Since i'm right in the middle of an exam period at the moment, I could only spare a day to head to the first MCM Expo of this year. Previously, i've been able to go for the entire weekend which is great since i'm able to spend a fair amount of time shopping, enjoying the various cosplays and meeting with friends. Trying to pack all of that into one day made for an extremely busy day! While i've been to expo before, this is the first time i'm actually writing about it so this post will also have some general introduction about expo itself.
Travelling to Expo via public transport is always an enjoyable experience, as you gradually get closer the number of cosplayers increases. It's always amusing to see the reactions of the general public to them and it definitely helps confirm that you're travelling in the right direction!
On arrival, the first thing I did was to collect my wristband so I could actually get in to the expo hall. Inevitably, this resulted in the queue. I even had to queue to queue to get my wristband, but it was very fast moving and within 15 minutes I was in the expo hall. I really pity those that pay for entry on the day - that queue takes hours.
At 12, there was an industry panel, hosted by Manga UK, MVM, Anime on Demand and someone from Anime News Network. At the panel, the distributors announced new licences, admittedly not much that interested me, and answered questions from the audience. Anime on Demand contributed well to the discussion, talking about how their service can be used by the other distributors to gain an insight into the relative popularity of certain shows, which gives them a higher change of being released on DVD/Bluray here. They also revealed interesting information on how the recent Tohoku Earthquake is actually helping them - since the two production plants for HD tapes have been damaged a lot of studios are finally switching to digital processing which speeds up the transfer to the companies here in the UK. I'm glad I attended this panel and will certainly keep a look out for it at future expos.
One of the main features at expo though is the sellers, there are quite a wide range of things on sale including figures, manga, anime, character goods and even doujinshi (both safe and unsafe!). This is a great opportunity for me to pick up some cheap things, but also to get a proper look at certain items. Buying a figure online is pretty risky since you don't quite know if the picture truly represents the final product and the high risks of fakes. Having said that however, I did see a few fake figures on sale and steered well clear of those sellers - be careful regardless!
In the end, I spent just over £100 on things, including;
Yotsuba&! volumes 6-9
I really need to get around to writing about volumes 2 to 5, it's a thoroughly enjoyable manga.
Newtype May 2011
I had trouble obtaining this from my usual source because it had sold out and couldn't find it for sale anywhere. I was extremely glad to find it for sale at expo, especially since it contains an extra feature on Nanoha: The Movie First and Dog Days, there's also a small preview of the next Nanoha movie. It also contained a large double sided Madoka poster - Madoka and Homura on one side and information about Madoka as a whole on the other side. This issue looks like it's going to be an interesting read for me.
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku CD
The disappearance is perhaps one of my favourite Miku songs (along with Everwhite) and a few of the other tracks looked interesting so I picked this up for £12. There was also a CD from her live concert but by that time I had already spent too much and needed to limit my funds for an emergency!
These where pretty cheap (£5-6) and look pretty cute. I ended up buying Fate (normal clothes), Arf and Nanoha (normal clothes with Raising Heart). I was tempted by a few other figures, but the cost can be very off-putting.
These are the first nendroids (or mini figures) that i've got that have required assembly. I was really careful while putting them together for fear of accidentally breaking them. It was a bit hard to get Fate's legs into the base, and Arf's arms kept falling off when I put the cape on before I adjust them!
Blurays from Manga UK
Manga UK have a stall with their blurays and DVDs at very cheap prices (even cheaper than places such as Amazon!). I suspect that they get more money per sale than via a normal shop too so this is a fantastic way to support the distributor, but it could be alternatively viewed that this makes anime seem less popular since there are less sales in shops and they'll be more inclined not to sell anime since it doesn't sell? Either way, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to grab some stuff cheaply. Other retailers also have stands (such as MVM and Beez) but they had nothing on offer that I particularly wanted (Well, I was tempted by the new Region 2 release of Lucky Star which includes thefor £20, but I already own the R1 DVDs, which cost me £70 in the first place).
One small problem however is that I don't own anything that can play bluray disks! A quick trip to eBuyer has resolved this however and I should have a bluray drive for my computer shortly.
While not an outstanding film (other than the intro, which is fantastic and certainly does the bluray justice) I still enjoy watching it. At £5 for the bluray, I couldn't say no. However, for some reason the actual disk hadn't been clipped into the case and came inside a small bag instead, not sure why.
I really like both of these films and already own them on DVD. Having seen the bluray versions though, these are two films which really do justify the enhanced detail. I'm glad to finally own them on bluray and £17 for both isn't too bad considering the DVD of Summer Wars cost just over £12 itself.
