Con Diary: Nan Desu Kan 2014. Anime! J-Dramas! Cosplay! Academics!

NDK 2014 Program Guide cover art by Stephanie Kao

It had been two years since I’ve attended an anime convention. Unfortunately, my last con experience was awkward and disappointing. The con—which must-not-be-named—had transformed from a fan-centered experience one year to an industry-centered experience the next, and, sadly, it discouraged me from attending any new cons in the future.

Despite my reservations about anime con capitalism and toxic fan culture, I decided to attend Nan Desu Kan with my friends this year anyway. NDK, as it is commonly called, is the largest anime con in the Rocky Mountain region, and it was definitely my favorite anime convention. To give you an idea of my con background, I’ve attended a variety of anime cons, from my first and smallest con experience in Pittsburgh at Tekko ten years ago to my largest con experience in Baltimore at Otakon back in 2010.

As I mentioned, for me, NDK has always been my favorite anime con. It is a family-friendly atmosphere with an inclusive schedule that appeals to a diverse audience. Similar to most anime cons across the country, the majority of attendees and cosplayers are high school students. But there are also many twenty and thirty-somethings in attendance and some well-organized panels for the older demographic. The con runs for twenty-four hours—starting in the evening on Friday and ending in the evening on Sunday—and attendees can get a healthy dose of anime from a variety of video rooms.

This year, there were two video rooms playing anime and one Asian cinema room that played a variety of J- and K-dramas. In previous years, I would have spent most of my time in the video rooms soaking in all the anime I could handle. But now, with the ease of access to anime on legal sites such as Crunchyroll, the amount of anime I can watch at home for free or a low cost has increased exponentially, and the time I spend in video rooms at cons has decreased to almost zero hours. Even so, the video rooms are a great place to relax in or watch a variety of anime, especially if you’re new to this form of media.

2_1My friends and I started the con weekend on Friday by getting our geek on and going to some of our favorite geek shops in Denver. We visited 2nd & Charles—a used media store—at the Flatirons in Broomfield and ended up buying the hilarious “Choose Your Own Adventure” DVD the Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure. Our interest in D&D carried over into the con when we spent about an hour playing the Lords of Waterdeep: A Dungeons & Dragons Board Game in the Board Game Room—another great place to escape the con’s crowds and relax.

And finally, on Friday night, we also went to Lollipcup on Colorado Boulevard to drink some bubble tea and relax. If you are ever in Denver, I also highly recommend visiting the Tattered Cover Bookstore downtown for both new and used books.

This year, I spent most of my time at NDK attending a variety of panels, many of which had a more academic flare. I especially enjoyed Dr. Ian Condry’s (@iancondry) panel “The Soul of Anime” on Friday night. Dr. Condry is an anthropologist in the comparative media studies department at MIT. I had actually come across his book The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story a few weeks before the con when I was conducting some research on the idea of anime as art. As a trained anthropologist myself, I was very interested in what Dr. Condry had to say about how fan culture drives the anime industry.

I had a really good time meeting Robbie Daymond (@robbiedaymond), the English voice actor for Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask in Viz Media’s redub of the original Sailor Moon series.

On Saturday, the “Feminism in Anime” panel was surprisingly popular—although it wasn’t that surprising given the misogyny we have seen in the gaming community as of late—and I also really enjoyed and learned a lot at “The Touhou Project” panel. One suggestion I would give to future panelists: please introduce yourself at the beginning of the panel, so that attendees can get a feeling for your background and interests and perhaps even connect with you later through Twitter or some other social media outlet!

4NDK also hosted the 2015 World Cosplay Summit‘s Mountain qualifier. Seven groups competed for a chance to attend the national competition, which will take place at Katsucon 2015, where contestants will compete against teams from around the country for a chance to represent team USA in the final competition in Japan. First place was awarded to “Ennui Killed the Cosplay” for their rendition of The World of Mystic Wiz, and the wild card was awarded to “Elemental Moon Cosplay” for their rendition of Howl’s Moving Castle.

If you ever get a chance to go to any events that involve the WCS, I highly recommend attending. These cosplayers and actors are the crème de la crème—their costumes are professional and artistic, their skits are entertaining and clever, and the event will leave you feeling respect and awe for the artists involved.

5I attended the national competition at Katsucon in 2012, and although I am not a cosplayer myself, I have been interested in the art of cosplay ever since. Of course, cosplay is an important part of NDK. This year, Attack on Titan was by far the most popular anime to cosplay. There were Survey Corps members everywhere! Some of them even had the 3D Maneuver Gear! Final Fantasy, Kill la Kill, Legend of Zelda, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Pokémon, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sailor Moon, and Sword Art Online were also popular choices.

The Dealers Room and Artists Alley were also very popular and well organized. Being a bit of a minimalist myself, I did not purchase anything, but I did enjoy looking at the talented artwork available at Artists Alley. My friend purchased some prints—including a very cute depiction of Kirito and Sinon from Sword Art Online II— from Miooo. I also really liked the art by aurAspirality and Tea at 2AM. NDK does not seem to get a lot of press coverage.

Fortunately, every year, Westword publishes an online article containing photographs of some of the best cosplay from the con, and artist Barbara Bwillett has written about her con experience on her blog as well.

So, did you attend NDK this year? What did you enjoy about it? Do you have any constructive criticisms to offer? Why do you attend anime cons? What kinds of experiences (i.e. cosplay, panels, video rooms, dealers room, etc.) are important to you when you attend cons? Sound off in the comments!

Featured image from NDK 2014 Program Guide cover art by Stephanie Kao.
Rine Karr

Rine Karr

Rine Karr is the former Chief Copy Editor and an occasional contributor at Women Write About Comics. Rine is a writer and aspiring novelist by moonlight and a copy editor by daylight. Rine loves good food, travel, and lots of fiction, especially novels, anime, manga, video games, and films. Rine is also an Anime Writer at Girls in Capes.