October rolls around once again, and with it the year's second MCM London Expo.  For those who aren't aware of it, the MCM London Expo is a massive trade fair that is held twice a year in the ExCel Centre in London's docklands.  Despite the MCM standing for Movies Comics & Media, anime and manga has a hugely strong presence at the Expo.  All of the major UK anime and manga companies and merchandise retailers are in attendance and with no pre-registration or age restrictions the Expo draws crowds in the thousands.  Needless to say it is by far the biggest event in the UK anime or manga calendar, despite not being a dedicated anime and manga event.

The October Expo was the biggest yet.  Spread over three exhibition halls in the the ExCel Centre, the Expo was a lot more spacious than ever before, which was good because there seemed to be more attendees than ever.  Despite the increased amount of people and the increased hall size the queuing - always one of our main bugbears with the Expo - worked very well, and best of all the doors opened pretty much on time both days.

Manga had a massive stall as always

 Once inside it's clear why the Expo has become something of a mecca for anime fans.  All of the traditional 'big four' anime companies - ADV, Manga, MVM and Beez - along with Revelation Films have stalls where you can buy their DVD and BluRay releases at knock-down prices.  Many of them were running competitions and special offers, and you could also have a chat with company reps about forthcoming releases.  In fact the huge attendance levels at the Expo has made it a favourite place for companies to announce anime licenses and, despite the disappointing lack of an industry panel, this year was no exception.  Manga confirmed their previously announced licenses

of Ouran High School Host Club and Negima alongside Afro Samurai Resurrection, Ghost in the Shell 2.0 and Naruto Shippuuden MVM announced the acquisition of all four Slayers series, alongside Blade of the Immortal, Samurai Deeper Kyo and the live-action Cutie Honey film, whilst Beez announced Mobile Suit Gundam 00.

The anime distributors were joined by the leading manga companies VIZ Media and Tokyopop, who also boasted bargain-packed stalls.  Retail is the name of the game at the Expo, and as well as the official distributors there were a host of importers, merchandise retailers and designers on hand to part you with your money!  If you're an anime fan there's few places better to pick up the latest anime and manga goods, with the likes of Neon Martian, TokyoToys and Kamika-Z bringing the latest figures and snacks from Japan.  You could get your manga fix at Sheffield Space Centre, whilst imported US DVDs were covered by United Publications and Otaku UK.  There were stalls covering all aspects of fan culture, including Upper Deck for trading cards, Capcom for computer games, Gundam Mad and Gundam Nation for model kits and even one stall selling hentai and yaoi manga and anime!  Dedicated anime and manga retailers aside, there were numerous other retailers selling anime and manga goods alongside Western sci-fi merchandise and DVDs.

 There were also several designers and artists in attendance with a distinctly Eastern style, providing something a little bit more original than anime merchandise.  Foremost amongst them was the excellent t-shirts of Genki Gear and Terratag, both of whom launched new designs at the Expo, but they were by no means alone.  Team Giblets also sold their own unique t-shirts as well as various other goods and even offered to draw mini manga-style portraits for a small fee.  TokyoToys had a host of merchandise bearing their mascot character Coco, and also hosted a table for freelance artist Niki Hunter.  Sweatdrop - an umbrella organisation for a number of manga

Genki Gear were on hand with some fantastic new t-shirt designs!

inspired comic artists from the UK - once again had a large stall selling their own self-published titles.  They also ran the popular artists alley, which gave Expo attendees somewhere to sit and chill as well as test their art skills with the pens and paper provided.  Yes, although retail was the main focus of the Expo, it wasn't as if it was the only thing to do.

  There was plenty of gaming for one.  Capcom had a tent (yes, a tent) where you could play the forthcoming Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the Sony PSP, or if you preferred you could have a free go on the awesome Street Fighter IV in the linked arcade cabinets tucked away behind it!  Koei were in attendance too to give people the chance to play Warriors Orochi, and Midway did the same for the even more highly anticipated Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.  If all this newness wasn't enough, you could always get your hit of rhythm action games in the large DDR:UK section!  Away from the games there were a number of panels, although only a handful were anime related, and Manga hosted a voice actor signing session.  There was a large card game playing area and the obligatory Cosplay Masquerades, as well as screenings of trailers from forthcoming big-budget films like the Gort-tastic The Day The Earth Stood Still

On paper it sounds like a lot was on offer, but did it live up to the sum of its parts?  Read on...