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toonzone attends MCM Expo London 2010

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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