This past weekend marked the 14th year of Denver's premier anime convention, Nan Desu Kan. This fanfest for all things Japanese animation started in 1997 with a one-day party that 205 people attended. Now a full weekend event, Nan Desu Kan 2009 attracted 7,000 fans each day, and numbers for this year still being tallied. Next year the attendance will likely be capped.
With no other major anime convention in the region of this size, we wanted to check it out, and see what regional fandom is like.
And actually, it's pretty pleasant.
We went Saturday, spending the morning traipsing through the hotel and photographing costumes. Nearly everyone is dressed up as a favorite character from an anime series or movie, and when fans aren't sitting in on panel discussions, film screenings or shopping at the dealers room, they're snapping off shots of fellow fans, who are more than willing to share their look.
From those we talked to, the major trends this time around had to be the prevalence of sci-fi fans (with a whiff of disdain for the Darth Vaders walking around) and more steampunk costumes than ever before.
At NDK, the biggest activity has to be just walking around through the halls, meeting fellow otakus and others obsessed with your favorite series. Around every corner, people are hugging, with twee shouts of "I love you!" and "Can I hug you?" Here, the relief of acceptance is palpable.
That night, we attended the Cosplay and Costume Contest, where contestants in children's, beginners', intermediates' and masters' levels strutted their outfits. Some homemade, some professionally done, all over my head.
Most of the cosplayers posed on stage, some swiping around swords to music, others speaking a favorite line into the mic. But just as thrilling as the costumes, had to be the roar of the crowd for certain characters, namely those from the series Bleach, Evangelion and, wait for it ... Pokemon, still as popular as ever. It would seem, the cuter the character, the happier the fans.