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The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
Insomniacs After School

How would you rate episode 1 of
Insomniacs After School ?
Community score: 4.1

What is this?


Two sleepless teenagers find kinship as they escape to their school's astronomy observatory. Unable to sleep at night, Ganta Nakami is cranky in class and unpopular with his classmates. He discovers that the school observatory, once used by the now-defunct astronomy club, may be the perfect place for a nap—but he's not alone. Fellow insomniac Isaki Magari is willing to share the observatory with Nakami, and a friendship between the two begins as they bond over the most unlikely of things.

Insomniacs After School is based on Makoto Ojiro's Insomniacs After School (Kimi wa Hōkago Insomnia) manga and streams on HIDIVE on Mondays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

For the most part, this premiere is fine. Not great. Not terrible. Just fine. The characters are likable enough, but the episode sets up the basic setting for the series without actually setting up a status quo.

When it comes down to it, Insomniacs After School is the story of two kids with the same untreated illness: insomnia. The trick is that neither wants anyone else to know. For Ganta, it is the simple stigma attached to having a mental illness. He doesn't want to be looked at as abnormal, to the point he'd rather be looked at as an asshole. Isaki, on the other hand, was a sickly child. And while she is healthy now, she never wants to return to the guilt-filled life she had when everyone she loved was worrying about her all the time.

Both have been trying to treat their insomnia in their own ways. Ganta has been pushing people away with his attitude, hoping they'll give up on him and let him sleep in class. Meanwhile, Isaki has come up with a much better plan that keeps her bright and chipper. After discovering the old Astronomy Club room, she spread a ghost story to keep people away from it so she could use it as her own private nap room.

The episode, overall, is just the story of their first few encounters—discovering they share the same secret and turning their endless nights from a boring hell into a time of fun and adventure. I honestly don't know where the story will go from here. Will it be about their adventures at night (which I fear will get boring rather quickly), or is there something else at the center of the plot that we haven't gotten to yet? The sad thing is, with all the genuinely good anime this season, I don't think I care enough to come back next week and find out.

James Beckett

My own insomnia has been wreaking havoc with my routine, as of late, so some of my positive feelings towards Insomniacs After School is likely rooted in my empathy for its protagonists, Ganta and Isaki, not to mention my affinity for well-executed, cheesy high school romance stories. Ganta is clearly suffering from the very real effects of long-term insomnia, but it's not like he's begun to wither into Christian Bale's character from The Machinist. He is simply feeling like so many of us do on an altogether too frequent basis: irritated, foggy, mildly ill, and desperate to feel the rejuvenating comfort of a good night's sleep that apparently comes so damned easy for most other folks. The show could have maybe done better to more specifically etch the discomfort onto Ganta's actions and physical countenance, instead of simply having characters describe what having insomnia feels like with their words, but I think the writing is good enough to still get the message across.

The solid character writing also means that Ganta's love interest, Isaki, doesn't just feel like some Manic Pixie Dream Girl that exists to cure our woe-stricken hero of his ills. Constant sleeplessness has affected her too, and while both she and Ganta have to spend some time navigating their mutual grouchiness, it's so immediately apparent that the pair work great together as friends (and possibly even more) that Insomniacs After School wastes no time with the usual rom-com beating around the bush. The best part of this premiere is the extended walking tour that Ganta and Isaki take as the sole members of the self-proclaimed Nightly Fun Society. Maybe I'm just a sap, but I can really appreciate the romantic thrill of sneaking out with the cute new friend you've made to explore the world at its most quiet and intimate. C'mon, you can't tell me that the scene where Isaki discovers that Ganta's heartbeat is just the soothing lullaby she needs to drift off to sleep isn't sweet as all get out.

What I liked the most about this premiere was its understated but emotionally well-realized tone. My only worry is whether the chill, low-stakes vibes will be enough to carry a full series of romantic escapades for a guy like me that needs at least some conflict in his anime plots. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Isaki's talk of being super frail and constantly hospitalized as a kid make me worried that the show is going to try to milk some melodramatic tragedy out of a terminal illness or some such nonsense, which I honestly hope is not the case. Just let these adorable kids find some love together (not to mention a functional sleep schedule). They deserve their little slices of happiness together, and I'm definitely on board to see how their friendship grows.

