After missing the last London MCM Expo (MCM Comic Con) due to exasperation at the organisation and crowding, I'd been itching to visit a convention for a while. So to cut a long story short, this morning I found myself sitting on a Eurostar train bound for Paris for a very special daytrip.
Unlike the anime industry in the UK, which mostly survives by repackaging content from bigger distributors in the US and Australia, the anime and manga companies over in France seem eternally resilient. France is regarded as the largest market for manga and anime outside of Japan in many respects; indeed, I've often imported DVDs (and VHS tapes) from the continent to fill gaps in my collection when the English-speaking market fails to deliver. Until now I'd made excuses about the potential language barrier and never given the colossal Japan Expo events a chance.
With my Sengoku Basara fever as motivation I decided to stop being a coward. After a smooth journey through the Channel Tunnel the Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center was just a short train ride away on the RER railway.
|Perfect weather; not a cloud in the sky!|
My first impression was that Japan Expo is vast. One day didn't give us enough time to explore all of the attractions even though there was plenty of space to move around and very little queueing.
|This area wasn't really aimed at me|
With the main reason for the trip out of the way, it was time to go back into the main halls to explore the rest of what Japan Expo had to offer. There was way too much to describe in detail!
One of the highlights for me was that Yokota Mamoru had rounded up some of his fellow artists to produce a series of illustrations to draw attention to the Souma Nomaoi rally. These drawings were presented as an art gallery titled Musha-e. What was interesting was that there was a wide range of art styles with each person interpreting the theme in their own way. I also liked that many of the artists had chosen to draw famous Sengoku-era commanders...
|A tiny sample from the Musha-e exhibition|
Naturally, the local French anime and manga distributors were present at the event. The number of official DVD sets was great, but even more impressive was the sheer volume of French-translated manga on offer. There was hardly any Japanese content on sale at all because there are so many companies producing official French translations; I'm seriously jealous!
There was plenty of other content too, from a wrestling ring to a cosplay stage. Fans could even get a rare chance to participate in an Ichiban Kuji lottery drawing to win special Shingeki No Kyojin (Attack On Titan) and Sword Art Online goodies. I liked that most of the stages were in the main event halls; you could get glimpses of martial arts demonstrations or people singing even when you were shopping.
|A saucy itansha (decorated motorbike)|
A Japanese-French translator was on stage too to help her communicate with the audience. Most of the people there seemed able to follow Shokotan's slow, clear Japanese without any help, though.
|The queue for Shokotan stretched across half of one hall|
I was also pleased to discover that it was quick and easy to buy food within the exhibition hall. London's MCM Expo could learn a thing or two about organisation.
|This huge booth produced nothing but takoyaki|
|I love Funassyi. I can't help it.|
It's a shame that I had to go straight back to the station to catch the last train home instead of taking a few days off work to enjoy the trip properly. Paris has some great bookstores and the remainder of Japan Expo promised even more entertainment. I'd have quite liked to savour some tasty local food as well! Perhaps next year?