New UK events focusing on Japanese culture always pique our interest here at Animetion, whether last year's Tokyo Day or a new anime convention.  However, Hyper Japan was a new event the grabbed our interest more than most due largely to its promises of retailers and guests direct from Japan.

The event was held in the Old Truman Brewery in London's Brick Lane over a three day period, and, true to its word, the hall was packed with Japanese distributors and retailers.  The hall was roughly split into four sections, with the front area featuring a stage and seating plus a Japan tourism and travel stalls.  The centre was where most of the retailers were, with a rough split of merchandise and media retailers to the left and fashion and beauty retailers to the right, whilst the entire back section was taken up by food stalls and Japanese food and drink companies.  For anime fans there was plenty to grab your interest, with major anime studio Toei Animation, leading figure manufacturer Good Smile Company, entertainment company Bushiroad, import book seller JP Books and merchandise retailers HobbyJapan and the SquareEnix Store all in attendance.  Alongside them were plenty of other retailers selling imported snacks, cooking ingredients and Japanese foods, including sushi supplies from Yutaka, souvenir foods and alcohol from the JAL Shopping Europe and Hello Kitty goods from Artbox.  Japanese food, whilst not the main focus of the event, was certainly prevalent, with well known Japanese companies like House Foods offering curry samples alongside stalls run by a number of Japanese restaurants from across London.  UK anime fandom and other Japanese cultural activities were covered by a small area featuring stalls for CosplayFever, AnimeLeague and the Grand International Cosplay Ball, as well as a few craft stalls for activities like calligraphy.

  From an anime point of view the first thing you notice when you entered the hall was the Toei stall with its colossal inflatable Tony Tony Chopper from the popular series One Piece.  Their stall also included a small cinema booth where you could watch a number of series and films, including the likes of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, One Piece Movie 8: Adventures in Alabasta and Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon.  Next door was the tiny Bushiroad stall, where you could play and buy their new Milky Holmes card game, and next to this was GoodSmile Company, who had a number of forthcoming figures on display and a host of merchandise for Black Rock Shooter on sale. 

Hobby Japan and JP Books were opposite, with the former selling a number of premium Japanese figures, a host of Gundam modelling magazines and several Queen's Blade art books, whilst the latter sold Japanese books and magazines plus stationery and gifts, and incorporated the highly anticipated Evangelion Store.  The SquareEnix store occupied a central position in the hall, and focused largely on the 'Play Arts' range of figures based on the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts game franchises.  They also sold game soundtracks and plush toys, as well as a couple of figures from Resident Evil 4.  Elsewhere there was plenty to interest cosplayers, with Cosplay Fever photoshoots, daily cosplay masquerades and a main cosplay competition with a trip to Japan up for grabs for the winner.  You could also go to the Nico Nico Douga stand which was streaming footage in real time to the Japanese video site of the same name, whilst comments from viewers in Japan scrolled across the screen.

With many events of this type retail is the main driving factor, and there was plenty of buying to be done at Hyper Japan.  However, there was also a surprising focus on trial and promotion with the food stalls in particular offering freebies and cut-priced items.  Many of the Japanese companies in attendance proffered questionnaires along with the freebies, and there seemed to be a genuine desire from them to gain the opinions of the British public.  Many of the items available from stalls were being sold with special bonuses (10 spent at Good Smile Company for example would get you a free 50min Black Rock Shooter DVD for example), or were things you couldn't normally buy in the UK.  Whilst the food stalls brought the very best of Japanese street food to the hall at decent prices, giving attendees the chance to try unusual dishes such as takoyaki (fried balls of octopus meat) alongside more common ones like yakitori (chicken kebabs) and bento (hot takeaway lunch).  There were also chances to sample sake for free at the Hasegawa Saketen stall and sushi for free at the Yutaka stall.

Alongside the companies in attendance the stage events were the main draw on the weekend.  The events were well organised and ran through a variety of different themes, with the aforementioned cosplay masquerades and competition joined by a gothic lolita fashion show featuring the Japanese model Misako Aoki.  Alongside this there were interviews with the guests, makeover and fashion workshops, sushi preparation demonstrations and workshops, sake seminars and para para dancing demonstration.  However, for anime fans there were two big draws - the Beez anime screenings and the Milky Holmes ShowBeez had special screenings of the

superb Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop as well as advanced screenings of the hotly anticipated Durarara! on the main stage on the Friday and Saturday, but it was the Milky Holmes Show that drew the biggest crowd.  The show was a promotional event for the forthcoming anime series Milky Holmes, in which four young girls fight crime using their unique powers and detective skills.  The event featured an introduction from the president of entertainment company Bushiroad before the four main Japanese voice actresses from the Milky Holmes anime performed two songs live on stage and took part in a question and answer session.  The show was streamed live to Japan, where these kinds of promo performances are common at large events, but - as far as we're aware - the show was a first for the UK.

As you can see, on paper there was plenty at Hyper Japan, with numerous companies and loads of events to grab your interest, but did it all work well?  Read on to find out..