Sleepless Nights by Sachi Murakami

Reviewed by Cait
Published in print by Juné


Short Answer: Typical Fare

From the back cover: “Sure, Miyabi may work in a neighborhood where men like to cruise. That doesn’t automatically mean he’s into guys, too! But what happens when a chance encounter with a beautiful stranger turns his world upside-down? Will Miyabi have the courage to make up his mind about what (or who) he truly desires?

Sleepless Nights creates plenty of delicious tension that’s made for tossing and turning! Should unexpected roommates find a way to keep their relationship strictly platonic? Or will they succumb to sweet pressure and explode in a fit of passion?”

As long as you don’t poke at the premise too hard, this story can remain fairly palatable. There is your typical BL “struggling with emotions,” but not too much struggling, and really, there are moments where you question why there is any at all. Miyabi plays the “straight” card constantly in the front half of the book, but it always seems more born of an interest in distancing himself from a one-night stand than as an actual argument against why he would want to be with Nakatani. There is even a moment where he admits Nakatani is exactly the type of guy he would “make an exception for,” and there is an attempt to defend this in the story with an observation of the other guys in their all-boys high school that are also mysteriously attracted to his cuteness.

Only two named characters in the book are self-identified as “gay,” and only one, Nakatani, is actually wholly homosexual, which in the 2010s is starting to get annoying in these stories. Shinoi, who claims to be gay and in love with his upperclassman Kouno, isn’t attracted to any other guys. He even tries to look at gay porn, in an incident used to create tension between the main couple, and is unable to become aroused. Kouno himself, while never actually coming out, and whose motivations are never really fully explained in the extra side story at the end, is only second to Miyabi as the worst offender here. At least Kouno, who has been the victim of sexual assault by friends in the past, accepts his feelings for Shinoi, even if he can’t express them. Though, I have to question how convenient it is that his past traumas are so easily forgotten, even if Shinoi is making quite a show of proving to his new roommate that he is not a threat.

Nakatani is the most genuine character in the story, but his interest in finding sex before love is intentionally shamed down by Miyabi, and really as an extension of the author’s intent. Nakatani even rationally explains how incredibly difficult it is for gays to find someone fitting both one’s physical and emotional needs. Of course, this is all conveniently resolved because he gets to be roommates with the first guy he finds attractive and succeeds in having a sexual encounter with. Miyabi is meant to be the whole package, so casual hookups, which are presented as a negative thing, are not necessary, paving the way for a clean romantic pairing in the end. You know, after taking most of the book to ramp up the tension between them in ever more silly ways. Two teenage boys who are clearly attracted to each other and, yes, have already casually slept with one another, should really not find it all that difficult to come together. That’s really the most unbelievable part of the story.

I would have liked to see more of Shinoi and Kouno in the book, especially to establish why Kouno, who had access to empty dorm rooms all along and could have had Shinoi sleep in one of them at night, instead let his potential romantic interest sleep in the hallway for an undisclosed number of nights in a row. It was certainly not to protect himself from the shame of being thought to be pursued romantically by his roommate. For all his complaints, he doesn’t seem too concerned with what his schoolmates think of his relationship with Shinoi.

The art is clean, but it is sometimes difficult to discern characters of similar hair color from one another when they are not in the same panel together. It is occasionally necessary to determine who is who from context. The book’s 18+ rating is hardly deserved. There is only one somewhat graphic sex scene, and almost nothing is shown, only really established with words. In the end it is meant more to be romantic than sexy, which is fine, unless the rating led you to buy the book thinking you would get more.

Ultimately, Sleepless Nights is a cute, forgettable read. If you need an extra book to add to an online order for free shipping, this isn’t a bad choice. There isn’t anything particularly offensive in it, unless you are completely sick of the “I’m only gay for this one guy” trope. It tells its story fairly well in one volume with few loose ends.

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About cmbranford

Twitter: @cmbranford
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