Perchance to Dream
Insomniacs After School, volume 1
By Makoto Ojiro
2019’s Insomniacs After School, Volume One is the first tankōbon of Makoto Ojiro’s manga series. Serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Weekly Big Comic Spirits, Insomniacs After School has been ongoing since May 2019. The English translation of Volume One appeared in 2023.
Everyone at Ganta Nakami’s high school knows the tragic story of the girl who loved too much and the astronomy club that perished as a result. The lovelorn girl threw herself from a height. First the boy with whom she was infatuated languished and died. Then so did every other member of the astronomy club. The former school observatory is long disused, save only as a storeroom.
Or so almost everyone believes.
Ganta Nakami is plagued by a seemingly incurable insomnia. Every night he tries to sleep. Every night, he fails. Because he uses the night hours to study, this has had wonderful effects on his grades. In every other respect, his condition is a terrible burden.
Dispatched as his circle’s expendable member to the cursed observatory to retrieve cardboard for a group project, Ganta makes several momentous discoveries. Firstly, fellow student Isaki Magari has been using the observatory as her own private hidey-hole. Secondly, Isaki does this because she is a fellow insomniac and the observatory is the only place she’s been able to nap. Thirdly, the observatory door is broken and once closed securely cannot be opened from the inside. The third discovery gives the pair time to converse before rescue arrives.
It may seem extraordinary that even such an exuberant young woman as Isaki would brave the infamously cursed observatory. However, Isaki is sure that the ghost of the dead schoolgirl will not hurt her. The reason Isaki is so certain is because Isaki is the one who invented the story, to discourage other students from intruding into her quiet place.
Since Ganta knows the secret of the observatory, Isaki comes to terms with him. They will share the observatory, each confining themselves to their side, with but a feeble barrier between them. This Clark-Gable-esquearrangement does nothing to prevent the pair from becoming friends. It’s almost as though their incessant squabbles are hiding other feelings.
Disaster strikes when teacher Kurashiki ventures into the observatory. The pair hastily correct Karashiki’s first guess as to why a boy and girl would appropriate a very secluded room for their own use. However, misusing the observatory to nap is still misusing the observatory. There must be consequences.
Isaki and Ganta become the founding members of the school’s revived astronomy club, with Kurashiki-sensei as their designated supervisor.
Technically, Isaki and Ganta are only two of the three regulars in the observatory. A local stray cat has appropriated it as well, with a particular eye to the comfortable chair the students moved into the room. Isaki, having designated herself as member number one of the observatory gang, had dubbed Ganta as member number two. The entrance of the cat changes things. Isaki decides that the cat is the new number two. Ganta is now number three. He appears resigned to his fate, having by that point been relegated to footstool by the very firm Isaki. Ah, well.
I picked up this manga because someone compared it to Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction, which I quite liked. I’m not entirely certain why that person thought the two manga were similar. Plot-wise the two are very different: this is a very amiable story about the harmless hijinks two teenage insomniacs get up to, whereas Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction is an apocalyptic tale about good intentions going horribly, horribly wrong. Perhaps the similarity lies in the art, which is skillfully and cleanly executed in both manga. The art is certainly one reason I kept reading.
Another reason: this is a very good natured series. Nothing terrible is going to happen and some valuable amateur astronomy may be committed as a side-effect of the revival of the astronomy club. At the very least, the two students have found circumstances in which they can nap, which isn’t a bad thing.
I am not entirely certain where this can go (how many volumes could there possibly be in “two sleepless students have wacky hijinks together”?) but no doubt I will find out.
Insomniacs After School, Volume One is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Book Depository). I did not find it at Chapters-Indigo.