As we have often said, Cosplay is a great gauge of public interest - want to see what fans like at the moment?  Just have a look to see what they dress up as.

As always the Expo brings out cosplayers in force.  Cosplay - dressing up as fictional characters - is nothing new in the comic and sci-fi world, but it's no longer about people in Spock ears and Starfleet uniforms.  Now it's about games, it's about anime, it's about film and most of all it's about having a laugh.  There's a kind of infectious fun in dressing up that draws more people to cosplay at each event, from children to adults.  And often you find that people dress up as characters from their favourite show. 

So how has the UK public's tastes changed since last time?  Well, the answer is not much, although there has been a resurgence of interest in Naruto.  Yes, once again Bleach, Naruto, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts (despite the fact that there are only about four non-Disney characters in it to cosplay as) are the cosplayer's subjects of choice, whilst for non-

anime and game fans Pirates of the Caribbean was favourite.  Pretty much every Naruto character was on show, from Naruto himself right through to some characters that have only appeared in recent chapters of the untranslated, Japanese manga.  With Bleach most people went as the sword wielding captains and main character Ichigo Kurosaki, although there were a few dressed as minor characters too.  The costumes were often superb, and there were plenty of other series represented too.  Cosplay Character Guessing is the Expo's greatest spectator sport, and some of the more unusual characters often make the most entertaining ones to guess.

Kaneda from Akira rubbed shoulders with Pikachu from Pokémon.  KOS-MOS from Xenosaga met Link from Legend of Zelda.  The Elite Beat Agents jammed with Ulala from Space Channel 5.  Yes, cosplayers were the most entertaining part of the Expo, and this time there were more than ever putting on a show.  The Cosplay Masquerade saw more groups of Cosplayers than ever act out routines and comedy skits, and these varied from good to confusing.  Never played Zelda: The Wind Waker?  Well, the five minute skit featuring characters from the game will completely pass you by.  Never seen Ouran High School Host Club?  Well, we're not surprised, it's not even out in America yet.  That didn't stop one group of cosplayers performing a skit about it though.  There is an element of exclusivity that comes across in the Cosplay Masquerades that is less noticeable in the rest of the Expo, some of the skits miss the mark if the audience isn't familiar with the subject and often they go on too long.  However, when they do hit the mark or are just plain entertaining, it makes the whole thing worthwhile.  So what if not many people have played Elite Beat Agents?  Three sharp-suited Americans wearing obscenely over-the-top wigs and performing a brilliantly choreographed dance to YMCA is hilarious no matter how you look at it!

As always the skits at the masquerade were a mixed bag, and a couple embarrassingly fell flat, but the masquerade was still really good fun and plenty of cosplayers really impressed.  The Elite Beat Agents were superb on the Saturday but inexplicably didn't win the competition, despite being the most entertaining group on the day.  However, on the Sunday Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero was the highlight, pulling off a display of acrobatic martial arts that deservedly saw him walk away with the top prize.  It wasn't all about the masquerade though.  The vast majority of cosplayers were just doing it for fun and had no desire to compete for the best costume, so

as always the most fun came from spotting characters in unusual situations.  Highlights for us included a Death God from Bleach swapping his zanpakuto for a Guitar Hero guitar, Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack stocking up on Pocky from the TokyoToys stall and the deadly Akatsuki from Naruto struggling with the Docklands Light Railway ticket machines...

It's easy to be cynical about stuff like this, but at the end of the day the cosplay - like the Expo as a whole - was great fun.  This time round the Expo was better than ever, and even though there weren't very many announcements from the anime companies (bar ADV Films, who announced a host of new licenses), it was still well worth attending.  As always the MCM London Expo is the best event in the UK for giving a full cross section of anime fandom, and we think it's pretty much unmissable.  The only worry is that with another three MCM events to come this year (another London Expo in October, a second Midlands Expo in September and the Japan EX in July), they may spread themselves a bit thin.  However, at the moment it is still great so hurry and check it out!