A lot more goes into anime conventions than nerds and cartoons.
Many fans pull late nights finishing up their costumes. Others do what they can to scrape up some extra dough to blow in the dealers room. And many are just antsy for another year of anime splendor. But when the weekend hits, there is nothing but nerdy excitement coursing through the veins of eager fans.
Nan Desu Kan is one of the 10 largest anime conventions in the United States and the largest convention in Colorado and the 14 surrounding states.
NDK blessed the Denver Marriot Tech Center Sept. 14-16. The event, a phenomenon in itself, got its start right here on campus. It began in the Tivoli Student Union as a fan-run event in 1997 with around 200 attendees.
Sixteen years later, NDK hosts tens of thousands of fans and, for the first time this year, the convention hit the attendance cap for Saturday’s events.
In addition to anime, NDK offered a vast arrangement of Japan-centric pop culture. There were panels, guest speakers, music videos, movies, video games, a cosplay (costume play) contest, a concert and art show.
And for those willing to spend a little extra money, on top of the $50 three-day pass or $30 one-day pass, the dealers room, auction and artists alley offered many souvenir options for attendees.
“The atmosphere is so amazing and meeting new people, finding a new group that I didn’t even know at first, and just meeting new friends are the best parts,” said Christina Kinney from Colorado Springs. “I like seeing the balcony contests and cosplay contest and seeing the creativity in everyone.”
The Marriot has hotel room balconies that overlook its main atrium. NDK held a balcony contest and encouraged fans to decorate their balconies. Some balcony themes included “The Legend of Zelda,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Fullmetal Alchemist.”
The decked-out balconies added a creative touch to the atrium, which held the artists alley, an area featuring arts and crafts from several artists for fans to peruse and shop at. Among the booths was Scuttlebutt Inc. where San Francisco artist J.D. Saxon showed off some of her work at NDK’s artists alley.
“Originally I used to do a lot of cosplay, but it is very expensive as a hobby and so, I was like, ‘I also like drawing so, maybe I’ll try doing the artist alley because then I can make some money to support my cosplay habits.’ So I did that for a good six years and in the last two years art has kind of taken over my life,” Saxon said.
Saxon’s most prized piece was her comic book, “Shounen Fight!” which she described as a spin-off of “Sailor Moon” but with magical guys as characters. The comic currently has four full chapters, with the fifth in the works. It is available as an online comic at www.mahoushounenfight.com.
A new attraction at this year’s NDK involved Lolita, which is a Japanese subculture that plays off fashion from baroque and Victorian-era culture. Women from the Colorado Gothic Lolita Society aimed to educate fans on the Lolita culture.
“The Lolita event was one of my favorites. I like the pretty outfits and girliness,” said Ambir Kalthoff of Denver. “I’m not a girly girl, but it’s fun to see them.”
Besides supporting Japanese pop culture and its fans, NDK, which is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Anime Association, does a lot of charity work. Fans were asked to bring in non-perishable foods that the convention donated and each year they choose several organizations to make donations to.
Last year they donated about $24,000 to the Japan Red Cross to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. This year, NDK is making contributions to the American Heart Association and the Aurora Victim Relief Foundation for those affected in the Aurora shooting over the summer.
NDK has grown exponentially since its small beginning in the Tivoli. It’s now a huge, annual event full of activities for nerds of all shapes and sizes that raises thousands of dollars for charity.