The physical MCM London Expo grows with every new event, although it may not always seem like it due to the growing number of attendees.  However, this time there was a clear sign of the event's growth - for the first time the Expo opened on the Friday, making it the latest three day event in the UK anime calendar.

As always the event was held in the ExCel Centre in London's docklands, and once again the size of the hall increased.  Queues were marshalled in a separate hall to avoid impacting the other events being held in the ExCel Centre, a method the Expo has used for a few events now and one that seems to work extremely well.  Unfortunately for the event there were closures on the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway over the weekend, which caused some problems getting to and from the ExCel Centre - particularly in the evenings.  This was a shame, because the event itself was bigger and better than ever, with the increased hall size allowing for a number of new or expanded fan-orientated areas and activities.  Once again the good weather allowed for a packed schedule of events around the ExCel Centre, with numerous fan meetups, cosplay photoshoots and group activities happening in the vicinity under the Expo Fringe banner.  Despite initial opposition to the launch of the Fringe last year fans appear to have fully embraced it, and the area between the ExCel Centre and nearby hotels was a real sea of colour as cosplayers and fan groups gathered for the various sub events and meets.

  Once again there was a bit of a layout shift in the hall itself, although the overall theme remained similar with merchandise retailers taking up the front of the hall, distributors and exhibitors in the middle and events and artists at the rear.  The main stage area remained at the rear left hand corner of the hall, with the new Totally Cosplay area and stage to the right of it and Expo regulars DDR:UK and the comics village and stage taking up most of the rest of the rear.  As usual the comics village featured the Sweatdrop manga and artists alley, plus numerous independent artists and comic luminaries.  The comics village also included a Steampunk area in which fantasy

author Robert Rankin was signing and selling his latest books.  The centre of the hall featured the usual array of anime and manga distributors, including Manga Entertainment and VIZ Media, as well as big name game companies such as Nintendo, Capcom, THQ, Namco Bandai and Koei and film distributors such as 20th Century Fox and Universal.  It also included the Japan EX area and stage, which was actually quite disappointing when compared to the one in May.  We heard rumours that one of the organisers had pulled out, and without anyone to plan the activities there the area was pretty much empty apart from a couple of stage events and an Origami society.  It's such a shame considering the size of the area and the quality of it last time, we really hope that it's given another chance and can return strongly next May.

Once again the Expo was a hotbed of game and media previews, with most of the game companies offering hands-on looks at forthcoming games and many film and video distributors showing off their latest titles.  Amongst the highlights were an early playable version of the hotly anticipated Capcom fighting game Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, first person shooter sequel Dead Space 2, anime-inspiring fighting game Sengoku Basara and the latest iterations of the popular Assassins Creed and Blazblue franchises.  Elsewhere there were chances to meet independent artists and authors, including the author of the excellent Simon's Cat books and freelance artists (and Animetion interviewees) Sonia Leong, Emma Vieceli, and Jess Bradley.  Celebrity guests on hand offering autographs for a fee included Start Trek veteran John de Lancie, legendary horror actor Tony Todd and the cast of ITV's fantasy series Primeval, as well as leading sci-fi author Peter F. Hamilton, who took part in a panel about his latest book The Evolutionary Void

One of the main issues with the Expo over the years has been the insane busyness of the Saturday, with the increase in hall size at each event cancelled out by the ever-growing number of attendees.  For those tired of the Saturday crush the addition of Friday opening was a godsend, combining the laid back and quieter atmosphere of the Sunday with the added bonus of fully stocked retailers.  Whilst some of the guests weren't there and several of the events were reserved for the Saturday the vast majority of the Expo was still there on the Friday, and the more relaxed atmosphere really gave you the chance to take in the event without having to fight to every stall.  It also

gave the perfect chance for you to pick up any deals or merchandise before the sold out, and to play the various games without having to queue for too long. 

The main thing that set the Expo apart this year though was the finals of the first ever European Cosplay Championships, a superb international event which saw some of the top cosplayers from across Europe compete against each other in the same competition.  The event was streamed live on the internet and watched across Europe, really putting the Expo on the map and bringing the UK cosplay scene to an international audience.  The Expo seems to be setting itself up as the place to hold events such as this, and was also host to the 2010 Eagle Awards - a respected event which sees the cream of international comic talent recognised by British fans.   As you have no doubt gathered there was plenty to see and do at the Expo, and this time there was even more than before for the ever-growing percentage of anime and manga fans who attend...