MCM Expo London is an event that is held twice a year at the Excel Centre, and attended by thousands of people. I feel that most people believe that it is solely a film and TV convention, but that’s where you would be wrong. In fact most of the people who go are fans of Asian culture, particularly Japan. Cosplay is a large part of the 3 day event and almost everyone turns up dressed as their favorite character from Anime, Manga, Film and TV. This year a few even dressed as their favorite K-Pop singers, and Crayon Pop was a popular choice.
Whilst transport to the venue is excellent, it is always very crowded for comic con, since the Excel is served by two stations, which everyone attending only uses one. This is because that many people dressed in large and elaborate costumes and prefer not to walk a long way. However, the downside to this is that the trains get very crowded and the bridge to the entrance of the venue was almost as bad. Once inside the venue, it is a lot better. The Excel is a large building that was designed especially for conventions like this, so there is plenty of room for swords and wings for example!
After you have made you’re way through the long queuing system, you will find yourself in a long open hallway that runs through the entire of the centre of the building. Here you will find many food places. From bagels to sushi, you can pretty much find any food you want here. On the opposite side of the hallway, is the main show area, where you will find all the merchandise. A little warning though, it is impossible to go round this in a logical way. I regularly told myself to walk around in rows, but I ended up going around in circles, and each day I would find something I missed the day before. It is just simply too big! The range of merch you can buy is also great. Whether you’re into anime, manga, or K-Pop, there is always something for you. From Japanese Kimonos and Bento boxes to the latest Anime DVD’s and Cosplay accessories, it is easy to spend a lot of money very quickly. There was also a large food area where they were serving Patbingsu, Ramen, Bubble tea, and Dorayaki as well as Japanese sweets and other soft drinks.
Although I am not into gaming that much, I did find myself going to watch the gaming championships for a little while because it looked like the professional gamers that I had seen playing Starcraft in South Korea. There were two teams each in soundproof booths, glued to their computers. The gaming battles were shown on a big screen so the large crowd could cheer the teams on. In addition to this there were special previews from the top gaming companies in Japan such as Bandai Namco and Konami.
The area specifically for Asia had grown considerably since last year. Now called the ‘Popasia Stage’, there were performances from singers and dance cover groups as well as presentations on how to start cosplaying, studying abroad in Japan and Harajuku fashion. In the area around this stage, you could find stalls selling all the latest K-Pop albums, hoodies, t-shirts, posters and phone cases. There was also a huge table where people could sit down and do some origami, and more than a few people were getting frustrated at the little instruction papers.
Just like the famous San Diego Film and TV comic con in America, MCM Expo also has many panels showing previews for many upcoming TV shows and films. However MCM differs because there are also panels from Anime directors and producers, gaming companies, manga distributors and even X Japan’s Yoshiki, who was probably the conventions highlight for many. He spoke about his work in X Japan and the bands plans for 2014, as well as his experiences on his solo classical world tour. He also took questions from many fans in the audience, some who were brave enough to speak in Japanese, at which point, the surprise was evident on Yoshiki’s face. He spoke clearly and confidently, even if he was interrupted multiple times by the venues announcements on loudspeaker. He laughed it off and made jokes, and proved himself to be very charismatic and assertive English speaker. For those who couldn’t speak Japanese, he translated any questions that were given in Japanese, which I thought was a very nice touch.
The convention closed on the Sunday, with many fans going home broke but with armfuls of merchandise! I simply love the friendly atmosphere and everyone is very easy to talk to. The amount of different people who attend always amazes me as well. In the past, I have seen whole families cosplaying together. It certainly isn’t just for teenagers! It is definitely an event that I would recommend to anyone, no matter what age, so to finish, I’m going to give you my tips for attending!
1) Plan ahead! – It is very easy to leave everything to the last minute, however I would recommend that you plan and book your hotel a long way in advance. So many people attend MCM Expo now that the hotels tend to book up months in advance.
2) Stay close to the venue! – This is especially important if you are going to cosplay, particularly if the costume is quite delicate or large. If you are worried about it getting damage in crowded areas, avoid the Underground all together!
3) Get an Early Entry ticket! – This will save you a lot of time! It is not unheard of for people on standard tickets to queue for this event for hours upon end. An early entry ticket will only cost you a little more, and it is not expensive at all, so I highly recommend it. It will allow you to walk straight into the venue an hour in advance, however it does not mean that the merchandise area and panels open earlier. Many people of early entry tend to buy breakfast from one of the many food stalls before the main doors open.
4) Don’t take your bank cards! – The ATM’s regularly run out of money because the amount that people spend at this event is crazy. In the past I have spent more than £200 in just one day! So, if you do not want to spend a lot of money, but still want to have fun, I recommend you set yourself a spending limit and draw the money from an ATM beforehand. And, this leads me onto my 5th point!
5) Walk around the whole place, before buying anything! – If you have set yourself a limit money wise, I definitely advise that you walk around completely beforehand to see what’s on offer. This will stop you from spending your money on small individual things, only to find something large that you really want.
6) Always accept the free stuff! – Who doesn’t like free stuff?! It is very common for companies here to give out free things to promote their products. So, even if it is not something you think you like, still take it anyway! In the past, I have been given Anime DVD’s with an entire series on it, free phone cases and magazines etc. You will also be given a small goodie bag when you arrive, which will contain the show guide, a comic and lots of other promotional material from the shows sponsors.
7) Ask for pictures! – For me, there is nothing worse than having your picture taken when you don’t want it. Therefore, even if you would like one because you have found a person with a totally awesome costume, always ask. Don’t just take it without permission.
8) And finally, talk to everyone! – Everyone who attends this event is often in the same fandoms. Whether that be K-Pop or the latest anime, everyone is exceptionally friendly. If you’re on a standard ticket, talk to the person next to you in the queue. Comment on their costume, demand a sword fight… anything! You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make friends here, even if you’re a little introverted.
See you all at the next MCM Expo London event in October!
Review by Sophie