There will be spoilers for the manhwa series The Warehouse.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to scamming, kidnapping, confinement, rape, obsession, blood, violence, self-harm, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, ableism (r-slur), child abandonment, child abuse, mental illness, PTSD, theft, torture, force-feeding, cheating, forced BDSM, peer pressure, Stockholm syndrome, animal death, manipulation, impersonating law enforcement, drugging, religion, implied homelessness, gossiping, and orphans, as it appears in the manhwa.
Dohyun Kim is just barely hanging onto life. Since graduating high school, Dohyun has been hopping from job to job, scraping by, with little regard for other people and personal relationships. He longs for the simpler days when he could partake in the fun and pleasures of high school without the pressures of the real world and with the forced relationships of classmates. Without that forced proximity to people, Dohyun lives a pretty lonely life, but he would prefer that to the vulnerability intimate relationships require.
While working in a scammy cell phone shop, Dohyun is again bemoaning his existence. He leaves his post to smoke in the alley nearby, but before returning, he is assaulted, knocked out, and taken away. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a strange, almost empty room. As if that wasn't odd enough, he also has a chain around his ankle, limiting how far he can move around the strange room. Why would someone take him? He has no enemies, no loans, and is just generally uninteresting.
When the kidnapper shows himself, the reason behind Dohyun's kidnapping doesn't become any clearer, but for whatever reason, this man seems to want to punish Dohyun.
First off, I adore the artwork in this. Manhwa is often full color, which is great, but there are instances where artists will create a series that is primarily black-and-white and leverage pops of color to help emphasize a mood or feeling (BJ Alex comes to mind as another one that does this pretty well). Sungho's eyes are always in color, and that bright yellow is a motif we see throughout the series. We'll get deeper into that soon, but the main point is that the stylistic choice lends itself to the narrative, which I absolutely adore and will always praise when present. Otherwise, the characters are very expressive, and the often sketchy style really works for the dark material of the narrative, all of which culminates in a very meaningful art style and a pretty one, at that.
Now, back to the yellow motif. Yellow is the color associated with the past, where Dohyun and Sungho desperately wish to return for various reasons. How so? When we see flashbacks of Sungho and Dohyun in high school, these moments are almost always colored yellow. They're brighter times for Sungho and Dohyun, which aligns perfectly with the bright color of yellow. More importantly, Sungho's eyes being yellow deepens this meaning. Sungho's whole purpose for kidnapping Dohyun is to relive these days in high school as if all he can see are those brighter days. On the other hand, Dohyun has forgotten many of the details of those days, but Sungho's reappearance in his life draws those memories back and puts him back in that bright yellow time. Over the course of the flashback, too, as Dohyun and Sungho begin to grow apart, the bright yellow color begins to fade until even those days are as black and white as the present. It's a powerful and meaningful choice.
However, the present is far from those brighter days, which is why the yellow color is limited to flashbacks and Sungho's eyes. Everything else is black and white as Sungho relives those moments from the past by forcing them upon an unwilling Dohyun. It's a powerful motif, one that is used over and over again. It's not limited to the past, either. There are moments where the hue of the present becomes more of a beige, indicating that while they haven't returned to those more innocent and peaceful days, there are happier days ahead. There's also a particularly beautiful and painful moment where Dohyun imagines an alternate timeline. If Dohyun and Sungho hadn't fallen apart in their youth, they might have happily lived together, and this memory is in beige and full of bright yellow pops. It solidifies the meaning behind the yellow and shows just how drastically different the real present is from the imagined one.
I've been really harping on how powerful the use of color is in this, but it's probably one of my favorite uses of color for the sake of meaning. There is so much more to enjoy in this, but I've been praising this when there are some aspects that I think are worth criticizing. I wouldn't say this is a negative critique I'm about to make, but I think it's important to point out. This has a lot of smut, but most of it is noncon. I don't mind noncon, but I know many people are disturbed by this content, so I want to bring it up. I don't personally find this sexy. It's meant to be a recreation of Sungho's painful sexual experiences with Dohyun, as he had been pressured into many of the scenarios so that he could continue to be with Dohyun. This time, Sungho is the one in control, and as a form of revenge, he takes Dohyun's role in each scenario, putting Dohyun through everything he had been put through. It reminds me of Metro, with smut that feels more painful and hollow than sexy, and though it is romanticized with the Stockholm syndrome relationship that develops due to Dohyun's imprisonment, I don't think it's meant to feel like a romance. The point is that they've lost the chance to fall in love like an average couple from choices they've made throughout their lives, but they are together because they feel they are too broken for anyone else. It's heartbreaking and terrible but so meaningful in its cruelty. I would not personally consider this a romance, but it is tagged that way in most other places.
This is very fucked up with a Stockholm syndrome romance at its core. That being said, I love this. It's painful, cruel, and psychologically and emotionally taxing, but there is so much meaning packed into every panel. This is not for everyone, and I must emphasize that if you are easily affected by noncon, torture, confinement, and the like, steer far, far away from this. However, if you can handle this type of content, I highly encourage you to give this a read because I think the construction of the narrative is masterful. I loved it enough to buy the physical editions if that tells you anything.
Have you read The Warehouse? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!