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By Matt Kamen
June 01, 2007
The much-vaunted London Expo rolled around again this past weekend, once again taking up residence at the ExCeL London convention centre. This was the fourth London Expo I've covered now and in large part, the event doesn't change much – it's always great value with a wide variety of activities to take your interest. With that in mind, let's get the negatives out of the way first.
- Too many people and too small a hall. It seems the organisers think one show behind rather than one ahead, and while the hall would have comfortably housed the attendees of Midlands Expo, the turn out for this London Expo was substantially larger. The queue waiting to get in stretched the length of the London ExCeL and barely shrank over the course of the Saturday. Sunday was slightly quieter but only just and still saw crowds of people lining up just to get in.
- Poor layout. Once they actually got into the main hall, the massive numbers of people ended up bottlenecked wherever they went. The aisles in general were too narrow with only a central area showcasing upcoming movies offering anything close to an open space. The area around the anime village was particularly poor – cramming four retailer stalls and a noted UK anime magazine's stall around the artist's alley and having signing sessions with voice actors around the corner was NOT well thought out on the organiser's parts at all.
- Both of the above problems lead to the third – sweet monkey Zeus people, shower! Yes, it was crowded. Yes, it was hot. And yes, I do appreciate your cosplay requires twelve layers for some ungodly reason. Still, would it have hurt you to have taken a shower before you got to the ExCeL, or perhaps carry a can of body spray with you? The entire hall was pungent on Saturday and while part of the blame falls on cramped layout and large numbers of event goers, basic hygiene should not be beyond people. Way to uphold the genre stereotype of smelly nerds…
- Finally, the after-show party. Agonising music choices and exorbitantly priced drinks aren't really going to fire up the partygoers – it's no real surprise why it was almost empty by 10pm. If the hotel levies the drinks prices, perhaps look at holding the party in one of the many other venues surrounding the ExCeL. As for the music, though some people will enjoy the odd cheesy school disco type song, a whole evening of them rapidly grates. Given how much emphasis there is on anime and manga at the Expo, consideration should be given to running a separate J-Pop/J-Rock room.
While no single element had been added to the overall line up that was strikingly new or original, the events that had returned to the Expo felt more polished and refined. There were a wider variety of stalls selling goods than before and the variety of goods sold was also greater. Comic books still seem to be the redheaded stepchild of pop culture at Expo though, with only a couple of stalls stocking comics despite the mainstream presence of the medium thanks to the rash of superhero movies of recent years.
Comic artists were present both days, including John McCrea (Hitman, Spider-Man), Staz Johnson (Cable and Deadpool, Catwoman) and Mark Sparacio (cover artist on Heroes for Hire and Green Lantern, amongst many others). They were joined by guests from various genre shows including Stargate SG1's Amanda Tapping and 24's Louis Lombardo and anime voice actors Vic Mignogna and Spike Spencer. The highlight of the weekend for me though was meeting Lloyd Kaufman, founding father of Troma Films and a top class guy. We chatted briefly about the background of Troma and how impressive it is that the studio has remained independent for over 30 years.
Next up for the organisers of Expo is JapanEX from 21-22 July, taking arguably the most popular element of the existing Expos and expanding on it with emphasis on Japanese history, food, fashion and culture as well as anime, manga and cosplay.
New UK DVD Picks for 04/06/2007
Transformers The Movie: Ultimate Edition
The squintillionth release of this movie and to be honest, even my 80s nostalgia tolerance is wearing thin. That said, this truly is the best option to go for if you happen to be one of the twelve people left on Earth who don't own the movie in one way or another. The two disc edition is the one to go for, replete with extras ranging from the desirable (the rare Japanese OVA, Scramble City) to the flat out obscure (colour tests? Does anyone care?). Both cuts of the movie are offered in the set too – original 4:3 ratio version and remastered 16:9, along with a variety of audio options.
Guyver, The Bio-Boosted Armour Volume 1
A re-imagining of an old classic here as Yoshiki Takaya's classic sci-fi combat series is touched up for a new TV series. This 21st century update adapts more of the original manga than any previous version and benefits from much sleeker animation than its predecessors. Extras on the first DVD include manga-to-anime comparisons, clean opening and endings and a commentary on the first episode.
Doctor Who: Robot
Tom Baker's proper debut as the Doctor finally makes its way to DVD (not counting Jon Pertwee's regeneration into Baker at the end of Planet of the Spiders, of course). All four parts are presented here, as well as a huge collection of extras from the BBC's archives - commentary by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts, a documentary covering Tom Baker's debut, a featurette detailing the creation of the opening tunnel sequence for Tom Baker's era, an episode of Blue Peter broadcast from the Robot set, photo gallery, production notes and even a presentation of the original Radio Times listings guide in .pdf format.