The Movies Comics and Media (MCM) London Expo is being taken over by anime and manga.  Many may try to deny it, but the evidence was there at the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands on the 27th & 28th of May for all to see.  Last May's Expo saw the launch of the 'Anime Village', a response to the rising popularity of the medium with sci-fi and film fans in general, which allowed the likes of Manga Entertainment, ADV Films, Beez and MVM to set up shop along with retailers like Forbidden Planet and Sheffield Space Centre.  The Anime Village was by far the busiest area of the Expo hall last May, and after a slight enlargement last October it has now conquered a third of the hall, with a huge manga alley and far more space given to the companies and retailers.

In 2005 there was a host of guests from Star Trek and various sci-fi films, but this year the guest quota seemed to be lower.  No sports stars (our hopes to meet former WWE wrestler Irwin R Shyster were once again dashed...) and just a few Star Trek stars saw the number of hardcore sci-fi and cult viewing fans attending lessen.  In their place came a horde of people of differing ages all with one thing in common, a love of all things animated and drawn in Japan!

The Expo - in terms of numbers of visitors - eclipses all of the UK anime conventions and has the added bonus that you don't have to

register months before the event or go to the whole thing.  Conventions attract the hardcore and are perfect for fans who want to spend time with other fans or just want to delve deeper into anime and manga.  The Expo may not have the depth that dedicated conventions have but being able to simply turn up, pay your cash and get many of the benefits of attending  convention without the hassle and without the exclusivity is exactly what anime and manga fandom in the UK needs.

The Expo attracts a wide range of people from the hardcore to the casual fan, and to those who aren't even into anime and manga.  All of the major anime companies are on hand to provide free screenings of the latest titles, dedicated merchandise retailers like TokyoToys and Sheffield Space Centre are there to offer you great prices on the latest items from Japan, there are freebies galore and you can finally meet other people who like anime and manga - they do actually exist!  Whatever your particular interest there is something there to cover it, from just viewing anime, reading and drawing manga, playing trading card and computer games or just buying stuff.  Each year every attendee is presented with a goodie bag on entry, which this year was not only a rather spiffing Naruto & Oban Star Racers one with good handles, but also contained a host of great anime goodies too!  A free copy of Jetix magazine accompanied a DVD containing the first episode of Naruto (yes, you read that right) and a preview of Oban Star Racers, whilst a Gundam gashapon figure, a poster and exclusive Tetsujin 28 goodies co-produced by Manga Entertainment and the excellent designer Terratag were amongst the freebies at this Expo.  Not bad considering you get it as part of the ticket price!

If you tired of the anime and manga (yeah, right) there was a host of other stuff to keep you occupied.  Whether the random celebrity signings - which included Walter Koenig (Star Trek's Pavel Chekov) and actors from 24 and Babylon 5, or the sci-fi merchandise retailers, there was plenty more of interest.  Most random included the Dance Dance Revolution area, which gave visitors the chance to play on some of the latest Japanese, US and European rhythm-action games, and of course the daily cosplay competition, which I will come back to later on.  There was even a stall selling vintage Playboy magazines and another selling film props, and then there's the aftershow party.

The party is a bit pricey, but the reason for this is because many of the celebrity guests turn up to it.  This means that for 12 you can be in the surreal situation of drinking in the same bar as two Klingons and half the cast of 24, before taking in the freaky formation dancing in the next room.  The beer is overpriced (3.50 a pint!) but that didn't stop us, so if you do the whole weekend and the party make sure you bring headache tablets.  Trust us.

But you're reading this because of the anime and manga right?  Well, lets have a look at what the big companies had to offer this time round...