This is something i've been meaning to watch for a while, the premise of the series sounds very interesting. £20 for 11 episodes on bluray is pretty fantastic value.
All in all, I had a really enjoyable day (although due to train problems I had a bit of a nightmare getting home, finally arriving at 2:30AM...). It was a shame that I couldn't go on Sunday too but this October I should be able to go for all 3 days - it'll be interesting to see what it's like on the Friday which is much quieter.
Remember the awesome in-world band of Angel Beats, Girls Dead Monster? Back in 2010, they did a tour and that tour is now coming to BluRay!
The set list was as follows;
- Thousand Enemies
- Shine Days
- Rain Song
- Answer Song
- Morning Dreamer
- Brave Song
- My Song
- 一番の宝物~Yui final ver.~
- My Soul, Your Beats!
- Day Game
- Run with Wolves
- Crow Song
- Highest Live
- Little Braver
Looking at the digest video, Marina and LiSA (who sung for Iwasawa and Yui respectively) sound just as good live as recorded. LiSA is especially energetic and seems to really be enjoying herself!
I'm very much looking forward to seeing this - it's set for release on the 1st of June 2011.
Over the past few days, I've (unusually) had a bit of spare time. Madoka had been recommended to me by several people and the premise seemed interesting so I decided to get through it.
On the surface, Madoka seems like your typical magical girl series, with girls being granted magical powers in order to fight the forces of evil. A seemingly cute critter going by the name of Kyubey is able to grant power to those girls with magical potential in return for granting them any one single wish. In return, they must then fight witches, evil creatures that are responsible for murders and suicides. However, it's at this point that Madoka splits from a traditional magical girl plot line, ending up with something very dark and emotional.
Overall, i'm extremely impressed by Madoka. The plot kept me interested and was quite complex, with certain elements only being predictable moments before they occurred and others being completely unpredictable. The series does come to a nice well-reasoned conclusion while possibly leaving room for a second season.
The animation, while detailed and intricate, did suffer from frequent mistakes. This is however rather typical of the animation studio Shaft who, are known for their frequent mistakes. However, having seen the first episode from the BluRays, a lot of the animation has been tidied up and presumably the remaining episodes will also benefit from this. Therefore, the final BluRay/DVD animation should be of a high quality. The artwork used within the barriers of the Witches was crazy (but appropriate), another Shaft speciality.
The Opening and Ending themes where radically different. The opening, コネクト (Connect) by ClariS, was fast paced but had an element of sadness/desperation in it, especially when combined with the opening's animation. The ennding, Magia by Kalafina, fitted the darker elements of the show much better. However, both the opening and ending are good choices for setting the overall mood of the series. Background music seemed to be used somewhat sparingly, but when used, such as in fight scenes, it fitted perfectly.
While most of the characters featured where girls, this is a magical girl show. However, their personalties where quite wide ranging an each had their own unique reasoning for becoming a magical girl. The series didn't constantly follow Madoka either, often we viewed events through another character's eyes or even saw a flashback of theirs, which often helped to explain current events or revealed vital back-story.
Overall, i've found Madoka to be an excellent show. While I have watched a few magical girl series, such as Nanoha which I did enjoy quite a bit, Madoka strongly differentiates itself from the typicalities of the genre. Most magical girl series are about magical girls fighting evil monsters, and winning. Madoka on the other hand has no problems with making the magical girls loose and putting them through some extremely emotionally testing events. Another difference from the genre is that Madoka had a very strong plot that was hard to predict, rather than the straightforward fight an enemy, fight a bigger enemy plot style. All of these differences really helped enhance the show and made for a very interesting viewing experience. Madoka is definitely not an 'enjoyable' series because of it's dark nature, but it is certainly extremely interesting.
Overall, i'm giving Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4.5/5. It is certainly my favourite magical girl type of show and having now watched it I can understand why it has gained so much praise. Sales figures have recently come out for the first BluRay volume, it sold 53,000 copies in the first week and now holds the record for the most sales of a TV anime BluRay in a week (the previous record holder was Bakemonogatari with 51,000). Madoka has also gained a large Western fanbase and hopefully we'll see it's eventual licencing and release here in the West.
I would highly recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica to any anime fan. It clearly demonstrates that just because a show falls into the magical girl genre, there's no reason not to have a complex, intricate plot and an overall dark feeling. Many thanks to Yesy for subbing up to episode 10, the translation was of a very high quality. Unfortunately, Yesy have not released episode 11 or 12 yet and I had to go with an alternative group in order to watch the finale.