London MCM Expo: Friday Preview [October 2014]
Note: Apologies for the photos, they were taken with a dying old iPhone.
I happened to have some stuff to do in London this weekend, and coincidentally, MCM Expo was on! This was practically my home convention when I lived in London, but I’ve somehow never been before – which is strange, as it’s certainly one of, if not the biggest conventions in the UK. They called today the “Friday Preview” as it was really only meant to get things going for the real expo on Saturday and Sunday, but I think it was quite literally a “preview” for me. This was never the main reason for my trip, and I only bought a ticket for the Friday, just to see what it was like – Saturday’s a no-go, and I’m leaving on Sunday. And even then I didn’t have much time, around 3 hours max after factoring in all the queuing and stuff. Which is hardly any time at all, especially with a convention this huge. I powered through as many stalls as I could though, and bought a bit of merch – which is usually the main thing I go after, as laughably overpriced as they were.
I think it would be good to begin with mentioning the queuing. MCM Expo is infamous for its horrible queue lengths and times, and although it’s supposedly gotten better over the years, it’s still not great. The huge open plaza-type space outside the convention centre was filled up by an endless column of people which snaked around in all sorts of weird directions before eventually reaching the real entrance. I think they rented three halls (which were all massive) for the expo. Two were used for the actual expo, and one was used for queuing. More snaking ensued, upon which the line finally split into priority ticket holders (who had pre-booked online, like I had) and everyone else. Admittedly the line did move briskly, although I did end up queuing for an hour in total. According to a nearby couple, that was pretty damn good – apparently on Saturday, a similar queue exists… except it doesn’t move.
The scale of the convention itself was quite impressive. I mostly encountered merchandise today – I think Saturday is when all the panels and guests start to really appear, which would make sense as that’s when the main expo is. It’s a bit of a shame that I’m unable to go really, especially as Watanabe Shinichiro will be making an appearance. There was lots of gaming to be had though, from Danganronpa 2 to Phoenix Wright – you can burn off a couple of hours just on gaming alone, which is why 3 hours was nowhere near enough to properly cover the convention. I now fully understand why some people go for the 3-day weekend tickets, beyond an easier time getting into the next day’s queue. That being said, there’s only so many times you can see a Madoka or SAO pillow before it starts feeling a bit repetitive.
So yeah, there was merch everywhere today – Friday is probably the best time to get the stuff you’re after, given that Saturday will be jam-packed full of people to the point of bursting and there may not be guaranteed stock on Sunday. There were the usual collectible key rings, anime clothes and copious amounts of Pocky – I’m not even sure why that last one’s a thing, by the way. I don’t remember it having any link to anime in general, and it’s quite common in many Asian countries outside of Japan, including my native Hong Kong – which is why I was aghast at seeing it sold for the eye-popping price of £1 a box. There’s a trend in that, actually. Lots of Attack on Titan stuff had prices hiked up, and Sora’s “I Heart Humanity” T-shirt from No Game No Life was being sold for £20. I mean, I understand it’s merch, but £20 for a T-shirt?! I was definitely going to get one until I saw the price. What was nice about the expo was that there was lots of merch for fans of Western comics and sci-fi as well – it catered to a wider but still relatable audience. Also it’s technically called the MCM Comic Con, even though the vast majority is anime. I don’t think anyone actually calls it that.
I was wary of spending too much money, and the lack of storage space I had was probably a factor too, but I ended up with: all 9 released volumes of Railgun, the first 5 volumes of Nisekoi, a limited edition version of the Kara no Shoujo eroge and two wall scrolls, one of Jibril and the other of Fate/stay. Not that much, but hey I had 3 hours.
The manga selection at MCM Expo in particular was great, once you put aside the ubiquitous presence of the big four shounen (soon to be big three). I would have definitely bought more had I had more space – I agonised over buying the 12 volumes of the Spice and Wolf light novel they had out, but realised they would have broken both my bags and wallet. Hentai was also surprisingly prevalent, although oddly there was a noticeable focus on both yaoi and yuri – I don’t know what’s in the yaoi section (unsurprisingly glimpsed some Free!) but they sold eroges like the famous SonoHana series at the yuri table, which is where I got Kara no Shoujo as it lay alongside less… wholesome titles like Demon Master Chris. There was an enticing depiction of Shimakaze in a rather compromising position hanging off the wall, although I decided not to run the risk of having to explain myself to anyone involved with my uni. Also there was that conviction over loli hentai in the UK recently, the slippery sloping bastards. I’ve never played Kara no Shoujo but know of it by reputation. Am anticipating the suffering. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned figures at all, even though they’re a massive section of merch on its own – that’s because I’m not a fan of buying figures at conventions. Prices tend to get hiked up, and then there’s a real issue with identifying fakes and all sorts of other problems. When you can guarantee legitimacy like in Good Smile’s official stall, you often have to pay a premium in return. Importing’s the way forward for sure.
I’d definitely want to go again in the future, whenever it runs again next year – I’ve only experienced a small part of what the expo has to offer, especially as Saturday’s supposed to be the main bulk of it. It was nice to finally see what it was all about though!