters are more serious than others, some are purely comedic and some treat their tales almost as mysteries. It showcases NISIOISIN’s ability to dip in and out of various styles and do them all justice and I guess that’s what I wanted to see more of and ultimately ended up seeking out.

While reviewing NISIOISIN’s other works I was vaguely aware of the fact he’d once written a Death Note novel – Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Death Note’s manga, but I have read it all and enjoyed it for what it was so I decided I’d give the novel a try. I bought it before Christmas and it sat in my pile of books for awhile, but this week I finally got around to giving it a read and I realised how much I like NISIOISIN’s writing all over again.

Another Note takes place before Death Note itself, although it does assume you’ve read Death Note and know what happens to L. As the full title of the book suggests, it’s a murder mystery story and as readers familiar with my work probably know – I love mystery novels. After all, my favourite book this year so far is Eiji Mikage’s Masquerade and the Nameless Women. 

Anyway, what I found from reading Another Note is that NISIOISIN tells a mighty fine mystery. Unlike in Monogatari and Katanagatari, the story of Another Note was always moving and making progress. Most crucially for me, I never worked out the twists and turns until I was meant to. The book is very well written and it was satisfying to figure out the answers just as the protagonist did. The book leads you in the right direction and gives you just enough to reach a conclusion before the main character does, leaving the smugness of being right and cheering when you realise you solved the problem in a similar way to the protagonist (as all too often I reach the answer in a roundabout way and get disappointed by the actual route to solving a puzzle).

I’m really glad I gave Another Note a chance, but it does frustrate me how little of NISIOISIN’s work can be read in English. I’m not necessarily talking about the popular series like Monogatari and Zaregoto, but all the one offs. Surely among them there are more gems like Another Note that would keep me turning the pages and refusing to put it down. Some of the Monogatari books share in this quality, but I’d love to see NISIOISIN unchained from the mountain of franchises and instead write some more one-off mystery novels. He has a talent for it. In fact not just mystery novels, I’d love him to take on a variety of different genres that perhaps aren’t fantasy or driven by comedy. I guess some of this probably already exists in Japan, to which I can only hope that the English publishers license more of his work to bring over. At least until my ability to read Japanese has improved to the point where I can work around the problem.

Anyway this has been a long post to say that Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case is a great read and if you like NISIOSIN’s work (and Death Note) it’s definitely worth a look to see how good his writing is when he’s not busily talking about panties through Araragi-kun.

Reading Log: February 2019

It’s time for the second instalment of my reading log! I’ve managed to commit myself for more than a month, so things are looking good. The rules I laid out for myself in the first month can be found here. With that said, let’s found out how I’ve done this month!


  • Dreamin’ Sun volume 8
  • Behind the Scenes volumes 4-5
  • Cells at Work volume 1-4
  • Heaven’s Design Team volumes 1-2
  • Tokyo Ghoul:re volume 4-6
  • Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World volume 1 – review
  • Anonymous Noise volume 12
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 4-5
  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas volumes 1-2 review
  • Record of Grancrest War volume 1 – review
  • Fire Punch volumes 1-2
  • I’m standing on a Million Lives volumes 1-4
  • Infinite Dendrogram volume 1
  • Lofty Flower, Fall for me!! volume 4
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime volumes 2-4
  • Land of the Lustrous volume 1
  • Mushishi volumes 1-6
  • Animeta! volume 1
  • Shortcake cake volume 3
  • Ao Haru Ride volume 3
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume 4
  • My Solo Exchange Diary volume 2

Light Novels:

  • Welcome to Japan, Ms Elf volume 1
  • Kokoro Connect volume 4
  • Der Werwolf: The Annals of Veight volume 3
  • I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level volume 3
  • Re:Zero volume 6
  • In Another World with My Smartphone volume 13 (no I don’t know how I’ve survived 13 volumes either…)
  • Koimonogatari – review
  • Woof Woof Story: I Told You To Turn Me into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir volume 1 – review

This month my reading has grown for manga, with having read 41 volumes compared to 24 last month. With less J-Novel Club titles rolling over, my count for light novels has fallen with only 8 read this month compared to 19 last month. At this point I’ve gotten through the backlog of manga I was given for Christmas with only light novels left, but I did buy the Kodansha humble bundle which gave me a lot of books to read! My birthday is also coming up next week so my to-read pile will probably ballon…

Currently reading: The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 9 (LN)

In the pile of shame (all light novels atm):

Death Note: Another Note
The Devil is a Part-Timer! volume 10
Re:Zero volumes 7-8
Re:Zero EX volumes 1-2
Vampire Knight: Fleeting Dreams