Adventures at MCM Expo 2013

As the chilly winds of October descend on London, it’s a sign for the masses of cosplayers to embark on their latest pilgrimage to the packed halls of the Excel Centre for the latest MCM Expo.

The MCM Expo appears to be getting larger judging by the sheer number of dealers and stalls that make up the core content of each event. It’s also become a popular choice of venue for the rising number of dance outfits, singers and cosplayers that are emerging in the UK at the moment. It’s been a steadily rising trend over the past few years in which J-Pop artists from AKB48 to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu have captured the collective imagination of a generation, inspiring them to take to YouTube with performance videos as well as taking to the stage to demonstrate their talents.

J-Pop Go has previously covered both established names on the scene, such as Beckii Cruel, as well as the emerging talents such as Oishii!Ichigo and IroKokoro Project (who managed to jump the pack by getting to work alongside Yun*chi earlier this year).

Among the artists and outfits performing at October’s Expo event were Cinnamon Purin – a regular dance group that includes the talents of Finny Attridge (Marshmallow Llama Time), Himezawa – German cosplayer and performer, here making her UK debut, Scarlett Young – Member of Oishi!Ichigo and winner of the Hyper Japan Kawaii Star of the Year 2011 and MK Dance Group (of which, Scarlett is also a member). Also along for the ride to spur the performers along (were Kelsey (former Oishi member now striking out on her own as Kelsey KimonoTime) and Abi (aka AbiPop).

A few issues prior to showtime took the shine off the performances. The omission of monitor speakers on stage made the singing performances much trickier to pull off. Plus, a scheduled rehearsal session the day before somehow never quite worked out as planned. Last minute changes to the schedule without warning didn’t help either.

Cinnamon Purin were operating at less than full strength on Saturday morning as Jess was feeling poorly that morning, leaving Finny, Lizzie and Lottie to do their best. With selections from Fairy Tail, Pokemon Best Wishes, Heart Catch PreCure and Shugo Chara the trio showed off very tightly choreographed dance moves (and energetic ones at that). Perhaps the highlight had to be the dance routine to ‘Viva Happy’, the latest Hatsune Miku-starring slice of J-Pop produced by Mitchie M which managed to top the weekly Vocaloid listings on Nico Nico on its release back in the Summer.

Himezawa was making her UK stage debut at the Expo having previously cut her teeth cosplaying and performing at events in her native Germany – such as the German Cosplay Championships (DCM) Finals in 2011 and European Cosplay Gathering in 2013.

For her stage performance Himezawa combined dance performances alongside an inspired choice for a vocal performance. Decked out in a fetching Sweet Lolita outfit Himezawa delivered a spirited series of dance performances.

If there’s one title that appears to have a significant fanbase, it’s THE iDOLM@STER which began life as a Namco video game before spawning the inevitable anime series as well as light novels, drama CDs and a healthy selection of songs. For Himezawa’s opening dance performance, it was the energetic anime version of THE iDOLM@STER’s first opening theme ‘READY!!’ as song of choice. Also culled from THE iDOLM@STER soundtrack was the super-cute tunes of ‘Watashi-Tachi Wa Zutto… Deshou?’ and the catchy ‘The World Is All One!!’.

The ever-popular Kyary Pamyu Pamyu provided the tunes for Himezawa’s animated dance performance to perennial favourite ‘Pon Pon Pon’. But aside from the dance performances, Himezawa had also opted for one track to demonstrate her vocal talents. In this case it was SNoW’s ‘Sakasama No Chou’, better known as the opening theme music to anime series Hell Girl.

Finally, Himezawa’s set bowed out to the spirited melodies of AKB48’s 2006 single release ‘Aitakatta’. As a bonus, Himezawa tossed out sweets to the enthusiastic crowd – no mean feat considering the gap between stage and audience.

Meanwhile, Scarlett Young’s meteoric rise to stardom doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. At Japan Matsuri in London earlier this year Scarlett delivered a striking rendition of ‘Love Love Love’ – the No. 1 single originally performed by DREAMS COME TRUE (and coincidently one of the most popular Valentine’s Day songs in Japan). Japanese audiences were also treated to Scarlett’s talents when she performed the song again in October as part of Nodo Jiman, the Japanese singing show.

For her Expo performance on the Sunday, Scarlett took to the stage clad in a fitting red outfit and delivered some classic anime opening themes. Amongst her choices were classics such as ‘Sorairo Days’ from Gurren Lagann along with tunes from Elemental Gelade and Madoka. Her take on the Clannad OP was a particular highlight.

The stage performances closed out with the MK Dance group – an outfit that includes Scarlett Young – before wrapping up for the day.

It’s clear that the MCM Expo is an important fixture for the performing community. As a showcase event it gives performers an opportunity to be exposed to a wider audience. The technical and organisational issues are still hindering the Expo though – hopefully something that can be ironed out for future events.

What certainly emerges from the performances however is a keen enthusiasm which is reflected in dance groups and performers across the country. We’re intrigued enough to see where it leads next.

The next London MCM Expo event takes place on 23rd-25th May 2014