Season aired: Spring 2023
Number of episodes: 13
Watched on: HIDIVE
Translated by: ?
Genres: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Thoughts: Romance anime dominated the Spring 2023 season in sheer numbers, leaving me to wonder how they were going to distinguish themselves from each other. Many of their premises are similar: a loner boy and a more popular girl meet, get close, and romance ensues. Of all the ones I’ve seen, I am happy to say that Insomniacs After School undoubtedly has more substance and complexity than its competitors, even though at the end of the day, it is still nothing more than just another sweet romance to add to the list.
At a glance, Ganta and Isaki have nothing in common. Ganta is the smart, introverted boy who keeps to himself, only has one friend, and goes straight home after school. Isaki is the spunky, extroverted girl who socializes easily, has a close friend group, and is also part of the swim team. However, a chance encounter in the school’s abandoned observatory leads them to discover one thing that ties them together despite all their differences: they both suffer from insomnia and are barely making it through the day. After spending so long suffering in silence, the two quickly grow close and work together to face their sleepless nights.
First off – the relationship between the two leads is flawless. Their connection is realistic, empathetic, and romantic. I was completely sold by the third episode, partly because their growing feelings for each other feel so human, and partly because they help each other with their problems so well. Underlying both their insomnias is crippling anxiety, but the anime takes the more difficult route by giving them different anxieties rather than having them share the same ones. Isaki is terrified she won’t wake up the next day due to health problems she had when she was younger, while Ganta is terrified of the day ending due to a childhood trauma of waking up the next day to see that everything in his life has inexplicably changed. It would be all too easy to make their shared traumas be the reason they get together, but instead, it’s precisely because their traumas are different that they are able to bloom as people and start to manage their anxieties better.
Another reason why this relationship feels so believable is the character design. Isaki is the “prettier” of the two leads, but unlike other anime where the female lead is a stunning model with a ginormous chest or has angelic blonde hair, Isaki looks like a normal girl – just with a bit of a better complexion than Ganta. This extends to all the characters, including supporting, and it is wonderful to see such different yet normal body shapes amongst high school students. When the entire cast of supporting and main characters stand next to each other, not a single one looks the same, their silhouettes varying by height, curvature, and shoulder broadness. It grounds the story and characters in a way that makes everything feel more authentic – from the romantic relationship to the friendships to even the antagonistic relationships.
However, the reason Insomniacs After School becomes just another sweet romance anime to pass the time is due to the lack of visual creativity. Unlike other romance anime that have become cult classics, Insomniacs After School doesn’t bring anything new to the table that could create a standard, like Usui Takumi’s character from Maid-sama did in the 2000s, and it doesn’t explore bigger and deeper topics like Fruits Basket. This leaves the anime’s impact solely on its ability to portray the story through its visual direction, which it ultimately couldn’t fulfill.
There are moments of beauty, especially since one of the main activities the leads learn to do together is to take photographs, but they’re reserved only for those moments. And even in those moments, it’s portrayed as a still shot of beautiful scenery rather than a moment of beauty that envelopes everything and everyone.
When photography is not involved, the art and direction look like any other anime airing. Only in the first episode are there two unique scenes that visually portray a shift in story and feelings through a change in art direction or a creative choice in texture, and I think if that level of commitment remained throughout the series, the anime would’ve made a bigger impact.
The remaining aspects of the show, such as soundtrack and voice acting, were all good but not standouts either. Gen Satou, a rising star in voice acting, brings his best to the table as Ganta, but when the other cast members are not able to keep step with him, it makes his stellar performance stand out in a strange way rather than one sparking of chemistry.
Despite its faults, I still enjoyed the anime. The heart of the story still lies in the romantic relationship between the two leads, and the romance is ultimately what kept me going in watching the series. However, this romance lies directly with the source material rather than with the anime itself, and with so many other stellar romance anime that are likely to come in the future, I’m afraid Insomniacs After School risks being forgotten due to missed opportunities in the more technical aspects of the show.
Plot: 7.5 (Multiplier 3)
Characters: 8 (Multiplier 3)
Art/Animation: 7 (Multiplier 2)
Voice acting: 7
FINAL SCORE: 74.5