“Kimi wa Houkago no Insomnia” (“Insomniacs After School”) is an ongoing slice-of-life manga, written by Makoto Ojiro, centered around the lives of Nakami and Magari, two high school students struggling with falling asleep. After a chance encounter in the abandoned astronomy tower, they find that being together helps them fall asleep stress-free. The series follows the pair as they reopen the astronomy club, and utilize their insomnia to explore star-gazing locations and go on hiking trips.
This manga brings slice-of-life to its pinnacle. While the plot of the story can be easily picked up, almost half of your time reading will be spent just watching the characters as a fly on the wall. The dialogue is short and sweet; pages will often go by without a bubble of dialogue. However, the day still goes on. These pages capture moments without talking or moments where the scenery and atmosphere drown out any idle comments. Combined with Ojiro’s detailed and beautiful drawing, it feels as if you are experiencing sunsets and lazy Sunday mornings in real time.
However, the story is far from lacking. From the very beginning of the manga, Ojiro has complete control of the story’s pace. Details in the backstory and the characters are given to us as they are revealed to the characters in the story. There is a kind of relaxing unevenness to the pace of the story. Whether it’s watching the characters cook food, hop across rocks on the river or gaze at the stars in the sky, you are always along for the ride. The balance between the slices of life and the plot is perfect because the plot never exists outside of the slices of life. There are no lengthy expositions nor clunky, drama-baiting new characters because they are not needed. The story emerges organically from the rich characterization and emotion carried by the slices of life.
Oh the artwork…
Neither main character is particularly beautiful or unique in terms of character design, but they’re memorable; a factor that can be attributed to Ojiro’s incredible depiction of emotion in facial expressions and body language. Day-to-day scenes can be elevated simply by the look on a character’s face or the way they walk. Every character in the manga is effortlessly expressive, in an intimate and cozy way. In many chapters, successive panels are framed as if they were candid photos if given a much wider setting. This makes Nakami and Magari pop out all the more as lead characters, and also what makes them so believable. Every now and then, Ojiro will interrupt the peace and quiet with an absolutely breathtaking double-page spread of the night sky around our protagonists, as if you were in their shoes.
This manga is incredible, and it was really hard to describe what was so good about it without the panels themselves. Completely forgetting the mumbo jumbo about the art, dialogue, pace, etc., it’s just an incredibly wholesome romance manga, with two interesting and emotionally full characters. It’s all fluffer, no filler.