Wondering what the cosplay and convention culture in Europe’s like?
Thanks to our London-based correspondents (big props guys!), we’ve got an article and plenty of photos from London Comic Con MCM Expo, showing just how varied it is.
Our embedded convention spy Arvin Lim reports:
“In the nice, cool 15°C English weather, I rushed down to London Comic Con MCM Expo at EXCEL. It was also the day of the Euro Cosplay Championships 2011, and after a journey filled with treacherous tube changes (no thanks to subway works), we arrived at the con venue.
The Expo was held in a dedicated location, and unlike Singapore’s conventions where there are plenty of walk-ins and curious passers-by, the venue was filled almost exclusively with con-goers and cosplayers. It’s certainly one of the biggest cons in the UK and Europe, and contrary to popular belief, there were as many anime and manga characters as there were western pop culture icons (especially British ones!), with a significant gaming and steampunk presence too.
One of the key differences I noticed was the sheer size of the event. 3 convention halls were dedicated to queues alone.
After paying 10 GBP for a late entry ticket (after 11am), (early entrants pay 16 GBP to enter at 9am), we entered the show floor. It was huge, easily 3 times the size of Singapore’s AFA and it boasted at least twice the number of people. It sure felt like there was a bigger percentage of cosplayers here than back home. There was also a surprising lack of photographers with their chunky DSLRs.
There was a great variety of cosplay all around. It was quite the sight to see popular game characters such as Link and Zelda, as well as a Tauren Death Knight from World of Warcraft come alive. Also, with crafting materials and resources being so readily available, it was inevitable that we’d witness some really epic feats of engineering – we saw a movable Dalek (from Dr Who) made completely from metal, cosplayers such as a Jack Skellington (Nightmare before Christmas) on stilts, and Team Fortress cosplayers armed with a whole arsenal of weapons, as well as a really good Left 4 Dead boomer.
The stalls were pretty standard fare and sold the usual variety of character t-shirts, plushies, Figmas, Gunpla, costumes, comic books and the rest. Browsing the merchandise, I discovered that most branded Japanese goods were easily twice the price in Singapore. Gunpla, for example, was charged the same, but in pounds, no doubt due to the high import costs, though western pop culture products cost about the same as they would locally.
Surprisingly, metal replica props and weapons were not only legal, they were also cheap (going at 100 Pounds a pair). There were plenty of gems too (if you look hard enough) going at reasonable prices. I spotted doujin from Japan, very old anime VCDs (Gundam, Ghost in the Shell) and Final Fantasy Music Scores.
There were way more doujin booths at the convention too, and areas for a variety of famous artists, writers from comics, actors and actresses from pop culture series to meet and greet the fans. Other highlights included an entire section dedicated to modified vehicles such as a real Star Wars Landspeeder and a retrofitted DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future, a robot fighting exhibit and a huge Syfy booth.
Naturally, what’s a convention like without the big video game companies? Many upcoming titles were available for fans to try out, such as the new Final Fantasy XIII-II, Ninja Gaiden 3, Soulcalibur V and Street Fighter X Tekken. There was even swag for the fans – the Darkness II booth for example was giving away a free t-shirts!
And of course there was Steampunk.
The display was simply amazing. It featured a hunter (with his hunting trophies that included a werewolf head that could move its tongue and his guns), a gentleman selling potions for the visitors, posters of airships and other fantastic devices. While MCM Expo was by no means THE steampunk con in the UK, this booth really showcased the best in the genre.
Euro Cosplay Championships 2011 was also an eye opener, where the winners of various European cosplay events vied for the right to be called the best cosplayer in Europe on stage.
After an introductory video that featured the cosplayers singing, War-Machine kicked things off with a bang by re-enacting a scene from Iron Man 2. The competition format was a single entry, incorporating video playback, and cosplayers had 5 minutes on stage to wow the judges and the audience. It was evident that choreography experience and stage presence was needed for the competition, and it was not a simple costume showcase.
The audience was very responsive and they were even encouraged to get in on the act, with a Nintendo 3DS being given to the most enthusiastic audience member.
The quality of the cosplay was exceptional – the participants were very into character and they used the stage pretty well (it did help that the stage had a catwalk). A major complaint was the overuse of strobe lights, which made it difficult to see the cosplayer and fine costume details.
Notable entries included Lilith (Trinity Blood) from France, who ended her performance with a costume transformation that displayed France’s Blue, White and Red, a Dawn of War Chaos hero from Lithuania bellowing at the top of his voice and the home team’s Skeksil Chamberlin from The Dark Crystal, who won the competition with a dazzling display of cosplay finery and showmanship.
It was certainly an entertaining weekend, and a salve for my missing AFA for 3 consecutive years.”
We’ve also got some pictures from the event, courtesy of photographer Shaun Ng: