The MCM Expos remain the most accessible events for anime fans in the UK, with shows held in Manchester and the Midlands joining the daddy of them all in London.  The London Comic Con MCM Expo is the single biggest event of its kind in the UK, and although it's not a dedicated anime show, there is nothing bigger in the UK from an anime point of view.

As we have pointed out in previous articles the three things that make the London Expo so good for anime fans are that you don't have to pre-register to attend, it's the only event large enough to cater for the entire anime fan community and it lacks the stigma attached to an anime convention.  Like it or not the general image of conventions outside of dedicated fandom is quite poor, but an event the size and scope of the Expo has an air of legitimacy that brings in both the hardcore and casual fan alike, and can be a much richer experience because of it.  The Expo can't match the focus or, to be honest, the fun of a dedicated convention, but nonetheless the fan community have embraced it.  The Expo offers a slice of convention-lite, there are equivalents to convention cosplay masquerades, dealers rooms, games rooms, meetups and panels, but the Expo super-sizes them.  It boasts the country's biggest dealers hall, games areas packed with titles that have yet to be released, the most important cosplay competition in Europe, so many meetups and photoshoots they have formed their own Fringe programme and panels with some of the world's top cosplayers, leading US voice actors and the anime distributors themselves.  The event may not focus exclusively on anime, it may lack the intimacy and parties of a convention, but it's a great place to meet new people and also to remind yourself of just how popular anime is in the UK.

Anime-wise there was plenty to sink your teeth into, with all three of the remaining anime distributors on hand to sell you their various series at special Expo prices.  Manga Entertainment had a couple of stalls, both of which were selling their latest releases and had great deals on some of their older titles.  They also sold some DVDs for as low as Ł1, with some significant discounts on Blu-Ray too, and had Trigun: Badlands Rumble for sale ahead of its official release plus, somewhat bizarrely, a small stock of the Nintendo 3DS game Tales of the Abyss.  Presumably the latter was a tie in for their forthcoming release of the Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike film,

but as the game is quite rare they were quickly snapped up, as was the Puella Magi Madoka Magica Blu-Ray boxset, which sold out by Saturday afternoon.  Kazé also had the Trigun film for sale ahead of release, along with plenty of other DVDs and Blu-Ray and a handful of anime soundtracks imported from Europe.  Also of note was the forlorn selection of Beez DVDs that Kazé had for sale, Beez were once Bandai's European subsidiary but shut their doors earlier this year, a handful of DVD boxsets on the end of Kazé's stall being all that remained of a company that brought the likes of Gundam Seed, Vision of Escaflowne and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to the UK.  MVM is always an interesting stall to visit as they are a merchandise retailer as well as an anime label, and their stall featured numerous imported soundtracks, art books and random other bits and bobs alongside their own anime DVDs and those from other distributors.  They had Rozen Maiden Overture for sale ahead of its release alongside recent titles such as Broken Blade and Rosario & Vampire, and it was good to see their stall offering the same excellent 'deal of the week' as their online storeVIZ Media were also on hand offering multi-buy deals on all of their manga, as well as the latest volumes of One Piece, Naruto and Bleach ahead of their official release.  As previously mentioned the hall was rammed with retailers - both legitimate and otherwise - selling everything from figures to Japanese tea sets, and a special mention must be given to Japanese artist Toshio Maeda, creator of legendary anime nasties Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl, who was selling exclusive lithographs and artwork on his own stall.  Elsewhere there were cosplay workshops and discussions in the Totally Cosplay area, where the judges - and on Sunday, the winners - of the EuroCosplay Championship showcased their skills and took part in Q&As.  There were also mini cosplay masquerades there, as well as a repair station to help deal with any costume related disasters.  Manga Entertainment and MyM Magazine brought along voice actors Liam O'Brien, Courtenay Taylor and Ali Hillis for signings and Q&A panels, whilst an expanded Japan:Ex zone boasted several Japanese retailers and specialist importers including The Japan Centre, Tofu Cute and ceramics shop Doki Ltd.  There was also some uniquely Japanese food for sale in the Japan:Ex zone, with shaved ice company Nice Ice joining dorayaki and ice-cream seller Wagashi (their cinnamon ice-cream was awesome!) and Natural Natural selling hot food such as takoyaki and yakisoba.

For us though one of the main points of interest at the Expo is the Anime Industry Panel, where representatives from Manga Entertainment, MVM Films and Kazé get together to answer audience questions and reveal future plans and upcoming licenses.  Unfortunately this panel has been relegated to the Sunday at the last few London Expos, and the same was true this year.  However, Manga Entertainment did hold a live podcast recording on the Saturday on the smaller of the two stages, and a fair few license announcements were made in amongst the general discussion.  The podcast featured reps from Manga Entertainment, Kazé and Namco


