Manhwa-ga: Lee Eun
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: July 2009
Synopsis: “When a Nepalese goddess appears at the Antique Gift Shop, Bun-Nyuh is taken in by the beautiful woman and her knack for sales. Sensing that her freedom from the antiques is near as the money rolls in, Bun-Nyuh leaves the goddess in charge and begins planning for her life away from the shop, despite Mr. Yang’s protests. But the goddess’s sales come with strings attached, and those strings will pull Bun-Nyuh back to the heart of the shop where a new darkness awaits…”
Continuing as a manhwa-source for the supernatural, and artistically home to characters who’re too distractingly gorgeous to this reader for their own good, The Antique Gift Shop takes a pleasantly linear turn here in the eighth volume as the shop sees an unfortunate shift in staff and Bun-Nyuh finds herself faced with an uncertain new perspective of her life.
I really loved how far along the lead plot followed, still leaving room for an unrelated short story woven within the greater scheme of things, but having more substantial focus on the recurring characters than I found the last few volumes had. Mr. Yang, the androgynously attractive shop-keep who helps Bun-Nyuh run her store, finds himself out of a job despite warnings to his impetuous boss. The seeds of his dismissal come after the appearance of a goddess whose ability to make sales has the business booming like never before. Unfortunately no good fortune comes without its attached strings, a theme that remains prevalent throughout this eighth volume.
Bun-Nyuh has been growing on me as a character and each time the story takes the time to follow her more closely, I enjoy learning more about her. She’s flawed, selfish and consciously ignorant but it all serves to make her feel truly grounded in humanity. Her kindness and sincerity comes out in its own way while still being susceptive to the usual stresses we all deal with. When the goddess creates a flourish to her business she’s never experienced before, she’s quick to go ‘out with the old and in with the new’, disregarding past loyalties in hopes that everything is finally falling into place. It’s easy to hold this against her, and frankly I kind of do, but it isn’t to say I can’t see where she’s coming from.
I also love the extra characterization that Mr. Yang receives, always an enigma as the level-headed store keep who knows more than he often lets on. The look on Mr. Yang’s face when he was laid off struck me with its potent subtly and I really felt for him, a victim of his own attempts to save a situation from going sour.
Following with previously established themes, the story within a story in this book stars a young mermaid who is granted her wish to walk on land in search of a young man she saves. It’s a bizarre take on the Little Mermaid fairytale, one that isn’t nearly as whimsical in its early stages as some renditions but just as potent by the end.
The mermaid in this story is brash and overzealous as her outlook on finding her ‘Prince’ is promptly shattered. She becomes the houseguest of her Prince, a submissive young men who relieves stress by leaping into the city’s polluted river. His relatively silent, but demanding, roommate with an unappeasable appetite is a mystery to the mermaid as she can’t fathom why the abuse in the house continues without complaint. Still, there are some oddly endearing moments between these characters as despite the arguing, insults and lack of explanation on all counts, they still manage to find their own way of getting along. The end of the book leaves on a cliffhanger when the mermaid is faced with the dire nature of her predicament by the beautiful magic-user who granted her legs along with some ulterior motives.
After a pretty strong volume, I can’t decide which on-going story I’m most eager to read in volume nine of The Antique Gift Shop. The conclusion to the Little Mermaid-type story will hopefully provide as interesting an end as it did a beginning and watching Bun-Nyuh finally take some serious consideration about her life leaves me just as curious about her future as she is. And really, I can never get enough of Mr. Yang, so sticking around to see his (hopefully) inevitable return is more than reason enough on its own.
While good portions of this story drag on with a lacking sense of direction, when the series does find a good foothold like it does here in volume eight, it really soars. With so many open-ended scenes in this particular volume, I greatly look forward to reading the upcoming resolutions in volume nine and hope it provides just as much entertainment and eye-candy as volume eight did.