Insomniacs After School stuck out to me in the new releases corner of the bookstore because of its cluttered cover. The first volume features the main characters, school loner Nakami and Nakami’s eccentric classmate Magari, sprawled out in an observatory chilling (as the cool kids do). The room is kind of messy and author/illustrator Ojiro Makoto managed to pull off a pretty decent “lazing about” atmosphere for the book’s cover. I also thought the titular insomnia could prove to be an interesting angle to explore what I assumed would be a story of teen relationships.
Both Nakami and Magari suffer from acute insomnia, which has become a vicious cycle for both of them. Their lack of sleep causes them to be tired in school, which makes it difficult to participate in school activities and socialize with their peers. This causes them to become more anxious and try even harder to fall asleep, which, in turn, makes it even harder to fall asleep. Neither of them wants to let anyone, including the school nurse, know about their plight as they are worried that it will cause trouble for others. In this way, their insomnia reflects similar anxieties that keep teens awake at night in Japan. Fitting in is a crucial goal for high schoolers, and conformity is often seen not as a means to an end (such as popularity) but as a goal to aspire to in and of itself. Nakami and Magari’s anxiety towards their relationships with their peers and teachers manifests itself as insomnia that torments them even when they are away from school.
Although Nakami is able to confide at least a bit in his childhood friend Ukegawa, it isn’t until he meets Magari that he finally has someone who is in a similar position that he can fully find solace in. They both are facing the same problem, so their connection begins as a relationship of convenience in order to make sleepless nights more entertaining. It doesn’t take long for both of them to develop unspoken feelings for each other, but their relationship has yet to progress beyond vague attraction.
Perhaps you noticed that I have yet to specifically say which character on the cover is Nakami and which character is Magari. Can you guess based on my simple descriptions? If you guessed that the loner Nakami is the guy and the eccentric Magari is the girl, you probably can understand my biggest gripe with this series. The best stories take time to develop their characters, but at the moment Insomniacs After School has done little to differentiate its leads from the archetypes that clearly inspired them. Magari is a friendly but slightly aloof girl who, after a chance encounter with Nakami, ends up convincing him to join her after school to nap in the disused observatory on the school’s roof. Nakami himself rarely interacts with others and tends to be curt when forced, but Magari manages to wrap him around her finger pretty quickly.
The story seems to be hinting at potential tragedy already (for example, Magari has mentioned a couple of times that she was frequently sick when she was young), and if that came to fruition it would perfectly fit the popular mold for these romance stories that are cropping up more and more lately, perhaps best exemplified by titles such as Your Lie in April and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. A loner boy is shown another world by a quirky energetic girl, only for the pair to be forced apart, often by the girl’s own mortality. When done right, this general narrative pattern can be both a great coming-of-age story and a quality emotional ride, such as Your Lie in April’s use of music to add acuity to the emotional connection between its characters. Insomniacs After School seems to be attempting a similar strategy with its use of insomnia as a bind that ties the characters together, but it hasn’t managed to develop Nakami or Magari into more three-dimensional characters yet. Given the crowded field of mediocre titles all attempting a similarly-styled story, I’m left wondering if Insomniacs will actually develop into to something more interesting than its current run-of-the-mill romance and archetypal characters.
It’s hard to say whether or not insomnia will prove to be the point that separates Insomniacs After School from the rest of the pack, but as it stands, the first volume feels a bit bland. If you’re a big fan of this type of romantic drama, then perhaps this might be worth picking up, but I can’t say I feel any particular interest in picking up the second volume when it releases this winter.
Thanks to TheMamaLuigi for proofreading!
English: Insomniacs After School
Author: Ojiro Makoto
Magazine: Big Spirits Comics
JPN Release: September 12, 2019
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