A Romanian Traveler to London MCM Expo

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Japan - pop culture
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Last week, together with Cristian Botea (aka Reactive, my fellow content coordinator at Cosplay Gen) and Livia Viziteu (aka Shinju, the freshly chosen Romanian representative for EuroCosplay 2012) I’ve attended the October edition of London MCM Expo, which proved to be an amazing experience from which I admit I learnt a lot, and I’m sure as hell I want to go to the next editions too.
I’ll skip our two days and a half of London strolling (which were also great) and limit myself to what Expo meant to me. It all started on Friday afternoon, when we took the DLR train from the London Bridge, knowing it would take us to the location in no time. A few stations away, a Sailor Moon and her fellow fighters were waiting on the platform. At next station, a group of super-furry creatures also boarded the train, which soon got to be half full of cosplayers. Then we knew we were heading in the right direction.
We arrived at the Excel London quite fast. Although it was Friday, when only the guests and those with a whole weekend pass were permitted, we were surrounded by cosplayers and other convention people who were waiting in queue to receive their bracelets. All the booths in the event premises were already prepared, with all kinds of merchandise, varying from swords to hentai items. It was a very warm atmosphere, which somehow made us feel like home among fellow otaku aficionados. Of course, our first concern was to meet James, the big bad wolf of EuroCosplay (thank you, James, for the wonderful collaboration), and see where our Cosplay Gen booth was. Our table was just between the main stage and the second stage, in the Totally Cosplay area, and the Cospay Gen boxes were already waiting for us.
After strolling another few hours among the booths and talking to people, we went to Central London to have a well-deserved cup of coffee/hot chocolate together with Lina Lau, who was to be our special guest at the Cosplay Gen booth the next day and who proved to be a wonderful person, full of humor, very open-minded and easy to talk to. It was pure delight to listen to her stories and to hear, although briefly, about her cosplay experiences.
The next day we woke up at 05.30 AM, ready for the big day. Anyways, in spite of that totally inhuman hour and of our desperate attempt to reach the location with at least half an hour before the official opening for the public, we didn’t know that the London buses don’t stop if too crowded, so we were utterly bemused to see our double-decker passing right in front of our eyes without stopping. So we ended up staying almost an hour in the bus station, desperately aware that we will be late.
And late we were, but at least we managed to make just 15-20 minutes of delay. We prepared our booth, me and Livia changed into our costumes (me in my Steampunk costume, and Livia in her Yoko costume) in the especially mounted booths in the Totally Cosplay area, and were ready to begin our day.
The whole (huge) area crowded in no time. Not only the event premises, but also the long corridor and the front terrace of Excel. It goes without saying that all the restrooms were full of cosplayers who were either changing, or applying make-up, or fixing their props. The whole event was a feast for our cosplay-hungry eyes. Wherever you looked, it was impossible not to see at least one cosplayer. I guess out of three people, two were cosplaying, or wearing at least a pair of nekomimi, a wig or a tail. Also, a thing that struck me was the absolutely amazing diversity of character-choices. Vocaloids, retro or less retro games, old or less old anime series or movies – they all met al London MCM Expo. I’ve seen a lot of great costumes, both in and off the contests and I guess diversity is quite a mandatory thing in cosplay, in order to avoid making it redundant.
To our great delight, we met a lot of good friends of Cosplay Gen, with whom we were acquainted either through e-mail, or deviantART group, or Facebook (such as Marta Camilo, or Sushi Monster), and also made new friends (such as Maxine Filippe or our booth neighbors from Cosplayers UK).
Lina Lau arrived around 1 o’clock PM. Although she had texted me to announce us she was there, I was still surprised and shocked when turning around and seeing Gakupo in flesh and bones right in front of me. If it hadn’t been against my principles, I admit I would have fangirled immediately. She was nice enough to help us promote the latest issue of Cosplay Gen, and we also had tons of fun.
Towards the afternoon, the EuroCosplay contestants started to show up, and then we have finally understood that this competition is serious business. Most of the costumes were absolutely breathtaking, a veritable parade of high-quality cosplay combined with high-tech engineering. I myself being a judge in the Romanian cosplay contest that chose the participant for the next year from our country, I know how hard it is to be part in the jury, and I can imagine how especially difficult it was to be a judge for such a contest. I’m sure the choice was really difficult to make, but, in my opinion, the EuroCosplay jury (made of Goldy from Japan, Sushi Monster from the USA, and Pandy from Brazil) has done a pretty awesome job. The show itself was great, the contestants gave all their best, and the anchor was one of the most entertaining and lovely persons I’ve ever seen. Cosplay Gen was also promoted within the show and I admit I felt great when I saw the presentation movie of the magazine projected on the big screen. In the end the winners were Neil Lockwood from the UK (1st prize, with an absolutely awesome cosplay of Skeksil from Dark Crystal), Ronald Boom from the Netherlands (2nd prize, cosplaying as Brother Petros from Trinity Blood), and Estela Espinosa from Spain (3rd prize, with a cosplay as Pocco from Sweet Dreams).
The next day we woke up at 05:00 AM, terrified at the prospect that we might be late again. Unfortunately for us, we ended up waking up earlier than planned, as we had totally forgot about the changing of time, and 05:00 proved to be actually 04:00 o’clock. At least we did arrive on time.
Sunday, which began with a Q&A session with the EuroCosplay winners (a fact that clearly explains why the contestants must know at least an elementary level of English), brought the same cosplay diversity as the previous day, along with very interesting and diverse cosplay workshops, and with another masquerade that brought forth more amazing costumes. What I loved the most – and this applies for both days – was to see how relaxed everyone was and how they enjoyed what they were doing. What I saw on stage at all the three masquerades of the event was mainly the purest joy to cosplay and to perform, not to compete. Everything seemed so natural for them, and the amazing public who never ceased to encourage even the less spectacular costumes or cosplayers added to the whole wonderful feeling. It didn’t matter that Sailor Pluto was actually a boy (it seemed that crossplaying was quite fashionable at the Expo), or that a cosplayer had the misfortune to break his/her props while performing – they were all applauded and encouraged all the same. I guess this is what the love for cosplay, fair play, and for having a good time is all about. Competition gets only the second place in all this.
In the evening, when everyone had already dismantled the booths and was ready to leave, I got out together with Cristian, Livia and the other two Romanian friends we met there and, to our surprise, we saw a group of cosplayers dancing outside the entrance. I guess it was the best way to end a wonderful convention. Friendship, fun and the joy to cosplay. Afterwards we went to have a very nice dinner at Tokyo Diner in China Town and to finally prepare to return home.
If you want a more detailed insight about the activities at London MCM Expo in general and the Totally Cosplay area in particular (for they were much too many to mention in a mere blog post), do check the official website of the event. Also, all the videos featuring the EuroCosplay contestants are available on YouTube and they are quite easy to find.

Below there are two albums of photos taken by our friend Madalin Gageanu. There are also other good galleries available on Flickr (also easy to find):

Day 1

Day 2

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