Shinichiro Watanabe's appearance was a major coup for the event as far as anime fans were concerned, and he cut a charismatic figure as he discussed his long career and answered questions on his work as an anime and music director.  He also did a short signing session at the Anime Ltd stall.  Watanabe is probably the biggest single anime guest the MCM London Comic Con has ever managed to attract, and hopefully it will set a precedent that will be continued at future events.  In contrast Hideo Baba's panel was a bit of a disappointment as it was pretty much entirely taken up by a competition to win Tales of Xillia prizes, which he judged.  It would have been nice to have seen a presentation on Tales of Xillia or a Q&A session, and it seemed a bit of a waste to bring him all the way from Japan just to judge a 'Tales of ' contest.

Alongside Watanabe the main events for anime fans at the Comic Con were probably the Manga Podcast/industry panel and the Eurocosplay Qualifiers and Cosplay Masquerade.  The Industry panel is traditionally a chance for the reps from the main UK anime distributors to get together, reveal new licenses and discuss audience questions, this time it was rolled into two podcast recording sessions, one of the Saturday and one on the Sunday.  While the podcasts were good splitting them over two days was a mistake as a good portion of the second one was spent recapping the licenses revealed in the first.  However, there were

some good licence announcements.  Manga revealed their acquisition of the epic fantasy series Attack on Titan, the fantasy action film Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works and the big budget live-action anime adaptation Space Battleship YamatoAnime Ltd somehow managed to snatch Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning, the feature length spin off from the sci-fi action series Tiger & Bunny, despite the series being released by Kazé through Manga EntertainmentMVM rounded off with a small flurry of new announcements by revealing they had re-licensed the fanservice-heavy sci fi series Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, alongside former ADV Films titles Pumpkin Scissors and Red Garden and three new series - C-Control, Shangri La and Heaven's Memo Pad.  Splitting the podcast over two dates was a bit of an error, especially as the Anime Ltd rep Andrew Partridge wasn't there for the second half and a lot of time was wasted recapping what had already been said.  It was better in October when the podcast and Industry Panel were separate, there was a lot more discussion and not a feeling that things had been cut off early.  Hopefully this is something they'll return to for future events, but nonetheless the licence announcements made were pretty impressive - we're especially looking forward to seeing Attack on Titan!

The MCM London Comic Con is quite a diverse media event, but strangely film and TV has yet to really take hold like it has at San Diego.  Instead gaming and anime are really the core of the event, there are a some good cult TV guests - generally for second tier US TV shows rather than major hits - and the occasional film promotion such as the appearance of Edgar Wright, but really it's the game developers that are using the event as a launch pad.  The game zone stage was frequently packed as staffers from America and Europe presented their latest games and answered questions about them, in fact the stage is too small at present to really accommodate the crowds, especially when hotly anticipated games like The Last of Us are being discussed.  Some of the gaming panels could do with being moved to one of the main stage areas, especially if the event has hit a point where it can get game designers like Hideo Baba to come halfway round the world to attend.  The profile of gaming at the MCM London Comic Con has grown over the last few years, with more companies attending and far more space dedicated to game pods on which to play the latest titles.  However, the organisers just seem reluctant to put games on the same standing as the TV shows whose panels typically make up the bulk of the stage programme.  The same seems true with anime, with the industry panel shunted around the schedule with each event and even dropped altogether in some years.  The combination of Manga's podcast and the industry panel this time - and splitting the resulting panel over two short slots on the Saturday and Sunday - seemed like a bit of a snub considering the sheer number of anime fans and cosplayers at the event.  The retailers at the event predominantly sell anime and manga merchandise (a portion of it pirated admittedly), and the EuroCosplay Championship - the MCM London Comic Con's showpiece competition - sprang from anime fandom.  We were glad to see that Shinichiro Watanabe was given the main stage slot he deserved, and we really hope that more guests come in future and are afforded the same respect.

To be fair, and despite the new name, not a huge amount has changed with the MCM London Comic Con.  Most of the stuff there was the same as October, there was just more of it, some bigger stages and more space.  In fact the main differences are around the focus.  The May event lacks a focal point, the October event has the finals of the EuroCosplay Championship, drawing in the best cosplayers from across Europe and international judges, whilst the May event simply hosts a qualifying competition to select one of the UK's two entrants.  In fact the May event's strongest hand is probably the Fringe, which is usually bigger and better structured than the event in October.  The generally better weather and increased hours of daylight generates more enthusiasm for outdoor events, and there seems to be more people outside and more activities going on than there are in October.  The indoor events don't vary too much, it generally depends on what games are coming out and what guests the event has managed to get as to what's on the main stage and what signings there are, but there's always

plenty going on to keep you occupied.  Each event gets bigger, each event is an improvement on the last in most areas, whether the range of retailers or the number of companies in attendance, but each event retains some of the same problems.  The number of bootleg retailers doesn't show any signs of decreasing (although it doesn't seem to be increasing either), and there's still grumblings from some attendees about the queuing and occasionally over-zealous stewards.  The queuing has in reality improved massively over the last five years or so, with an additional exhibition hall reserved for queues which also features occasional entertainment and a coffee stand, but next time the experience could be different once again.

This May's MCM London Comic Con was the last in the current format, and with a view to the future the MCM Group have announced huge changes for the next event in October.  To cope with the ever-rising numbers the floorspace will increase by about a third, and for the first time the entire ExCel Centre will be hired out.  This will close off the building entirely to non-ticket holders, and that includes the shops, cash points and toilets in the ExCel concourse.  The organisers also have plans to limit and control access to the areas around the building too, stating that anyone in or around the building are covered by the event's insurance and should therefore have a ticket.  Aside from the logistics of controlling access outside the venue this could be a risky move, there are a lot of people who come to the event to meet friends and cosplay.  Not everyone reads the MCM forums and may not be aware of the changes, so they could have a nasty surprise if they come without a ticket.  The MCM Group has to be careful how they approach the enforcement of this rule, as it will be very difficult vet the thousands that typically hang around outside and they could leave themselves open to criticism if their stewards are too heavy-handed.  For ticket holders the freedom of movement inside the ExCel Centre will be a big improvement and it will be interesting to see how the organisers use the additional space, however, it could cause some real headaches when it comes to queuing,  especially if access to the ExCel Centre is restricted.  It will be interesting to see how they approach it, but with the whole building hired the possibilities are truly exciting.  This May's event was the biggest yet, both in terms of size and attendance.  The Fringe was much bigger and better, there were some impressive guests and pretty much everything that made last October's event good was there once again too.  It would have been more logical to change the name then rather than this time, in reality this May's event was like a new FIFA game - it's still great, with updated content and a smattering of new features, but underneath it's the same as the last one.  The next event this October will see the return of the EuroCosplay Championship Finals and with it increased numbers of international visitors.  It is set to increase exponentially in size, gain a new layout and more guests, retailers and companies  than ever before.  There's a huge amount of scope for the future and with such a major change it seems like a better time to try and relaunch the event as the UK's equivalent to San Diego.  If the organisers can get the logistics right and toe the correct line with the fans there's a very good chance it would live up to the comparison.