London is going to be a busy city this year with the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations set to see hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the capital.  However, anime fans have another reason to go - the London Comic Con MCM Expo.

The London Expo has long established itself as the biggest event in the UK anime calendar, bringing together the majority of UK anime fandom along with the biggest distributors, publishers and retailers in the market.  The Expo has expanded exponentially over the last few years, going from a two to a three day event, adding a full programme of fan-run Fringe activities and encompassing the ever growing EuroCosplay Championship qualifiers and finals. 

This May's Expo promises to be as good as ever.  Although not strictly speaking an anime and manga event the Expo boasts the biggest and best of pretty much every aspect of anime fandom.  Leading anime distributors Manga Entertainment, Kaze and MVM will be on hand to discuss their license announcements and show off sneak preview footage of forthcoming releases, with the fantasy epic Berserk: The Golden Age Arc - The Egg of the King given a special presentation by Manga and Kaze followed by a Q&A session with Kaze rep Andrew Partridge and voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas.  Sinterniklaas will also be hosting

a Q&A with actress Stephanie Sheh for the forthcoming Manga release Welcome to the Space Show, as well as doing free signings alongside Stephanie at the Manga stand.  All three distributors and manga publisher VIZ Media will have numerous deals and offers on their stands, including Manga's bargainous clearance stall which sells their older titles for as little as 1 each!

Elsewhere your wallet can be hit extremely hard by the huge number of anime-inspired retailers around, whether figures and merchandise from Neon Martian, clothing from Genki Gear or the latest manga and imported DVDs from United Publications there are plenty of temptations to separate you from your hard-earned cash.  The Expo has always been primarily a retail experience with the ExCel Centre's cavernous halls mainly filled with stalls selling all manner of sci-fi and anime goods.  However, it's not all about buying nowadays, anime fandom has embraced the Expo in a big way with the Totally Cosplay area and Sweatdrop Artists Alley permanent fixtures.  Cosplay is massive at the Expo, nowhere else in the country can you see more people dressed as their favourite characters and the number of costume-making workshops, Q&A sessions and photoshoots rivals even the biggest UK conventions.  The jewel in the crown is the EuroCosplay Championships, and after two extremely successful years the process of selecting the first of England's two entrants begins with the Qualifier on the Saturday of this event.  The standard of competition has been jaw-dropping so far, and last year's May qualifier was won by the eventual EuroCosplay Champion Xaerael so expect the spectacular!

 If you're worried about anime overload there's plenty of other things to see and do, with several big film companies on hand to showcase their latest films and manga game companies allowing attendees to play forthcoming games ahead of their official release.  Already confirmed for this Expo are Capcom, SquareEnix and Tecmo Koei, who will have playable versions of Dragon Dogma, Dead or Alive 5 and Kingdom Hearts 3DS, and they will no doubt be joined by the likes of Namco Bandai, Nintendo and Rising Star Games.  There's also traditional gaming on hand in the form of Konami's Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, as well as Q&A sessions and signings with Star Wars actor Anthony Daniels, voice actresses Ali Vowles and Seychelle Gabriel, B-movie queen Elvira and TV stars Pascale Hutton, Crystal Reed and Sarah Carter.   Outside the venue you'll find the myriad of fan meets, photoshoots, cosplay picnics and dance-offs that form the Expo Fringe - check out the MCM Expo forum for more details on the current Fringe programme and information on signing up your own event.

The London Comic Con MCM Expo is usually a great event from both a retail point of view and a social point of view.  Nowhere else in the UK do more anime fans gather, and nowhere else are there so many cosplayers, fan meets or photoshoots.  The event always feels like a great celebration with a fantastic atmosphere and plenty to see and do.  The anime distributors usually save some big licence announcements for the Expo, so it'll be interesting to see if Manga Entertainment have anything else up their sleeve after the recent long-awaited announcement of Dragon Ball Z.  The great advantage the Expo has over many anime events is that you can just turn up on the day, pay your money and go in.  There's no need to pre-register and you can just get a day ticket, and with hotel prices skyrocketing in the Docklands over the Expo weekend it's an option that may be worth taking.  If you do want to go be ready for some epic queuing and heavy crowding - particularly on the Saturday - and be sure to grab your (free) EuroCosplay tickets from the Totally Cosplay area as early as possible as there are only limited spaces available.  The majority of attendees come on the Saturday so if you want a quieter time the Friday is the best day to go, but you have to buy a full weekend ticket in advance from the Expo website - click here for details.  We also highly recommend planning your journey in advance as there are engineering works planned on the Circle, District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City lines of the London Underground over the Expo weekend, although the Dockland Light Railway appears to be running normally.  Check here for details.

The London Comic Con MCM Expo is held in the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands on the last weekend of May (Friday 25th - Sunday 27th).  Ticket prices start from 10 per day for adults and 5 for children, with children under 11 entering for free.  Early entry tickets are available at a flat rate of 16 per day regardless of age, or 29 for a weekend pass which includes exclusive entry on the Friday.  For more information visit www.londonexpo.com