In Please Be Happy‘s historical Korea, an understandably wary fox living in a forest has a series of unexpected encounters with a kindly human stranger. Though their time together is all too brief, the human’s warmth leaves a lasting impression on the woodland creature. It serves as the basis for her transformation into a gumiho: a nine-tailed mythical fox spirit who takes on a more human or fox-like appearance at will. The fox spirit travels all over the globe, determined to find that benevolent person again. However, her solitary journey is a harsh struggle of survival as people constantly forget her and lonely decades bleed into one another. When the gumiho arrives in Wellington, New Zealand, and calls herself Miho, her quest hits an unexpected roadblock: two women who show her kindness and can somehow remember who she is. Can Miho accept their extended friendship and find a way to live for herself truly? Can she find more waiting for her than she ever thought possible in Wellington?
Please Be Happy is a romantic-tinged visual novel with a magical slice-of-life plotline. The VN’s Wellington is a truly magical place in many respects, similar to our own, save that creatures such as fox spirits, vampires, swan hybrids, and dryads live side by side with regular, run-of-the-mill humans. These creatures are known collectively as Fabled in the game’s setting. Please Be Happy compellingly mixes the fantastical with the everyday in a way similar to the game Coffee Talk or the anime/manga series Someday’s Dreamers. No one bats an eye at the strange magic that causes someone to forget Miho after only a day or the fact that she and Juliet have lived for centuries. It’s an open and inviting world for all who wish to participate, and I grew to love the accepting undertone that permeates the entire narrative. The love stories that can develop between Miho, Aspen, and Juliet later on are also treated as any romance tale should be, and I appreciate the care placed into conveying them.
Please Be Happy is a wonderfully written tale about Miho learning to live for her own sake and how to love herself. Seeing her grow throughout the VN through her developing rapport with the vampire librarian Juliet and the human barista-and-writer Aspen, and eventually even other characters in the cast, is a heartfelt treat. The plot has its share of sadness and hardships as those are just parts of life, but Miho comes to understand over time in Wellington that holding close to those moments along with the more positive ones is vitally important. The VN makes for a poignantly memorable story of growth buoyed by solid friendships, two of which can potentially evolve into lifelong romances.
Please Be Happy is gorgeous, with stellar character designs and amazing CG scenes during essential story points. Wellington feels lush and alive, populated by equally vivid characters. The game’s near-constant voice acting is phenomenal, helping to carry emotional scenes further, and the soundtrack is similarly dynamic. I love the little music notes at the top of the screen whenever a specific theme plays as a nice visual cue to pay attention to the soundtrack’s tone. The UI is simple yet charming, utilizing comic-style bubbles to indicate dialogue and plain text appearing below the characters for descriptive narrative. Much care and polish went into the presentation of Please Be Happy, and it shows!
There’s no actual story map to speak of in Please Be Happy, though the game has an autoplay feature to get through already-seen text quicker. It also allows for multiple saves and saving at any time. You may want to utilize those features if you’re going for multiple playthroughs, as this is a reasonably long VN. Each route clocks in at around fifteen or so hours. Indeed, the amount of content in the game is impressive!
Given that Please Be Happy is a more-or-less traditional VN, the setup is familiar to those used to the genre. You scroll through lines of text and dialogue until you reach a decision point that can impact future story routes. At specific points, you’re given control of Miho and have limited time to traverse various areas of Wellington. Sometimes, you can visit particular side characters during these moments and see optional story scenes involving them. Doing so regularly enough can net you the conclusion to their specific story arcs. One such character is the youngster Tommy, who is dealing with his parent’s divorce alongside his invisible floral Fabled friend Gerbie. Another is the energetic swan girl Lena, who is trying to spend time with her dryad crush Cyrus while also breaking away from the stereotypes people associate with her. These interesting storylines add another layer to the strong storytelling prevalent throughout Please Be Happy. My only real issue with these side character arcs is that because they are timed, you can only see some of them to their conclusion in one playthrough. However, that is just another way the game encourages replayability.
Miho can choose to remain good friends with Juliet and Aspen, although she also has the option to develop a romance with either woman eventually. Naturally, this choice affects the narrative’s outcome. For further replayability, players can decide between a cozily developing relationship or a more adventurous one with either character. I like the “comfy” endings, given my romance preferences, but it is nice to see a game offering variety for players. I appreciate that the romances can take shape and develop based on how you have Miho view things around her and the slow way they progress and move well past that initial “lovey-dovey” stage to something genuinely touching and honest. These relationships are some of the best romance progression I’ve seen in a VN, positively warming my heart several times. Patiently understanding Juliet and anxiously dreamy Aspen are both characters I appreciate for their strengths and storylines separate from Miho’s; I can particularly relate to several of Aspen’s story points.
While Please Be Happy is a slow burn in terms of its overall plot and romance, those who appreciate detailed storytelling will undoubtedly find a lot to like. Since it’s more of a low-stakes tale, it might not appeal to everyone, but it will certainly entertain those seeking character-driven VNs with heavy romantic undertones. The core themes of acceptance and love at the heart of Please Be Happy resonate deeply with me, and I loved every second I spent in Miho’s fascinating world.