Another NDK has come and gone here in Colorado. Even the weather and alarms couldn’t stop the con and keep people away from sharing their like interest in Japanese culture. It is amazing to think how much NDK has grown to “the largest anime con in the Rockies” (minus Texas) in the 13 years I’ve been in attendance. It has gone from having a few hundred attendees for the whole weekend to having attendance caps each day to accommodate the space and the amount wishing to attend. It’s great to see how much the con has grown but keeps to it’s roots as a smaller personalized con.
NDK is not the biggest convention around, capping at 22,500 attendees for the weekend or 7,500 per day, but that’s part of it’s charm. While I do remember the days of being able to just walk straight into the dealer’s room, wandering the halls in search of the handfuls of people in costume, to attending whatever panel I wished, I find that the growth has helped NDK pull from a larger group of people to head up panels and to bring in industry guests that might not want to attend a tiny convention, but not one either that’s so large it’s overwhelming. I’m always surprised by the diversity and quality of panels and guests that come every year, and frankly I think things are great.
This NDK though, marked one of the first years I attended less panels (mostly due to schedule conflicts and increasing our number of interviews). I was so conflicted on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see, which attests to the number of interesting panels offered. Here’s a quick overview of the panels that were attended.
Opening Ceremonies: Want to know who’s here, what’s going on and what to expect? Then look no further than Opening Ceremonies. It’s usually not a super-crowded event in the main events area, so if you’ve never been, I recommend going. It’s a good way to see all the industry guests (most ever this past year I might add) and get a preview of what the con is all about. It’s also a good way to put names to faces of the Board of Directors who put on the con every year. These people do a lot of work to keep NDK a fun con with a small-town feel. So thank you directors, staff, and volunteers for another great con experience!
Japanese Theater: This panel was an introductory overview of the 4 main types of theater in Japan and how they have influenced anime and Japanese culture as a whole. These 4 types of theater are Noh, Kabuki, Bunraku and Takarazuka. The presenter had a lot of good visual examples of the different theater types with explanations about costuming and staging. Noh is considered to be perhaps the oldest form of theater that influenced Kabuki. Kabuki theater is known for their elaborate costuming as well as being exclusively male dominated. Bunraku theater is done entirely with large, intricate puppets wielded by a team of 3 puppeteers. Takarazuka is a modern theater form with a heavy western influence and all female casts. I wish there had been additional time to discuss more about the cultural traits that are instantly recognized by Japanese audiences and how they influence anime, such as red being used for the hero character while blue/purple is often used for the antagonist or anti-hero. Regardless, I feel the panel head was very knowledgeable on the subject and gave a good panel.
Copyright and Censorship: This panel was loaded with a lot of information and some that I know all too well being an artist. There was a lot of information given about current copyright laws both here in the US as well as Japan and how various treaties, the internet and the digital age have blurred some of the lines and put rigidity into others. The panelists were very well informed and did a lot of good research into this topic, so I’ll just put this handy contact here if you’d like to find out more by getting a copy of their powerpoint. It’ll explain things about this complicated subject much more clearly than I can here.
The Red Wine Podcast with Leah Clark: This was an interesting discussion panel that is much better listened to than me explaining what went down. We weren’t allowed to record the discussion ourselves, but you can listen to it and the other podcasts in this series at the Red Wine Podcast here. The main discussion was polyamorous relationships and fetishes. No wonder this was an 18+ late night panel!
Behind the Scenes with Blu-Ray and DVD Production: This panel was hosted by industry guests Patrick Seitz and Clarine Harp. This was a great panel to attend and I was sad to see that the room was barely a third full for it. There was a lot of information given about how Funimation picks up license from Japan and how they release these titles for American audiences. They talked about how simulcasts are negotiated and picked up as well as how titles are produced for DVD and Blu-Ray. There was also a good discussion on how the English adaptations are done for dubbing and how to make them fit with an American/western mind-set and culture. Funimation does so much behind the scenes that we don’t get to see as fans and I think we don’t realize how much they do care about the titles and products they release. They really do take what their fans have to say serious. They look at the surveys and feedback they receive to tweak their products and release the titles and extras we want to see as fans. The best way we can support them is to watch the simulcasts and buy the products as they are released. Let’s show our appreciation by voting with our money.
Funimation Panel: Unfortunately this was the panel that was interrupted by the fire alarm causing the full building evacuation. I must say though that we attendees and staff rocked as everyone got out in a calm orderly fashion and got back in just as well. Check out our Funimation interview with Justin Rojas for all the latest about Funimation and what’s coming. (I’m looking at you Cowboy Bebop on Blu-Ray for 2014!)
AMV Winners: If you can’t make it for the AMV Contest proper, this is a great way to get a cap on the category winners as well as see who won the AMV Iron Chef competition. Due to panel overlaps I was unable to attend the Contest proper and got to see the winners at least. This panel again is held in main events and isn’t largely attended so it’s easy to get in. Check back here on our website to see this year’s winners. I’ve got to say that I was impressed this year and that Wolf Children looks amazing. (It comes out in November. Christmas present for all I say!)
Other time was spent just wandering the con, checking out the dealer’s room (artbooks and DVDs, oh my!), hitting up artist alley (you guys all rock from one artist to another!) checking out the art show (where did all the entries go?), observing all the cool costumes (they get better every year!) and furiously checking my 3DS Street Pass. Comic Con may have had more people but I got over 500 passes vs. the 70 or so I got there, so NDK we love our handheld Nintendo devices do we not?
What’s in store for the future of NDK? I hope that it’s a continuation of what’s been present with some tweaks along the way. I love the fact that NDK is a smaller convention that still has a good amount of people through the weekend. Is it a bit crowded at the Marriott? Yes, but I don’t really want it any bigger. The next available spaces would be at the Colorado Convention Center or Coloseum and if it was held there I feel that NDK would lose that small con feel and be like everyone else; how many people can we get in here? I like seeing that there are so many of us geeks, but it gets to an overwhelming point with too many people. My first Denver Comic Con felt that way and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do NDK. I do like NDK’s negotiation with the Hilton this past year though. While only autographs were held across the street, it freed up some additional rooms for larger panel areas which was a welcome relief. I really do enjoy panels and the fact that more people could get into the panel rooms to get the panel content is a welcome consideration. I don’t know what next year holds, but maybe there will be another branch out into the Hilton for a few more panels to be held there. I’m eager to see what NDK has planned. Overall, I had another enjoyable, tiring con experience and I look forward to next year!