Nicholas Dupree

I speak from experience when I say that insomnia sucks eggs. It's often an interminably boring experience that keeps you brain and body in limbo, and ruins you for at least the next 24 hours whenever it sinks its icy claws into you. So I was definitely expecting to relate to the main characters here. I've absolutely been in their shoes, trying to sneak a nap in-between trudging through school or work, and seeming to all the world an irritable grump. I adored Call of the Night and its poetic ode to the wonder of nighttime isolation, so I was fully primed to love this premiere. Sadly I came away just wanting a cup of coffee.

A lot of it comes down to the art. Don't get me wrong; the show doesn't look bad – it's perfectly solid from a technical perspective. Yet somewhere between the understated character designs, the soft color palette, and the workmanlike direction, I was left wanting for atmosphere. Neither the central hideout nor the kids' nighttime adventure feels as striking as they're meant to, failing to capture the isolation or romance of being alone together in the abandoned streets of midnight. Similarly, it struggles to capture the drudgery of sleep-deprived daytime. Outside of a couple of close-up shots of Ganta and Isaki with bags under their eyes, the characters never really articulate or demonstrate the exhaustion of insomnia nor the peace of sleep. It's all just too by the numbers to capture the vibes it's going for.

In much the same way, the characters left me wanting. Ganta and Isaki are OK kids who get along well enough, but all of their conversations are very casual in a generic way. They share personal details but never feel like they've grown closer, and each kid's generally friendly demeanor doesn't leave much room for entertaining rapport. I suspect the show is trying for a sense of charming realism, letting them shares bits of themselves like real teenagers, but with the lackluster atmosphere a lot of that just falls flat.

I dunno man; it just feels like something is missing here; some vital element that could make all these parts mesh together and deliver something engrossing and charming. We've got a premiere that's fine, even pleasant to sit through, but is too understated to feel worth following.

Rebecca Silverman

I don't always love slow-paced stories, but it's hard not to enjoy them when they're done like Insomniacs After School. Hewing close to the source manga, this first episode serves to introduce us to the (as of volume one) four-person main cast and to make its premise clear: both Magari and Ganta suffer from insomnia, and when they discover that they're not alone, a friendship begins to bloom. The central theme covered in this introduction is that Ganta and Magari feel isolated because of their disorder. Ganta has found a friend to confide in, but it's clear from their one major interaction this week that Ukegawa doesn't really understand what Ganta's going through. And how could he? Insomnia is more than just being unable to sleep; it's debilitating on a level it's hard to comprehend unless you've experienced it yourself or watched someone close to you go through it. As for Magari, she hasn't found anyone to talk to, and her solution is to create a safe space where she can sleep undisturbed during the school day. It isn't a perfect solution, but it's one that she's comfortable with.

It's also impressive the lengths she'll go to to keep it to herself. Ghost stories are ubiquitous in anime schools, but Magari has gone beyond the usual seven school mysteries to craft her ghostly tale to keep others out of her hidey-hole. It's just her bad luck that Ganta stumbles upon it himself, although ultimately, that turns out to be a good thing. Suppose you've ever worked in a school or been aware of their budgets. In that case, it's jarring that there's a whole observatory full of expensive equipment just sitting there – most schools I've been at would have sold that stuff off to fund a sports team or something or at least found someone to use it for its intended purpose. But the story wouldn't work without an unused space like the observatory, so we'll have to write that off for now.

Ultimately, Magari and Ganta find solidarity in their sleeplessness. The episode captures that unreal feeling of being somewhere and somewhen you oughtn't, and their jaunt around the town at night is quietly captivating. Even the secret fort nature of their sojourns in the observatory nails the feeling of finding a perfect, and possibly illegitimate, hideout. This may be a show you watch for the atmosphere, but if you don't mind your plots being slow, I very much recommend giving this a try.

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