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Articles > toonzone attends MCM Expo London 2010

HellCat
http://www.toonzone.net

Long had I heard the glorious legends from across the globe, tales of historic meetings between masses of fans, encounters with mighty creators and the plundering of loot that made wallets weep. These incredible adventures finally stirred my heart to the point where I thought I should - nay, must! - attend one of these conventions myself. Plans were made, funds were saved until the fateful day arrived - off I went to MCM Expo London.



MCM Expo London is one of the most noteworthy conventions for UK/European fans of general geekery. Hosted at the ExCel Centre and now in its 18th iteration, the event was split into several designated areas. The first of these visitors were confronted by were the dealer tables & booths. A vast majority of sellers were present at the event, from online stores like Tokyo Toys and Gundam Nation to companies like Beez Entertainment, Manga Entertainment and VIZ. The merchandise on offer was the kind not usually seen in this country, dominated heavily by Japanese anime and manga. Plushies, keyrings, wallscrolls, DVDs, etc. Just about anything within reason a foreign fan of such entertainment could ask for.

The one criticism I would offer is that despite such a wealth of sellers present, there was a considerable overlap. Many tables had the same stuff available, mostly from the Shonen Jump series such as One Piece, Naruto and Bleach. Though my opinion may be in the minority there; these series were clearly popular with the majority of guests, many of whom left with large bags of goodies. That\'s not to say I came out empty handed or disappointed. Volumes 17-20 of Fullmetal Alchemist and a long coveted set of Gundam Marker hobby pens were amongst my modest haul.


The next prominent area was for computer games, covering all the major consoles. Playable demos were on hand for a range of upcoming titles, in addition to large screens looping trailers of other ones. A similar procedure was used in the event space given over to Universal Pictures, who amongst other titles were promoting the new Gulliver’s Travels adaptation. These were more word-of-mouth type displays, with the odd freebie here and there to help carry the word.


Towards the back of the event could be found the cosplay area and artist alley. Cosplay was a major part of the event. I said before I could tell the series dominating the seller tables were popular and this is partly why. The vast majority of guests attended the con in lovingly crafted cosplay costumes of just about any character you could think of. Zero, Haruhi Suzumiya, Mega Man, Sailor Moon, Hatsune Miku, Alucard, Son Goku, Riza Hawkeye, etc. It’s a list that could practically be a piece in of itself and obvious sign of the passion of the fans attending. I felt having a few character key chains was a bit excessive but seeing the hordes of eager fans sharing their passion and interest through handcrafted costumes and props whilst happily mingling with folks they’ve only spoken to online or otherwise I feel perfectly makes the argument for attending an event such as this. It’s one thing to go online and discuss the shows, movies and games that you love. But to actually get out there and engage en masse with said people… It’s a very warming experience and makes you appreciate what you’re really a part of so much more.

The artist alley was perhaps one of the more humble elements of the event but was a definite case of quality over quantity. Each artist present sat at a designated table, most offering books or sketch commissions for sale. For someone like myself it was quite interesting to see. Since graduating with my Design B.A., the financial climate has meant I’ve had to put developing a career in that avenue somewhat on the backburner. Seeing these talented people doing what they love only reinforced my own resolve to get back on track and start making something of my skills. Who knows, you might see me manning one of those tables someday.

A number of special guests were also in attendance including cult legends such as Tony Todd and John de Lancie. Many of those present were either available for signing or panels. An interesting example of the latter is the panel hosted by the UK reps for the anime industry. I missed most of it as it sadly began as I was making my way into London that morning but I did catch what I felt to be the most interesting part of the panel - a discussion of where the UK sits in terms of online streaming for Japanese animation. Although we were presented with the grim reality that taken by itself the money put in just isn’t matched by the money taken back, we were informed that the hopeful way around that was greater union with companies like FUNimation and negotiating for more US anime distributors to disable the region blocking keep UK fans out. Good news to my mind, realistic and practical.


Two guests amongst the many attending that I was keen to see were Stephanie Sheh and Michael Sinterniklaas, both currently working on the simultaneous English language release of Gundam Unicorn.

Whilst I did get to take in the wealth of the event, I am forced to say that the loss of my convention virginity ended in an awkward manner with much anxiety (what a metaphor, eh?). Sadly, my day took an unfortunate turn. A few hours into the event, I found that my wallet was missing. I kept a cool head and tried to retrace my steps with little luck in finding it. It’s at this point that I’d like to offer a thank you to Jerome Mazandarani of Manga Entertainment. His booth was twinned with the VIZ one, the last place I’d purchased from. Jerome was overseeing a shift swap when I arrived. He took clear time out to help me retrace my steps and provided a means of contact for me to follow up later, for which I am extremely grateful. He was clearly very busy and my problem was like looking for a needle in a haystack, yet he went out of his way to help.

Luckily, the wallet was eventually handed in, which I think only reinforces the positive nature of both the attendees and organizers. After losing it I pretty much felt it was a lost cause, yet to not only get it back but also have its full contents intact shows that the people attending are honest and decent and that the organizers are serious professionals.

So, my first convention. Did I enjoy it? Oh, most certainly. As I said before, the overwhelming experience for me was what a different perspective it gave me on my interests. I live in a small town and whilst I have friends here with similar interests, a majority of finding truly like-minded individuals occurs online. That brings its own set of perils and really isn’t quite as natural as would be ideal. Attending MCM Expo, the natural factor was in full force. All those elements you can only get from meeting people face to face, be they fans in costumes, artists looking to promote their work or members of the entertainment industry. It’s a living breathing entity and really that’s what life should be about. Even my mishap is part of it. If I lost money online, I’d be annoyed. Instead, I get to have a somewhat amusing con anecdote to share.

Now the second question - though I enjoyed it, would I necessarily go again? I’m happy to say I’m just as enthusiastic there too. I’ve wet my toes and am looking forward to the possibility of attending the next MCM Expo in May 2011. It’s a trip I’d heartily implore others to take, too. More went on at the event than I could do justice to in a report like this, especially with certain events going on in tandem throughout. If you’re on the fence or even if you haven’t really given the event a thought, I really would suggest going. Tickets are affordably priced and the overall atmosphere is more than worth it.

Grant White would like to thank David Axbey and the organizers of MCM Expo for their time and generosity.



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