Hapymaher (18+) Review – Glorious Dreams
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Purple Software
Release: 12th July 2018
Price: 44.95 (Mangagamer Store)
After the hardcore Kuroinu and light-hearted, sex-focused Evenicle, Mangagamer brings a refreshingly balanced experience to the west with Hapymaher. While not as separated from sexual themes like Sorcery Jokers, hence the lacking Steam version, Purple Software´s first localized title is certainly something for everyone desiring a more serious experience, not clustered with brutal rape scenes.
Lucid dreams, dreams where you´re aware of dreaming and can basically do anything, a thing many try to achieve. Yet, Tohru isn´t one of them. Instead, he can only have lucid dreams, once he manages to fall asleep. In the night, a cause rooted deep within his memories, hunts him in his sleep, letting him no chance to escape. During the day he tries to live a normal high school life but instead is tormented by his childhood friend Saki, calling him “Nii-san” at every turn, as well as an upper class- and underclassman. However, one day, everything comes falling down when the past returns in his dreams in the form of Maia, the girl who shouldn´t exist.
Hapymaher is a visual novel about dreams, the alternate reality where everything´s possible. In consequence, somewhere where forbidden or impossible things can be practised. Many will probably think about things like sex, which is understandable considering it´s also an Eroge. Luckily, Purple Software didn´t create a story centred around finally having intercourse with all those ladies seemingly ignored by Tohru. Rather, everything centres around fear, sorrow and escapism in many ways.
The main reason being the surprisingly non-cliché relationships between the characters. I mean, as soon as someone sees that Saki calls Tohru “Nii-san”, wakes him up every morning and way more, without being his girlfriend, it should be obvious how their relationship will evolve … right? Actually not, because Hapymaher is well-aware of the typical anime tropes it uses, making use of them to craft whole new conflicts. For example, our main protagonist never takes her bait, even though he would certainly like to, because of his fear towards her wealthy family as well as scary caretakers, at least superficially. In truth, a lot points to him simply being scared of losing the one and only thing he always relied on, Saki´s unconditional friendship, by accepting her as a girlfriend. Rooted deep within past events, that build the very foundation of the mystery storyline, he actively fights against his love.
The theme of being scared by the past, almost paralyzed, becomes evident early on and is also the main reason for Tohru´s lacking social skills. At the same time, it´s also the foundation for pretty much the whole plot, centring around both learnings what caused his deep fear and to let go, because nothing can be redone. Fittingly, the “antagonist” Maia is no other than the girl who once was his other childhood friend but is long gone, until now. Literally, the past comes to haunt him by confronting him with everything wrong. During the day, we mainly observe a typical slice-of-life story, similar to many other visual novels. WHen the dreams begin though, it´s time to explore the actual, underlying character arcs, through their own dreams.
Tasked with freeing every one of his friends from their growing nightmares, Tohru has to shatter their dreams or else, lose them in their dream world. Naturally, none of those is even close to evil, simply depicting what they most want from Tohru, indirectly confronting him with the things he tried to avoid all this time. Be it Saki´s wish to be his girlfriend, his upperclassman´s Yayoi true self or underclassman Keiko´s desires. Since they´re pretty much the main part of the 30-40 hours long read, I won´t spoil the actual events, simply because they all follow the same theme, as explained earlier.
All three of those work just as great as individual arcs, to give the characters the depth they deserve. Probably some of the best ones I´ve seen in the past time too, due to the fact Tohru and everyone else is impacted by them in a realistic manner. While he could never find happiness in ignoring all those girls’ feelings and intentions, resulting in this uncomfortable, typical anime scenario, seeing how all those conflicts are resolved feels like a relief in many ways for the reader as well. Finally, those persons have to accept their emotions and learn how to accept, that none of them is realistic, saving them from their dreams and escapism.
Unfortunately, one character and especially the last third do a great job of dragging all those developments down. Namely, Alice, who´s a mysterious girl accompanying Tohru on his journey but never revealing her reasons. In the beginning, a promising story thread for later, until Hapymaher begins to slowly destroy its own message through her. (Spoilers ahead) What some may have expected, she decided to roam the dreams of others to help them with their problems to escape from her problems. At the same time, Hapymaher pulls a giant twist, that literally no one needed nor doesn´t contribute to the message. Actually, it seems to discard pretty much everything. For whatever reason, “Alice” becomes the main love interest of Tohru too and so he sets out to actually try to save her in real life from her own problems. How? Through dream time travelling!
Honestly, why was any of this necessary? In no form does it contribute to the message, nor serves any purpose instead of awkwardly writing in a twist where none was needed. I really, really liked the mystery plot, the character developments, the self-awareness, the dynamic and much more about the prior two thirds. At no point did the plot need supernatural powers to that extend or a fourth love interest to justify … I don´t know what. Everything about this feels off. The more I think about the events, the more I see how much Hapymaher chops off its seemingly main message, making me question, where does it wanna go? To this day, I didn´t find an answer.
Nonetheless, except the last part, pretty much everything else is great about this visual novel. In particular, the visuals are both amazing and unique. While the CGs, character portraits and backgrounds look absolutely stunning at times, where Purple Software really outdid themselves is the overall atmosphere. Due to the combination of the almost dream-like visual design and the slow, mysterious soundtrack, the whole experience almost seems like a dream for the reader with its colourful imaginary worlds, crazy ideas or sleepy music. Everything is crafted to underline the main themes, messages and ideas, pretty much sucking the reader into its world.
Naturally, the sex scenes also profit from the great craftsmanship. Even though I´m still the opinion that the sexualized design, CGs and scenes themselves don´t really add much to the plot except bringing relief to the sexual tension, they´re at least better integrated than in Sorcery Jokers. Instead of awkwardly placed in-between, all of them make sense in a way, despite the fact the majority is happening in alternate paths. At no times too long or too uninteresting, all of them offer some rather vanilla action, without ever becoming too hardcore for its own, fantastical message. Nothing more than a neat bonus on top.
Hapymaher isn´t a flawless visual novel but nothing one should easily miss either. Despite the fact much of its promo and CGs are concentrated on the sexual side, the main appeal actually lies in the gripping, interesting story about escapism, dreams and wishes. Even if I´m still baffled by the last third, everything else is on an exceptionally high standard. I still remember how stunned I was by the first few minutes of this almost dream-like experience. Given, 45 bucks are a tough ask considering the lacking end but sure worth it for the high-quality releases we know from Mangagamer.
[A Review Code was provided by Mangagamer]