Manhwa-ga: Lee Eun
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: August 2008
Synopsis: “The antiques take their show on the road when a delivery boy with a dark, murderous streak gets stuck in a freaky mansion with its equally freaky inhabitants. The young man finds solace in the “Son” of the family – a mistreated but cherubic (and relatively normal) little boy who is the exact opposite of the house and everything in it. But when does everyone keep telling him to stay away from this little angel?”
In this fifth volume of The Antique Gift Shop, a teen with a dark past finds himself trapped in weird mansion inhabited by even weirder people. What seems most strange of all is the pretty young boy of the family who’s shunned by the others and locked away. What’s the truth behind this family? After that, a young girl running the gift shop plays a dream-game with some special guests which could allow her to make changes to death itself.
This is another example of me coming into a series part way. I haven’t read the first four volumes of The Antique Gift Shop and yet for the most part I was able to read this book without any problems. In fact, I’d say for the first story especially, I was at a great advantage.
The opening story follows the young man staying in a freaky mansion. The family living there are a bunch of odd-balls themselves, think the Addam’s family but less eccentric personality-wise. The young man, Young-Woo Kim, befriends a beautiful, angelic little boy who the rest of the family seems to fear and despise for no, seemingly, no apparent reason. Young-Woo Kim decides he wants to help the boy but that’s when everything starts to unravel. I really enjoyed reading this one. I was able to jump right into it once I realized that I wasn’t really supposed to know much more than what was presented to me here. The family is weird, Young-Woo Kim did some bad stuff in his youth, and the pretty child is an enigma. The ending was creepy and suitably unexpected. It offered the kind of mildly inconclusive and eerie ending that makes these kinds of story so deliciously fun. Its feeling was sort of reminiscent to series such as Petshop of Horrors or Cat Eyed Boy, and though short, I enjoyed it.
Following that came a portion of the book I had a little more trouble following. Presumably some of these characters are reoccurring which made it so I wasn’t entirely up to par with what was going on. However, it seemed to be a fairly episodic event so I fell into the swing of things soon enough. An employee of the shop is a spunky young girl with a chip on her shoulder. Readers are given some sad glimpses to her past as cast against her phobia of the rain. When she falls asleep that night, her dreams put her against spirits in gambling matches that lead her in a position to gamble information of life and death itself. The spirits were entertaining, albeit pretty darn weird, and spoke mostly through internet acronyms (which fortunately Yen Press included translation notes for).
While I didn’t find this story as interesting a read, it was enough to pique my curiousity regarding this girl, the store and, in particular, the very attractive raven-haired man who also works there at the shop but left for an impromptu vacation during this story’s introduction. This curiousity coupled with my love of the first chapter, makes earlier volumes of The Antique Gift Shop some books being added to my must buy list.
Lee Eun’s art was also a fun part of this book. Like many Korean manhwa styles in this genre, the characters are brought alive with nice levels of detailing with emphasis on hair, eyes and overall attractive, exotic appearances (unless intentionally drawn otherwise). The inking style, something I’ve come to love a lot as I read more manhwas, is sharp and defined, helping to bring out the depth in each image. My only real complaint about the style would be the pretty boy from the first chapter, who suffers from ‘tried-to-hard’: what I think when someone is drawn with so much intention to appear more attractive than the other characters, that they instead kind of have the opposite effect. A small qualm in an otherwise nicely visual package, including a good job by Yen Press, both with their tidy translation work, pleasant cut size and no bleed problems at all (an issue that’s arisen with several of their books before).
By the end of this fifth volume (or by the end of the first chapter I can even say), The Antique Gift Shop, had won me over. I look forward to reading the previous volumes, and future ones, and I hope their stories are able to entertain me as much as portions of this book did. Pretty artwork and an enjoyably creepy short story, a perfect combination!