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by Rebecca Silverman,

Insomniacs After School

GN 1

Insomniacs After School GN 1

Years ago, there was an astronomy club, but after a series of tragedies befell the members, the club was shut down, and the observatory turned into a storeroom. Rumors of it being haunted keep people away from it, but when Ganta Nakami, who suffers from insomnia, finds it, he realizes that it's the perfect place for a nap. When he realizes that his classmate Magari is already using it as a safe space, the two band together to preserve their space and find a little comfort in the night.

Insomniacs After School is translated by Andria Cheng with lettering and touch-up by Inori Fukuda Trant.


Insomnia – real insomnia and not just the occasional inability to fall asleep – is among the most debilitating conditions you can have. A lack of sleep takes a toll on you both physically and mentally, and it certainly doesn't help that many people don't understand just how serious it can be. If you're like Nakami and Magari, the protagonists of Insomniacs After School, it might become something that you don't want to risk telling anybody about. That can only add to the burden insomnia is already placing on your mental health, and certainly neither of them is in a great place when the story starts.

Fortunately, this is not some sort of depression porn-type manga. Although it deals with a serious issue, it is more invested in developing the relationship between its two leads and helping them to find a point of balance in their lives. The two are barely acquainted members of the same class, not really interacting until preparations for the school festival sends Nakami up to the old astronomy club observatory. School legend has it that the astronomy club was disbanded some years ago after a series of tragedies befell its five members: one girl killed herself, and her ghost then apparently caused the deaths of the three boys in the club. At that point the school shut down the club and ceased to use the observatory for its intended function, repurposing it as a storage room. If this sounds like a slightly suspect reason for the school to stop using expensive equipment in a space dedicated to it, you're right, and there's a good chance that there isn't any truth in the school legend. When Nakami arrives at the observatory, he discovers that his classmate Magari is already there, and she admits to having fabricated the story of the school ghost. Whether this means that the entirety of the story is false or whether the school having the astronomy club when it ran out of students interested in the subject isn't really explored, and the possibility that something terrible did happen to that past astronomy club remains open. But for Nakami and Magari the empty club space becomes a refuge, the one place where they can finally close their eyes and get some sleep.

Although insomnia is the driving force behind their meeting, the story is less about them getting rest and more about how they are able to form a bond based on their shared disorder. This volume isn't interested in exploring why either of them is not sleeping; it is much more concerned with the idea that neither of them feel comfortable telling the world at large about it. We know that Nakami has confided in one friend, whom he has known since elementary school, and it seems like the school nurse is also aware. But Magari does not seem to have told a single person, citing the fact that she spent a lot of time in hospitals as a little girl as the reason why she does not want to give people more excuse to worry about her than they need to have. The book recognizes that this may not be a healthy way to deal with this situation, but they are not yet at a point where they are comfortable discussing the issue with others. Instead they create a club about enjoying the night, and although we only are privy to one of their meetings wherein they sneak out of their houses and walk around the town overnight, it's clear that just knowing someone else is out there with the same problem is a great solace to both of them.

The book is an interesting combination of both interior and exterior storylines, with the surface actions of their day-to-day lives masking their burgeoning friendship and the importance that the observatory has for them. The inclusion of a potentially stray cat who hangs around the school seems to be a metaphor for the teens themselves; the cat also finds a home in the observatory and is something of an enigma to everyone around it, although they appear more willing to attempt to understand the cat than to understand Nakami, who has a reputation for being surly and nitpicky, if not outright mean. There are adults around who might be willing to help them (at least at Nakami's home, where it appears that his father may not be 100% present), but neither of them is quite ready to take that next step. It feels like a very real approach to how high schoolers handle their mental health needs, and the possibility that there really may have been something tragic behind the closing of the astronomy club in the first place adds another layer of mystique to the story.

Insomniacs After School is setting up to be a layered story. With its expressive faces and body language and believable actions by its teenage characters, there is some definite potential here. It feels a little bit like the manga embodiment of that line from Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan: “We are all **** in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” with the protagonists learning to do just that.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+

+ Grounded treatment of insomnia and teenagers' reactions to it, very expressive art.
A little slow to start.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Makoto Ojiro
Licensed by: Viz Media

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