After a successful foray into pastures new with February's event in Telford, the MCM Expo returns home to London bigger than ever!  Held once more in the ExCel Centre in London's docklands, this event boasted an even bigger hall than last time and for once the Docklands Light Railway was running smoothly, allowing thousands of fans to once more tighten anime's grip on the event.

Ever since its inception the anime and manga element of the Expo has been growing.  The event is not exclusively dedicated to anime and manga, but such is its domination you'd be hard pressed to notice when there!  As always hundreds of cosplayers (see glossary) roamed between the many anime merchandise stalls, watched new anime in the Anime screening area, bought the latest DVDs and manga from the likes of ADV Films and Tokyopop, chowed down on Japanese snacks and posed for immense amounts of photos.  Anime was everywhere from the second you walked in, in fact anime merchandise retailer TokyoToys had a huge stall right next to the entrance!  If you managed to escape from their clutches without spending all of your money on Japanese snacks, figures, t-shirts, plushes and Naruto headbands you soon found plenty else to damage you wallet!  As always the Expo was like a huge market with tonnes of retailers vying for your attention, Mech-A, MVM, Gundam Mad, Sheffield Space Centre, Forbidden Planet, Otaku UK and Genki Gear were amongst the regulars and TokyoToys even had a second smaller stall towards the rear of the hall.

The merchandise retailers had to share the limelight with the actual anime companies though, and they were out in full force.  Manga Entertainment were opposite Tokyopop and had set aside an area for weary Expo visitors to rest on bean bags whilst watching clips of their latest shows.  As usual both Manga and Tokyopop were doing some great money saving deals, and Manga also had a work-in-progress version running of the forthcoming (and impressive looking) Naruto game on the XBox 360ADV Films were just round the corner and not only was their stall packed with cheap anime and manga bundles, but also some pre-release anime DVDs and a host of

bargain Guyver merchandise (including frisbees!), but also were the only stall other than TokyoToys to have Japanese snacks on sale!  MVM set up just round the corner from ADV and once more assaulted the wallet with both their merchandise retail arm and their excellent DVD releases.  Beez returned following their worrying absence at the Telford Expo back in February, once again offering their DVDs at discount prices.  However, most interesting was the first Expo appearance for Revelation EntertainmentRevelation had a big stall with plenty of freebies (Peach Girl emery boards anyone?) and info on their forthcoming titles, and also boasted the best anime deals at the Expo - all of their DVDs and boxsets were buy one get one free!

Despite all of these bargains though shopping wasn't the only thing to do.  There was a full programme of events going on to keep you occupied along with a hell of a lot of things to grab your interest between the stalls.  Game pods with the latest Naruto and Final Fantasy PlayStation 2 games were dotted about, and online manga-inspired role playing game Dofus had a large area in the centre of the hall.  Wizards of the Coast were on hand for card games, whilst the DDR:UK area - particularly the Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero machines - was constantly packed.  You could have a sit down and a draw at the Sweatdrop manga alley or get DVDs signed by American anime voice actors at the Revelation and ADV stalls.  Alongside this you had the anime screening area, which over the course of the weekend showed exclusive peeks of loads of forthcoming anime, including Peach Girl, .hack://ROOTS and Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society.  The main stage also featured plenty of anime goodness, with industry panels featuring representatives of the manga and anime companies, a presentation by Manga Entertainment and the obligatory Cosplay Masquerades.

There was plenty to do and see, and for once the organisation was up to scratch.  The opening was only slightly delayed, which is a massive improvement on previous years, and the ticketing system for the Cosplay Masquerade was far better communicated.  However, the biggest improvement was the size of the hall.  For the first time at the London Expo there was space, in the past you got the impression that they were caught out by the amount of people that attend, but not this time.  The layout was much improved, with the noisy and busy DDR:UK area situated away from screening areas and larger stalls.  There were places to sit down around the hall,

the main stage had far more seats and there was a proper backstage area for cosplayers to wait in.  The Expo organisers appeared to have learned from the problems of the past and didn't make many of the same mistakes again.  The only real annoyances were the Free Hugs people (look, it was funny when one person did it, when it's about 50 people it screams desperation...) and the continual over-running of both the main stage and anime screening area that delayed the Cosplay Masquerade and voice actor Q&A sessions on both days.  On the Sunday the Masquerade actually ended after the Expo had closed meaning that everyone had to be herded out of the hall as soon as it ended.  No time for last minute buys this year...

It was a minor annoyance though (and less annoying than the free hugs people).  The MCM London Expo was bigger and better than ever, and it ran a lot smoother than its predecessors.  Thousands of people piled in as usual and there was more to occupy them in a massive hall packed with stuff to buy, stuff to see and stuff to do.  There were more companies there and more cosplayers than ever, but despite this the Cosplay trends remained the same...