MCM Expo: Overview

Q: Why did the trio of unconvincing Smurfs cross the road?

A: To get to the MCM Expo.

Less a poor joke, more a slightly disturbing fact. Three young ladies wearing white tops and red beanie hats, who seem to have coloured their skin in with blue pastel crayons, are on the same few last few trains to the MCM Expo as I am – and do indeed cross the road along the way (they certainly do for the purposes of this joke, at least). Nonetheless they’re happy, and are doing nobody any harm. I shouldn’t scoff.

But still.

I wait for Michael in a small coffee place on the walkway by the Excel centre, called ‘Unusual Coffee’. I’m not being paid to plug them, but if they feel the urge to send some free biscuits my way I shan’t complain (especially as the combined price of the dozen or so they keep on the counter is more than I earn in a year before tax). The name of the place is slightly misleading; my coffee is not served to me in a woman’s shoe, a lifesize replica of Simon Cowell’s head, or any other unexpected receptacle. The coffee itself does not taste of Belgium, nor does it make me believe that I am descended from badgers. There is little unusual about the experience.

The closer I get to the expo the higher the concentration of cosplayers in the crowds and now, watching the people milling about from the safety of the coffee shop just a few hundred metres from the entrance to the expo venue, there seem to be more people in cosplay than those who are not. In one instant I see Ronald McDonald walking in one direction, and a man dressed as a Sailor Moon girl walking in the other. You don’t forget that sort of thing in a hurry.

Soon after, I see a rotund man wearing a flat cap and a pinstripe jacket. I am unable to decide if he is cosplaying, or simply has an awesomely unique fashion sense.

The 'other' A-team were present too (Critical Gamer's crack squad of hardened reporters being the first, obviously)

Once Michael arrives and the inevitable North vs South fist fight is over (I, being the respectable Southern chap, win) we head straight to the expo. There are so many people waiting to get in, there is an entire hall for queueing. Those with the foresight to have purchased a ticket online can skip the crowds a little; those of us with press passes can skip the crowds a lot.

Michael: I threw that fight obviously, to allow my editor to retain the belief he is some kind of red-blooded male.

After registering in the press office, and getting to wear our press passes which make us feel Big And Clever, we enter the expo proper. It’s very busy, and as the day goes on will only become busier still. People are absolutely everywhere, but I don’t need to worry about losing sight of Michael. He is fifteen feet tall.

There’s lots for sale – comics, DVDs, blu rays, toys, posters, jewellery, videogames. There’s also lots to see and do, including the impressive list of guests including not only Kyle Hebert and Yuri Lowenthal but also Ron D Moore, David Deluise, Ben Templesmith, and dozens more. Also among the guests is one of my favourite living authors, Robert Rankin. I got to meet him both days and could write fanboy articles about him for hours, but please pull the cursor away from the address bar – I won’t.

Michael: I had no idea who Robert Rankin was at the time, having never read his books – and was somewhat befuddled by a flustered Luke babbling excitedly over an elderly looking gentleman in a pristine white suit. Needless to say he was a very nice bloke and showed a talent for sales too, somehow convincing Luke to purchase the same poster twice.

At twelve, registration for the DS world record attempt begins, and takes about an hour. There are a lot of people (586 as it turns out) and the relatively small number of staff do a sterling job. While registration is ongoing, the compère appears to randomly award prizes and get the crowd going. I declare him to be the male Davina McCall, which should tell you whether you would have thought he did a good job or not.

Live music was provided by British J – pop artist Bentley Jones. More than a week has now passed since that performance, and I have calmed myself enough to resist writing several thousand words of criticism. I will say only this: I cannot speak Japanese, much less sing it. If I tried to sing in Japanese, it would sound absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, the same thing happens when Bentley Jones does it.

Michael: I got told off by a 14 year old girl wearing an eye-patch for expressing my disdain at Mr Jones’ performance. Professional behaviour? Perhaps not, but if you head over to Youtube and check out some of his live performances, perhaps you can forgive me.

Booooooooooooooooooooooo!

The good news is, the world record is broken with ease. The game I play (I wanted to stake my claim on a world record, thank you very much) was Mario March of the Minis. With perfect timing, I finish a level just as the ten minute counter for the world record reaches zero, and am presented with a screen that declares ‘New Record!’ on my DS. Michael and I try taking a photograph of this screen and, of course, have no success.

Back in the expo, we see cosplayers in their natural habitat. A great many of the female cosplayers are wearing staggeringly revealing costumes that their mothers would surely not approve of; and it is this breed of cosplayer that I see, on more than one occasion, posing provocatively for who seem to be complete strangers with cameras. At last, I know how those ostensibly videogamecentric sites (whom I despise) that regularly feature ‘cosplay babes’ get their photos. But again, nobody’s getting hurt, so I suppose I really shouldn’t complain.

But still.

In the midst of all these costumed show-goers we were a little bit out of our 'depth' (geddit?!?!).

In the midst of all these costumed show-goers we were a little out of our 'depth' (Geddit?!?)

Some cosplay outfits are hilariously bad, but it really must be said that some of them are jaw droppingly awesome. Of particular note are the two cosplayers we show in this disappointingly indistinct photo here (the first, and quite possibly last, time cosplayers appear on Critical Gamer), a pair dressed as a Big Daddy and Little Sister that we even hear other expogoers comment on. On the second day, somebody arrives in a Gundam outfit with wings (?) that is very obviously homemade, and not despite but because of this, is one of the most impressive outfits we see. The suit however makes the wearer roughly five times wider than your average human being, can clearly not be folded away easily, and is apparently difficult to walk in. Michael and I wonder how far they had to travel, and what method of transportation they used to get here. Perhaps they are working wings.

There are many games at the expo, of particular interest to us the first presentation of Fist of the North Star outside of Japan, and the world exclusive public playable demo of Transformers: War For Cybertron. You can read what we made of them elsewhere.

The expo was definitely an Experience – but a wonderful one. With swarms of cosplayers, dozens of famous and talented guests, lots of anime and manga items to buy, games to play – including several not yet released – and a tangible air of people simply having a great time, there was pretty much something for everyone.

Michael: Being some kind of northern Neanderthal, this was the first time I’ve visited a show of this scale and it was highly impressive. If someone organised a Cosplay/Anime/Gaming event in my home-town, I’d expect an attendance of roughly three and a half people (with a Greggs on every corner, there’s bound to be a few weight issues).

The combination of cosplay and crowds was a potentially dangerous one, however. At one point there were so many cosplayers wielding giant swords, guns, lances, banners and whatnot, Michael and I were forced to take a detour.

“I think we’d better go the other way.” I said.

“Yeah, it’s not a good idea trying to make it through them.” said Michael. “Most of them are armed.”

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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