Manchester Comic Con – I Didn’t Know The Brits Went For This Kinda Shit

A BRIEF WARNING: The pictures were taken by my mother, which is why they are a tad blurry and not professional, and also why it’s ok to have a picture of a chick’s butt on here.

A SECOND WARNING: After reading this post, you may lose any and all respect you ever had for me.

Let me begin by saying that when my mother burst into my room with a wide grin and a wild look in her eye, before exclaiming that Manchester was holding a comic con (an event I had, in fact, previously mentioned to her) and that we should go, I wasn’t exactly over-enamoured with the idea.

My reasoning was simple: we’re in England. Northern England. The reason San Diego Comic Con is such a huge thing is because a) it’s in America, where all the comic people live (aside from the occasional brilliant comic-er in the UK, such as Alan Moore or anybody who works for 2000AD) and b) it’s in America, where all the crazy people live. Hell, if it were a London comic con I probably would have been OK with it, because at least London is a major city where all the cool shit happens. Not Manchester, not the bloody North. How could anyone throw a comic con in Manchester?

I still wasn’t thrilled with the whole thing as we turned the corner to Manchester Central and saw a line that rivalled some of the queues for rides at Alton Towers. Super, I thought, now we have to wait for about half an hour to get into this lame event that won’t inspire me in any way.

And then I saw a Chinese child dressed as Pikachu, and suddenly the whole day became a lot more interesting.

As it happens, there are a lot of weird, crazy nerds who live in the North of England, and they were out and about in droves, in costumes that ranged from the simple (the aforementioned Pikachu, a troupe of Disney Princesses), the complex (see the picture below), the expensive (Darth Vader, Boba Fett), the genius (spotted a couple of Team Fortress 2 characters, sadly not there together, but I counted a Red Sniper, Engineer and Scout, as well as a Blu Spy), the not-so-genius (couple of girls dressed in the recent attire that My Chemical Romance have donned, more on that later) and the downright slutty (pics of those later).

It was stood in this queue that I saw many things that my small, eighteen year old brain had not witnessed ever before. For example; a man in a banana outfit wielding a wooden Keyblade, fat chicks in sexy Soul Calibur outfits, emos with signs asking for free hugs (I wish I knew why), and people cross-dressing in the name of nerdiness (a constant topic of conversation in the queue involved whether or not some people were men or women).

I mentioned that my day would only be complete if we witnessed a man dressed as Sailor Moon, since my life goals are meager and bizarre, and a man in the queue with us began to talk with us about comic cons. He wore an Invader Zim t-shirt, which made him cool. I never caught his name, but he was a genuinely nice guy, and he told us a wonderful anecdote about how he once saw a Predator cosplayer with a large grin on his face ponting to a Pikachu plushie in an attempt to buy it.

After around half an hour of waiting we finally made it into the convention building (it would be another five minutes to get into the convention proper) where something very wrong happened. Two girls were leaving the centre, when suddenly there was a loud shriek of excitement from the queue. As I turned to look, I noticed these two girls both stop in bewilderment. Jen pointed out that they were dressed as members of My Chemical Romance, and it was at this point when two girls from the queue dove out to HUG these MCR cosplayers. HUG. In front of ALL THESE PEOPLE. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOCIETY.

When we reached the convention proper, we began to be a tad underwhelmed. As my mother put it, we had paid a fiver to get in to a shopping experience. So really, it was a real convention, with people peddling wares at increased prices because people are bound to pay huge amounts for this kinda shit. There was an Artist’s Alley type affair, with a bunch of comickers I’d never heard of, a video game corner I didn’t hang around, a bunch of footballers who had no place being there, and a Japanese arcade corner that had huge queues and didn’t pique my interest enough for me to hang around for long in.

As for the wares that were being peddled, we had a wide assortment of video game related hats, actual video games that must be considered rare or something, the art from the artists in Artist’s Alley, and an inordinate amount of hentai (seriously, two stands of hentai? Really?), which my mother ALMOST purchased for my uncle as a birthday present until she released that it cost in the region of, oh, say, £25. I guess the Japs take their manga porn very seriously, money-wise.

There was also a candy stall, which offered POCKY, a substance I had heard about numerous times on my travels across the Internets, but never actually found out what it is. My mother, excited through my own personal interest, bought two packets, in chocolate and strawberry flavour.

Pocky is what we know as Mikado, which is sticks of… bread(?) covered in a candy substance. Mikado is tastier, however.

I checked my watch around the time we purchased the Pocky and discovered we had managed half an hour around the convention. With our interest flagging, we headed for the exit, stopping to take a look at the Tokyo Toys stand. And it was there we discovered something that made my heart skip a beat. My mother looked at me and gestured towards it. I nodded, breathless. I saw her move towards the stall owner and ask if he accepted card.

He said no.

My mother grabbed me and suggested that he should hold onto the object out of the goodness of his heart, as it would become a gift for her son.

He said no.

My mother offered a £20 deposit.

He said yes.

A quick departure from the convention to the cash machine and we were back in business.

The item? Well…

Yep. I was bought a Keyblade. It’s a Christmas present, but I was allowed to wander around the convention with it in hand, much to the chagrin of other convention goers who would quite have liked one. It was the last one in stock, too.

Now, I’m aware that a lot of you have just buried your heads in shame at this, the image of me grinning like a tool and clutching a wooden replica of a video game weapon. But I don’t think I’ve been this excited about something in a while, and it was a truly incredible thing to be holding in my hands. Also Jen thought it was cool, so I win.

