One week on and I'm still tired. London Expo can be a hectic two days at the best of times but the most recent event, held at the ExCeL Docklands on 28-29 October, seemed more energised than any previous instalment. This was possibly due to the Docklands Light Rail service actually working this time – this year's spring show and last year's Christmas show were both hampered by a diverted rail line and replacement bus services, which possibly deterred people from attending. A functioning travel network and positive word of mouth surely helped last weekend's show to exceed its predecessors – by the middle of Saturday, the queue to get in was running from the entrance to the hall, out of the ExCeL and back down into the DLR station!
Unfortunately, the hall was poorly laid out and the large volume of people, many wearing elaborate cosplay outfits, coupled with narrow alleys between stalls lead to a lot of bottlenecking. At one point, the fire marshal wanted to suspend the event as the hall was over capacity and there was still a lengthy queue to get in. This thankfully didn't come to pass but I strongly feel the next London Expo will need to be twice as big to accommodate demand.
With a heavy emphasis on anime and manga, one quarter of the hall was given over to the likes of ADV, MVM, Beez, Manga Entertainment and Tokyopop. Over the weekend, new announcements were made for the next quarter's worth of anime releases in the UK:
ADV will be licensing some of its shows to new Sky channel Redemption TV (channel 368, 10pm-3am daily), initially action/horror series Gilgamesh and comedy Cromartie High School. An ADV booklet given out to con goers seems to indicate a DVD box set for mecha series Gad Guard will be coming soon, too.
MVM will be releasing the Ah! My Goddess TV series, Saiyuki, Petite Coisette and GunXSword in spring next year, along with the second Tenchi Muyo movie, Daughter of Darkness. Said movie has long been caught in a rights issue for the UK, so it's nice to see them finally resolved and the movie available on UK shores.
Manga Entertainment have Noein, She: The Ultimate Weapon - Another Love Song, Tokko and Tactics lined up for January-February of 2007, as well as the second collection of Naruto episodes before Christmas. The third season of Ghost in the Shell is also a given for 2007. Frustratingly for some fans, niche titles such as Tetsujin 28 have been selling very poorly, sometimes as few as a mere hundred or so copies nationwide, which puts the future of the series in jeopardy. This is essentially what happened with Heat Guy J, and why the third disc was never released, with Manga opting for a cheap box set of the whole series instead. It seems UK fans need to start digging into their wallets if they want to see more anime releases on our shores.
Rapture TV are looking into more anime for their network, with Full Metal Panic!, Excel Saga, Azumanga Daioh and Cromartie High School on their short list. Head over to their forums at http://www.rapturetv.com/ to give some feedback on the choices. Their upcoming anime focused TV show, Anime Nation, will debut in January.
As usual for the Expo but unlike most shows of its kind (I'm looking at you, Memorabilia), there were plenty of activities to participate in, from trading card games to an area devoted to Massively Multiplayer Online RPGS – World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Archlords and more all got their share of attention. The artist's alley had respected comic artists including John McCrea and Adam Hughes signing, taking sketch commissions and generally chatting with fans. The centrepiece of the hall was a huge promotion for Hot Fuzz, the new movie from Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – nothing like a dozen police officers wandering the hall to keep everything under control, even if they were just costumed actors. As documented in previous weeks of UK Cine, there were also numerous stars from TV and film to meet and get items signed by. All that said, there was a notable growth in the amount of stalls with stuff to buy this time, something previous shows have been a little light on. If the Expo does grow in hall size for May's show, it would be nice to see a balance struck between commerce and entertainment.
One area of the Expo that does need improving is the after party. It was an unfocused mess, unsure of which audience to target and darted from geeky dance routines (Macarena? Time Warp? Ugh!) to a live band that all but killed what little mood there was. Next time, I'm hoping for more than one room to cater for different music tastes and a cheaper bar - £5.85 for a double spirit and mixer (roughly $12 American) is not an acceptable price for a drink! Sort that little issue out and the London Expo will pretty much be the perfect fan gathering for the UK.
Also taking place last weekend was the Flip 06 animation festival, held at the Lighthouse in Wolverhampton. A showcase for independent animation produced locally, nationally and internationally, the festival highlighted some of the best new animation in a diverse range of styles from around the world.
Panels included Professor Paul Well, director of the Animation Academy at Loughborough University and author of several books on animation, talking on several key British animated works and a BAFTA affiliated presentation of Slinky Pictures' productions from the last five years.
The week running up to the event offered animation workshops for kids to attend, which carried over into the main weekend schedule with similar programs for adults and animation students to try their hands at.
While the weekend was largely well received, there was some controversy over a few of the entries in the Channel 4-sponsered 'animate!' category not actually being animated, with one attendee describing them as "pretentious arthouse ramblings". Ouch. The shorts will be screened on Channel 4 at the end of November, so those of you who can view the channel can make your minds up then.
This week sees the International Manga and Anime Festival return to County Hall, London, from 10-14 November. 2006 sees Cosplay added to the list of attractions, a potentially raucous twist to the arts-focused event. The shortlist for this year's Design and Animation Competition and Awards should be up at www.imaf.co.uk by the time you read this. Previous IMAF awards have launched the careers of artists and animators such as Asia Alfasi and Christine Dallaire-Dupont and are quite a prestigious award to receive. I look forward to seeing this year's entries. ADV will also be present with screenings of various anime properties, including The Place Promised in our Early Days, Yugo the Negotiator and Jinki Extend.
This Wednesday sees the launch party for the Midlands Comic Collective's first title, MC². Taking place at the Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham from 6:30pm, the event is shaping up to be bigger than anticipated with press coverage from local and national media sources attending. The launch combines a gallery exhibition of the original artwork and opportunities to meet the creators and is free to attend. Of course, copies of the comic will be on sale on the night in advance of them arriving at comic book stores the world over.
I could blather about this for a bit, but I'll just let the press release do the talking:
(Can the attached image 'Manga Day Press Release' go here please?)
24: The Complete Season Five
Would anyone want to be Jack Bauer? For a show that was meant to highlight the worst day of one guy's life, 24 has put its lead through nearly a week's worth of 'worst days' now. Still, it's outstanding TV, so Jack's suffering is our gain. The seven-disc collection provides a mammoth 46 deleted scenes, commentary on key episodes and a variety of behind the scenes features. A boxed set of all five seasons to date is also available.
One of the key features that lead to Disney's renaissance in the 1990's, The Little Mermaid gets the special edition treatment with this two-disc set. While not as groundbreaking in either a technological or financial sense as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, this is still one of the Mouse House's finer endeavours and it benefits beautifully from the remaster for the DVD release. A selection of extras targeting older and younger viewers round out the package.
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit should have been enough to convince any non-believers of the brilliance of Aardman Animation but in case there are any stragglers, this collection of claymation episodes should do the trick. A three-disc set, including the Christmas Special, contains all twelve episodes of the second series and plenty of making of extras and on-disc games.
That’s it for this week. Thoughts? Comments? Hatemail? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org