The Antique Gift Shop, Volume 1 by Eun Lee
The Antique Gift Shop is a solid example of the “spooky shop” genre found so often in manga and manhwa, where a mysterious shopkeeper sells customers items that have mystical properties. The customers’ lives end up being changed dramatically due to their purchases. In a short story “The Summer Guest”, a man brings back an antique woven bamboo tube that was used in the past to cool houses. The androgynous shop employee informs the customer that there are no refunds, only exchanges and he asks him to consider taking “Madame Bamboo” back at some point in the future. Left in the shop again, the spirit of the object rages like a woman scorned. The next story “The Fox Lantern” shows a man and a woman rediscovering each other again after losing their memories. A handmade hairpin serves as a personal memento and the lantern sends dreams that could be reminders of the past or glimpses of a an alternate life. The concluding story “The Secret Garden” shows a high school friendship built on sharing a diary begin to unravel as each girl finds the need to keep her own secrets.
There’s a comedic element in Antique Gift Shop that isn’t usually present in the typical “spooky shop” book. While the long-haired Mr. Yang works in the shop and seems to have a unique connection to the antiques, the shop’s owner Bun-Nyuh appears to be a normal, slightly materialistic young woman who is more than a little bit annoyed at Mr. Yang’s lack of business sense. The art in Antique Gift Shop is pretty in a functional sort of way. I’m not seeing much of a unique style in Antique Gift Shop, but the items in the shop are rendered with great detail, and there’s plenty of attention paid to Mr. Yang’s billowing costumes. The first story in the collection had an arresting quality that wasn’t really maintained in some of the longer stories. I liked the emphasis on traditional Korean antiques a couple of the stories had, since I felt like I was reading some interesting cultural foot notes as opposed to reading about a more generic item. I’d definitely recommend Antique Gift Shop if you enjoy books in this particular genre.
Book won in twitter contest from the publisher.