Mother then decided to go on a small spending spree, purchasing a sweet little pocket watch for herself and a purse in the shape of Kirby for Jen, which was very nice of her.

So, did we enjoy the convention? Well, yes and no. Yes, it was an experience that we will never forget, complete with crazy people in weird costumes and emos giving out free hugs. But no, we felt a little ripped off by the fact that the famous people weren’t that interesting and the event was more of a shopping opportunity for otaku and idiots. Like ourselves.

Still, we walked away with Pocky and a Keyblade, so I consider our trip to Manchester Comic Con a success. Though next year we may just have to go in cosplay. Ya know, to fit in.

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A Half Remembered Review of Harry Potter 7.5

Well thank fuck it’s over.

The Harry Potter series was fantastic when I was growing up – the special effects, the magic, the gripping story, the amazingness. And then I grew up, and the films decided to try to grow up as well. But a lot like your average teenager, the series decided to start taking itself a little too seriously, while trying to mix things up a bit with old in-jokes that only old friends get, and then crying for hours on end because of a boy.

I wish I was kidding, I really do, but HP 6 and 7 were angst fests fuelled by characters with annoyingly over-the-top and yet deadly accurate emotions, played by actors who have never managed to develop their craft since they were 11. I barely remember the sixth installment for anything other than that bit where Hermione bawls her eyes out on the stairs because Ron’s dating a fucking irritating blonde who added nothing to the story but stupid teenage emotion.

The major fault with 7 is that pretty much fuck all happened. Aside from the occasional fight scene, what we had was a load of shots of a tent, followed by Harry/Ron/Hermione looking out across a landscape while the camera did a long-shot rotation around them, and then back to the tent.

Admittedly, none of this is the fault of the film-makers, but the source material – yes, I’m saying it, J.K. Rowling started to run out of good storylines. It was going so well up until HP5, when suddenly we had a pointlessly long quest to find a useless object which told us something we already knew, and made it out to be some massive event. Also Umbridge was pointlessly antagonistic, and not even in a hilariously cruel way, just a poorly written and annoying way.

Anyway. Part 2 of the needlessly long 7th book promised us action by the metric fuckton, with spells flying around so much it was like Guy Fawkes Night as done by a bunch of murderous savages. Needless to say I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it – after all, I nearly clawed my own face off in the previous two films.

But after the two-or-so hours of footage was projected onto a screen in front of me, I felt a little happier with the series. Only a little, mind.

Let’s start with the positives – the action wasn’t bad. Plenty of big charging scenes, just the right side of enough violence for a family film, and it was all easy to follow, something I fucking LOVE in movies. The story was unpredictable enough to be interesting, although I suppose if you’d read the books (or been told the ending, as I was) then you probably wouldn’t feel the same way. And, well, it was just good fun.

But if we start looking under the surface, HP7+1/2 begins to show a couple of cracks. The main characters -still- can’t act. They’ve been making these films for fucking years, and they really couldn’t be bothered to hone their craft, even just a little? Daniel Radcliffe gives yet another cliche and wooden performance, Rupert Grint is comic relief and nothing more, and Emma Watson is still gratingly dull. It might not be their fault, but the director trying to make them more like the old films and the source material – for example, Kristen Stewart is wooden in the “Twilight” saga, but she was pretty OK in “What Just Happened?”.

Everyone else gives good performances, but frankly, every good British actor in the film, bar Ralph Fiennes, gets shafted for the Harry/Voldemort battle. Helena Bonham Carter, who has been nominated for fucking OSCARS, is reduced to the occasional evil laugh and about four garbled lines which are basically just “is he dead?” over and over. Only Neville (actor name unknown and I don’t give a shit) gets anything more than a passing nod, and that’s only because he has a pretty major role in the events of the film, yet his performance is so wooden I could use it as scaffolding. My dad remarked that this could be deliberate, but fuck that.

Secondly, all the side plots are pretty much dealt with in seconds because of the Harry/Voldemort story taking up too much goddamn time. The battle between the Weasly mum and Bellatrix lasts one quick quip (which was so over-repeated by everyone on the Internet that it wasn’t funny when spoken) and a brief back-and-forth before HBC gives out her last cry, dies, picks up her paycheck and buggers off to make worthwhile cinema. The major twist of Fred/George (don’t know which) dying is avoided, save for a three second shot of a dead body that might be one of them. Basically, all the plots we could have had some fun with are abandoned in favour for a plot that isn’t strong enough to hold anyone’s attention for long.

Third, why is it so ploddy? The action suddenly stops for about twenty minutes so the big twist can happen, and then starts up again just as suddenly

Fourth, is it just me or was the sound mixing all over the place? When the action got going in the first third, the sound went quiet when all the big exciting things started happening, which then meant the dialogue was a tad on the quiet side.

Fifth,

Sadly I can't find the topless shot, but this aggravates me too.

But despite all my complaints, Harry Potter 7 pt.2 was actually far more enjoyable than the last three films put together. Which isn’t saying much, but still. It’s bound to be loved by everyone and their fucking dog because it’s Harry Potter (it’s got 96% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing), and hell, why shouldn’t it be? It’s lame, cheesy fun that tries to be grown up and instead trips and falls on it’s untied Converse. But fuck it, at least we don’t have to watch anymore Harry Potter films, right?

Right?

EDIT: OH YEAH! Now I remember the other thing I hated! The ending! How hilariously bad was the aging process? It’s like the director sat down with wardrobe and said “right, let’s stick some shit facial fluff on Harry and Ron, and that’ll definitely add about 15 years on.” Barney’s Version it ‘aint.