Insomniacs After School Volume One features two insomniacs who discover that they’re not alone in their affliction.

Insomniacs After School Volume One
Written by: Makoto Ojiro
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 21, 2023

The volume begins by explaining why the school that serves as the setting for the series no longer has an astronomy club. It’s a tragic story, but it provides background for the rumor going around about the ghost that’s haunting the school’s astronomy tower. Because of the rumor, most of the girls avoid going anywhere near that area of the school if they can at all help it.

After this explanation about the end of the astronomy club, the reader is introduced to a young man named Ganta Nakami. He suffers from insomnia, and the only person at school who knows is his best friend. He keeps this a secret from everyone else, because he doesn’t want to be seen as weird. Unfortunately, due to his lack of sleep and his peers not knowing about his insomnia, his classmates see him as someone who’s grouchy and thinks that he’s above everyone. His class is working on their entry for the upcoming school festival, and Ganta is forced to go get a stack of boxes from the stairway that leads to the astronomy tower.

When he reaches the stairway, he sees the stack of boxes is pretty small and thinks he’ll be criticized for not bringing more. He knows that the astronomy tower is being used by the school as a storage area and thinks there may be more boxes in there. He lets himself in and sees it as a perfect hideout that he can use to hide from his classmates and catch some sleep. However, Ganta is surprised when he finds that his classmate, a girl named Isaki Magari, is already in there, asleep.

After being startled awake, the two classmates learn that the other is an insomniac. Isaki had discovered this room first and has been using it to secretly get some sleep. As these two classmates get to know each other better, they spend time together in the astronomy tower. In order to keep the fact that they’re insomniacs secret, they can’t really talk to each other around their classmates, because they had never really talked to each other prior to the start of the series. Ganta isn’t quite sure what to make of their relationship, although by the end of the volume, I think it’s safe to say that they have become friends. However, there are hints thrown into this volume that Isaki may be developing a romantic interest in Ganta. He might also be developing feelings for her as well, but the hints for Ganta’s feelings are nowhere near as blatant as what we see for Isaki.

Unfortunately, the school nurse discovers that the Ganta and Isaki are using the astronomy tower. While the nurse is aware of their insomnia and sympathizes with their situation, she still has a professional obligation to inform the other staff members and decide what needs to be done. It’s decided by the staff to re-open the Astronomy Club, and that Ganta and Isaki have to be members in order to continue using the astronomy tower. The two students agree, and they are given assignments to do for the Astronomy Club in order to force them to do club activities. I think this aspect makes sense, because the school can’t be seen as giving special privileges to students.

After I finished this volume, I found that I appreciated Ojiro’s depictions of the two main characters and their insomnia. While it seems like the story is being set up for Isaki to be in love with Ganta, it doesn’t seem like the romance angle is going to be necessarily front and center. But then again, since this first volume is spending its time establishing the characters and their story, the emphasis on the potential romance angle could increase in future volumes. We also see references to an upcoming class trip during this volume, and I expect that the class trip will become an important part of the story in an upcoming volume of the series.

As I read this story about these two insomniacs, I couldn’t help but think of Ko from Call of the Night, another manga series featuring an insomniac as a main character. Even though all three of these characters share this trait, their stories and the tone of their respective manga are quite different. While Call of the Night features a supernatural element (vampires), Insomniacs After School is grounded much more in reality.

When it comes to the art, the character designs are very distinct, and the reader can easily tell who is who. Overall, the art style is fairly strong, although I did find occasional panels, especially early on in the volume, where some of the characters look a little “derpy.” However, this didn’t seem to be a consistent problem, so perhaps Ojiro was working at getting the hang of drawing these characters. On the positive side, though, there are some panels in Volume One where the backgrounds look really good.

Overall, I thought the first volume of Insomniacs After School showed a lot of promise. The main characters are engaging and seem to have a good chemistry, and a strong foundation is established for the story. I hope to see future volumes of the series build off of this foundation and continue the story in a satisfying manner.

Readers who enjoy manga featuring high school characters discovering they have something in common and building a friendship will likely appreciate Insomniacs After School.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media