London MCM Expo - October 2007

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Report by Jonathan Cullinane (nert) posted Wednesday 14th November 2007

The weekend of the 20th saw the latest MCM Expo event occur in our capital city's docklands, taking up a double unit of the ExCeL convention centre for two whole days of celebration of cult fandom. Hurrah!

For the uninitiated, the Movie-Comic-Media Expos fill a weekend and offer an open-ended invitation to any and all to attend for as little or as long as they like, focusing on anything the typical media geek's heart desires. Many dealers, large and small, have stalls ready to feed the media addiction of your choice, be it anime, manga, games, comics, movies, cult TV or merchandise for any of the above. Many companies will run booths to advertise the latest releases or generally have a chat with the general public and show a friendly face or two. Special guest stars range from actors from TV shows to anime dubs, all the way to popular comic artists.

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That's the commercial side covered, now it's time for Expo's true (waitforit, fancy term incoming..) raison d'ĂȘtre to come forth. As a solo-adventure Expo is quite modest, however it's the perfect excuse to meet people from similar geeky circles as yourself! Be it a neon-coloured costume visible from 30 miles away in low-light conditions, an apple-sized keychain swinging around clonking small children on the back of the head, or a mere subtle design on the back of a T-shirt, the vast majority of attendees there will be emblazoned with an emblem of fandom of some form or another.

It's surprisingly easy to find like-minded people at events like these, there're thousands to pick from after all. Be polite when asking and many cosplayers will be more than happy to pose for a photo, or answer questions about their costume's construction. Even just noticing someone eyeing up the same figurine you like the look of is excuse enough to get chatting about the series in question and get advice on what shows to rank high on your "must watch" list.

Plus, there's always DDR:UK around for satisfying all rhythm-gaming needs or to work off any pocky or other snacks you may have eaten over the weekend.

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So, onto this particular weekend...

It's fascinating watching the cosplay trends change from year to year, older series will go through resurgences while last time's most popular choice will quietly die down.. Death Note was sparsely seen this time around, while Fullmetal Alchemist and Phoenix Wright cosplayers were everywhere! The staple cosplay themes of Final Fantasy, Bleach and Naruto were as strong as ever, but we're seeing a lot more gaming costumes nowadays, some from JRPGs but I spotted a surprising amount of Guilty Gear, Street Fighter and Soul Calibur cosplay going on. A lot more people are coming as groups instead of individuals, and even more people are to be seen snapping photos away using any imaginable electronic device.

Since Expo isn't a pure anime/manga convention - we're more of a bolt-on to the original Movie-Comic-Media concept - it's the perfect excuse to venture out in costumes from western media; cartoons, movies, games, it's all fair play. Wandering around the Expo aisles this weekend I've seen several Disney characters, Stormtroopers, Power Rangers, characters from Ghostbusters, Underworld, Wicked, Donnie Darko... Even the Goblin King from Labyrinth made a crystal-ball-holding appearance!

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As usual the masquerades were packed, both in terms of entrants and attendance. The Expo team entertained the audience before the show began with renditions of YMCA and other horrifically embarrassing dances for the audience's viewing pleasure. There may or may not have been photos and video taken for blackmai posterity.

This year I got a front-row seat as a photographer for the catwalk, which is probably why my camera is probably weeping from overuse. While first-time cosplayers on the catwalk are chronically stricken with pose-or-flee stagefright, I do commend those at this Expo for staying in view long enough for even me to get photos of everyone, even if I did have to bodily hurl myself down walkways to catch some in time!

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Skits are also improving over the years, as now more are pre-recording voices and having them played while they mime on stage (no messing with microphones!) and as the standards of costumes rise, so do the standards of comedy. Naturally no modern masquerade is complete without both a Lucky Star and Haruhi dance performed, or in this case, a Fullmetal Alchemist strip-off. Ahem.

Outside the event, it's good to see people are starting to make full use of the area, the ExCeL centre is surrounded with some quite exotic architecture and makes for some fun industrial or just plain peculiar backgrounds for photoshoots. There is a small bank of grass and a very regimented tree garden to pose in too, and they make a nice change from the traditional convention backdrop of dealer tables and surprised passers-by.

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The next event has just been announced as he 24th-25th of May, so I think everyone had best get planning their next costumes, right?

I'll let you get on with them.. Chop, chop!