Bandai alongside voice actor Liam O'Brian, and amongst the more interesting tidbits were the announcements that Manga had licensed Blood-C, a new series in the Blood, The Last Vampire franchise, and its spin-off film Blood-C: The Last Dark, as well as the remaining four volumes of the horror series Hellsing Ultimate, which are to released in 2013 on both DVD and Blu-Ray alongside a Blu-Ray re-issue of the first four volumes.  Manga's rep Jerome Mazandarani also confirmed the fantasy action series Aria: The Scarlet Ammo and Guilty Crown as well as action series Jormungand and The Wolf Children Ame & Yuki, the latest film by Summer Wars director Mamoru Hosoda.  Jerome also expressed interest in sci-fi series Infinite Stratos and slice of life drama Bunny Drop, and suggested that Manga may release the Madoka Magica films next year.  He also hoped to do a cinema retrospective of Mamoru Hosada's work, which includes the Digimon film and sixth One Piece film, and would love to bring him to the UK and possibly next October's Expo Kazé's rep Andrew Partridge held back on announcements until the main industry panel, but in response to an audience question he did reveal that violent actioner Deadman Wonderland was likely to come to UK at some point, and that he really liked the romance series Nodame Cantible, but could see no market for licensing it.  There was plenty of discussion around the forthcoming Blu-Ray reissue of Ninja Scroll, including a sneak preview for the audience (with additional live voice acting from Liam O'Brien), and around the Tales series of console RPGs.  The podcast is worth a listen, and can be found here.

The Industry Panel was where the main announcements were made, and saw Manga's Jerome and Kazé's Andrew joined onstage by Tony Allen of MVM, who started off the license bonanza.  Tony confirmed that MVM had licensed the action series CANAAN, fantasy action series Needless, supernatural action series Ga-Rei Zero and fantasy sequel Shana Season 2.  He also revealed that he has been offered Season 3 by the Japanese licensor but his decision on whether to acquire it will be based on pre-order sales of Season 2.  He also confirmed the previously announced fantasy series Dream Eater Merry and Mayo Chiki, sci-fi series Bodacious Space Pirates and coming-of-age series Kids on the Slope, as well as a few live-action Asian films including My Ex II and The Sword IdentityKazé confirmed a couple of already announced titles, including Code Geass Season 1 and 2, which will be released in 2013 on both DVD and Blu-Ray, Tiger & Bunny (January), Journey to Agartha and the second Berserk film, which is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.  Their new announcements were the acquisition

of the Bleach The Movie 4: Hell Verse (slated for February 2013), sci-fi drama Un-Go, fantasy series Penguin Drum and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, both season 1 and 2 of the romantic comedy drama Bakuman and fantasy series KManga rounded off the announcements by confirming the announcements from the previous day's podcast, and adding the pervy comedy Cat Planet Cuties, before revealing that they hoped to release Fairy Tail Season 2 and the Fairy Tail film in 2013, but had not licensed them as yet.  Also on the wish list for Manga were sci-fi series Steins;Gate and sci-fi horror King of Thorn, which they are negotiating for, sci-fi actioner BTOOOM!, action comedy Girls Und Panzer, supernatural adventure series Bakemonogatari, supernatural horror film series Garden of Sinners and fantasy action film Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade WorksMVM revealed interest in the fantasy action series Fate/Zero, and said that they are not looking to release any more Blu-Ray at present as their Blu-Ray release of Broken Blade did well, but was well behind the DVD in terms of sales.  However, they did express interest in obtaining Blu-Ray rights for the insane sci-fi fantasy FLCL and fantasy action series BerserkKazé expressed interest in a couple of the series currently streaming on Anime On Demand, in particular the fantasy series Magi, as well as Gundam 00 Season 2, which they said would be difficult to sublicense from Bandai, and possibly the former Beez release Durarara!!.  For release dates of all forthcoming titles, check out our release schedule, new licenses will be reported on our news section.

All in all the 2012 London Comic Con MCM Expo was, I am ashamed to say once again, bigger and better than ever.  The hall may have been nearly 50% bigger than last time but the increase in stalls and huge influx of fans, driven by appearances from Matt Smith and host of other star guests, meant it was filled to bursting at pretty much all times.  There's was more to see, more to do and several new or expanded areas to check out, including a new 'Vidfest' zone focusing on web series such as Simon's Cat and expanded Japan:Ex and Totally Cosplay areas.  We wonder if the success of the growing HyperJapan event had something to do with the Japan:Ex zone's expansion, with the Expo aiming to expand their own Japanese credentials to rival them, but whether this is the case or not the expansion is certainly a good thing for fans of Japanese culture!  It's also a great to see more food and drink options within the Expo hall, and the addition of a second stage and merging of the Memorabilia London show with the Expo provides far more variety and guests than ever before.  The games areas were bigger, with more gaming machines to have a go at, and it was great to see more space finally given to cosplay, considering its importance to the event as a whole.  The main issues we had - the closure of much of the London Underground on the Saturday, the high hotel prices and the intermittent bad weather - were outside of the event's control, but we do wish there was more of a clampdown on the stalls selling fake and unlicensed goods.  However, on the whole this was another fantastic event that boosts the MCM Expo's reputation and profile amongst both the public and the mainstream media.  Long may it continue.

Please click next for coverage of the EuroCosplay Championship finals.