Anime-wise the Expo was largely another triumph.  Once again all of the big companies were in attendance and all were selling their titles at great prices, with a special note being made of Manga Entertainment's satellite stall selling off older DVD stock at bargain basement prices.  Their main stall also had plenty of bargains, especially when it came to their Blu-Ray titles, whilst Beez ran their usual colour-coded pricing system and multi-buy offers.  MVM had a number of cut-price ADV Films DVDs on offer, whilst both VIZ Media and Tokyopop had multi-buy offers and in the latter's case, a clearance sale on all stock.

Sadly this Expo is set to be one of Tokyopop's final event appearances.  Having lost a long-standing licensing deal with major Japanese publisher Kodansha the former market leader is closing its doors, with numerous ongoing series being dropped in the process.  Their stall at the Expo was being used to clear their remaining stock, and with the company ceasing English-language publishing it will be amongst the final times we see them.  For many Tokyopop were their entry into the world of manga, and like the closure of ADV Films the loss of Tokyopop is sad for UK fans on a personal level.  They will be missed.

 The anime and manga markets have changed considerably since ADV and Tokyopop ruled the roost, and since their passing two other companies have tightened their grip on the UK.  Manga-wise VIZ Media are pretty much unassailable with Tokyopop gone, whereas in the anime world Manga Entertainment have dominated since ADV collapsed.  This year's Anime Industry Panel proved that quite conclusively, with all of the licensing news coming from them.  As with last time the industry panel was held on the Comics Village stage, with Manga Entertainment rep Jerome  Mazanderani lining up alongside former Beez (now Kaze) rep Andrew Partridge and MVM's

Tony Allen.  A new face on the lineup was Christopher Macdonald, CEO of leading anime news website AnimeNewsNetwork, but strangely absent was any current Beez rep.  Andrew Partridge covered for Beez back in October despite having moved to Kaze shortly before, so we were expecting to see someone new this time round. 

The Industry Panel covered much familiar ground, with Blu-Ray availability, box set releases, streaming and fan favourite series One Piece and Dragon Ball Z once again amongst the topics for discussion.  The recent Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami was also at the front of the panel's mind, the after effects of the disaster impacting the UK anime industry in several ways.  From a purely anime point of view the disaster has caused several issues, not least in the physical destruction of property and the financial impact, and anime licensing ground to a halt following the cancellation of two of Japan's biggest anime industry events.  Therefore license news was thin on the ground, with Beez absent it was up to MVM to kick things off with an assurance that they had not pulled out of anime distribution.  MVM have begun to focus increasingly on the lucrative live-action Asian cinema market and as a result their new anime releases have become quite infrequent, with much of their recent titles being box set re-issues of older series.  They did reveal that they have re-licensed some more old series, including the popular Samurai Champloo, and are in negotiations for some new titles.  However, the only new announcement from them was Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny, the fan service laden follow up to their previous release Battle VixensManga had more to announce, with a confirmation that they had acquired the anime films King of Thorn and Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, as well as a re-issue for the long out of print former Beez title Freedom and the divisive anime series Strike WitchesStrike Witches is notorious for featuring numerous underage characters in their underwear so it will be interesting to see what reaction it gets on its UK release.  Their only other announcement was the confirmation that they had an interest in Gainax's recent insanity-fest Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, but that at present no licensing discussions had been started.  Kaze meanwhile announced that actioner Tiger & Bunny would be getting a physical UK release through Manga Entertainment following its success on their online anime streaming service AnimeOnDemand.  They also revealed that they were looking at ways to support Manga with their Blu-Ray releases, something we hope will help stem the trend of cancellations which has seen Blu-Ray runs for Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Casshern Sins cut short.

Aside from the Industry Panel anime fans were well served by the MCM London Expo.  The Fringe once again brought together a cornucopia of fan meets and photo shoots whilst inside the hall attendees could grab the autographs of Ben Diskin and Brian Beacock, American voice actors who have worked on numerous anime series.  Freebies and bargains were widely available, and the Expo remains the single biggest anime and manga shopping event the UK has to offer despite the bootleg issue.  The Totally Cosplay area has sadly not expanded but provided a perfect compact mecca for cosplayers to meet, exchange tips and take part in workshops.  It also provided

a repair station to help anyone with costume malfunction as well as a stage area, sets for photoshoots and changing facilities.  However, the jewel in the crown of the Expo was once again the Euro Cosplay Championships.  Following the event's triumphant debut last year, this May's Expo saw the first of two qualifiers for the UK entry (the other is to be held at the anime convention Ayacon in August) with the winner facing off against the best cosplayers Europe has to offer in October's championship final.  As with last year the Euro Cosplay Qualifier was combined with the Expo Masquerade on the Saturday, with entrants choosing whether they wished to put themselves forward for Euro Cosplay consideration.  The standard of competition was extremely high with several costumes that would be competition winners on another day, however, at this event Xaerael's Chancellor Skeksis from Jim Henson's fantasy film The Dark Crystal was simply unassailable and provided the crowning moment from a stunning masquerade.  For a more in-depth look at the Expo Masquerade check out our dedicated feature here.

The MCM London Expo was once again a must-attend event, but there were some challenges for the event to overcome in future.  The number of bootleg stalls was worrying and it was also surprising that the event didn't seem that busy, despite posting attendances in excess of 60,000 people.  Maybe it's a good sign that the event has managed to sort out the overcrowding that seems to be a perennial problem on the Saturday, but whilst there was space to breathe in most places there were still bottlenecks between some of the stalls in the front third of the hall.  The numbers seem to discount any thoughts of a slowdown in attendance, and organisationally the event keeps going from strength to strength.  The use of empty halls for queuing is brilliant, and we like the fact they do this for the masquerade queuing as well as for event entry, whilst the stage events are slickly and professionally run - particularly the Euro Cosplay.  With times getting increasingly hard and money far tighter than it once was it may be difficult to choose which anime event to go to, and whilst the Expo can never compete with dedicated conventions for focus or activities it is hard to beat when it comes to bringing the anime community together.  With more importers and distributors than you can shake a stick at the MCM London Expo retains its position amongst the most essential anime events in the UK calendar.