No Fault in These Stars

Stay up all night with Insomniacs After School
by Bob Johnson

The three lead characters: Isaki, Ganta, and the Night Sky

Have you ever sat up all night contemplating that the weight of the universe is coming down on you, personally? Sadboy Ganta Nakami has. Living in Nanao and drowsing through the oceanic sunsets, the one thing he’s got going for him is a fancy camera. Yet he doesn’t have anything to take pictures of. At first anyway.

Unable to sleep at night, Ganta finds himself napping at school in its quiet, out-of-the-way places. Rumour has it that the abandoned observatory is haunted, but it’s quiet, dark, and has interesting stuff just sitting there. And, tempted to nap himself, he is shocked to meet Isaki Magari, sleeping like a zombie in some abandoned furniture!

Any good hangout space needs remodelling.

It doesn’t take long for them to realize that both have the same problem: they can’t get decent sleep. As they commiserate and fix up their shared snooze pad, they’re also on a collision course with the school powers-that-be: If they don’t get the astronomy club back up and running, the observatory will turn into permanent storage.

What ensues over the 13 episodes is a voyage to drum up club members, and then visit the best night photography spots in Japan in search of a shot that can win a photo contest and keep the club funded. Along the way, we learn some of the psychological stress our leads have been under, and why these two, most of all, need a healing anime and something beautiful in their lives.

A shared moment in space-time.

Plus a beach episode, because a show this fluffy always has one! Indeed, Isaki falls into the sudden girlfriend appearance category, and her default wardrobe is from the Zettai Ryouiki catalog. Between her and her athlete friends, the show doesn’t lack for genki-girl energy. And that’s just the characters! The real fanservice is that the art in this show is just dazzlingly beautiful. The background shots of sunsets and the night sky go beyond Makoto Shinkai territory. But even the dejected, dismal grey of a rained-out event day pops with every raindrop and tear. It wasn’t so long ago that a show like this would just pan across stills during the kinds of shots that Linden Films renders with full motion and shading. So kudos to the production team!

Insomniacs lingers at Bus Stops and F-Stops

I will gladly take a chill, compassionate show like this over a lot of the shows out there that mistake shock factor for plot development. Shows that rely on explosions or fast talking to juice engagement, instead of hooking folks on the characters. Even among “romance” shows – it’s rare to find anything that captures the nerd experience that isn’t focused squarely on making “oops, awkward!” jokes every 35 seconds. I hear the latest anime pairing trend is “rivals-to-lovers” – stories that substitute tsundere and conflict where the intimacy and growth should be. Maybe that’s fun, but is it realistic? It’s impossible to recommend that nonsense over a more healthy relationship like this.

I can be a sucker for this sort of thing, despite being pretty far from my usual scifi comedy action adventure comfort zone. Could you accuse this story of recycling a lot of well-used fanfic tropes – save-the-club meets hurt-comfort, with a dash of sports and harem? Is it a little too fluffy and unfocused at times, is it perhaps too indulgent? Maybe that’s fair to say, but it never feels hectic, choppy, or contrived, as it might be if they were simply throwing the kitchen sink at the fanbase’s every impulse. Every episode is a journey of its own, always smooth and patient. Some of my co-fans toss shows like this over the side for being ‘boring’ – but in this case, the slow pace is really a feature, not a bug.

Insomniacs After School is the perfect antidote to the endless fucking rush. Slow down, take a break, hold hands, watch the sunset, and wait for the stars to glitter into view.

Fuck Yeah, Check it Out:
Insomniacs After School (Kimi wa Houkago Insomunia) 13 episode anime
Based on the manga by Makoto Ojiro
Produced by Linden Films, Licenced by Sentai
Streaming (press time): HiDive