Another year, another fun weekend at Nan Desu Kan! This year marks my tenth year attending NDK and I must say every year I’m reminded why I love anime and attending this con so much. There is so much to cover from the last three days from the new hotel, to the amazing guests, panels, and costumes. Let’s kick this review off by talking about the changes that happened this year then we will get into all of the good stuff, guests, panels, and costumes followed by the overall experience of this quiet blogger. Ready…set…review!
This year we saw some major changes, most notably a new hotel and new dates. The first change, the hotel was in my opinion very needed and welcomed. I first started attending the first year the con moved to the Marriott in the Tech Center. Back then the con was smaller and it felt as though we would never run out of space as attendees. We could move freely and getting into a panel, with the exception of the AMV Contest and costume and cosplay contest, was a breeze! Slowly but surely every year the love of all things anime grew and more and more fans came to the nice big hotel making it seem like we were a bunch of sardines in a can that had long ago became too small. This posed a challenge for con directors…continue to have an attendance cap and risk losing out on the new fans being able to share their love of anime or find a bigger space to continue to grow. Due to some other circumstances as well as the attendance, the con moved from the Marriott in the Tech Center to the Sheraton downtown.
This hotel is so much bigger and was able, in my humble opinion to manage the many otaku that came out this weekend. We were all able to move and breathe without feeling like those sardines the whole weekend…even Saturday, the busiest day of the con! There were also some downsides, many complaints could be seen on social media and heard while wondering the halls. The two major complaints I saw and heard were the cost of the rooms and the lack of free or low cost parking onsite. This forced many of us, myself included to think of other options for getting to and from the hotel for the weekend. If you were like so many you chose to stay at the hotel; perhaps with a group in order to off-set the cost of a higher price tag. A bit of good news on this front is that we did get a discount. Yes it was up from previous years but it was far cheaper than it could have been (by at least $100.00 is the number I heard). There were many more rooms, allowing more people to stay close by all of the action. With the new space came more people and more cars which brings up the next change and the other complaint I heard so much, the parking!
With this new location, into one of the busiest parts of our great city came great challenges in finding the best way to get there at the beginning of the weekend and how to get back to reality at the end of Sunday. There was onsite parking at the hotel however; it did not come cheap for those that decided they wanted to park there each day. For this reason many of us decided to either take public transportation or carpool. I heard many people ask why the parking issue existed. The reason is very simple I’m afraid. Unlike the hotels that the con was held at in the past the Sheraton does not own the lot they are built on top of thus, rendering it difficult for them to offer a discount like they had done for the rooms. To add to this frustration were the other events going on in and around the city, the Taste of Colorado anyone? That’s right our lovely con was not the only draw to the city and the 16th street mall. Those that decided that the hotel was not an option this year had to wrestle for coveted parking spaces from people coming into the downtown area for the Taste of Colorado. So what was left to do but take public transportation or see if someone was willing to risk their sanity or your friendship to get everyone there? It was a good space and there was parking. The hotel was easy enough to navigate that by the end of your first day you had a pretty good idea of where you needed to go. Many were pleased with the new space and before long we all settled into the flow of the weekend. On to the review of the things we saw at NDK 2015!
Since we are a small blog we were not able to see everything that went on, no matter how much will we had our brains and bodies could only do so much before crashing each day. We did get to see some great things and wanted to pass along what we were able to get to for those that were either in other panels or not able to get to these particular events for other reasons. First up will be opening ceremonies followed by the Animiku concert on Friday. Saturday we saw panels on guests, the AMV’s, and of course the costume and cosplay contest. Sunday was much shorter, with fewer events attended due to needing to get ready to go back to reality on Monday. Sunday’s coverage includes the Japanese emoji panel and the SANA roundtable. We’ll finish up with an overall review of the con weekend. For now, let’s dive into Friday and opening ceremonies!
Each year thousands pour into the con-space eager to see everything and say hi to friends we haven’t seen in a while. Of course there are lots of things to see and do that first Friday but the weekend hasn’t officially begun until opening ceremonies starts. This year’s opening ceremonies began with Jeremy and Kelly’s seemingly endless amounts of excitement and energy describing what was in store for everyone this year. We met the group of people that work throughout the year to bring us three amazing days, got an explanation of all the changes we should expect this weekend, and the panels that were happening this weekend, and this year’s charity-The Denver Dumb Friend’s League. Next up was guest introduction. This year’s 20+ guests included distinguished guests from Japan, a vocaloid musical guest, guests from academia, industry members, artists and cosplayers, and everyone’s favorite, voice actors! This is everyone’s chance to put a face to the voice of our beloved characters, artwork, or franchise. This section gets everyone ready to go and excited for what we have in store for us the rest of the weekend. After this, we were all ready to officially kick off the con.
One of the events we as a blog try and cover each year is the concert. Dancing, singing, and overall fun happen each year with guests that love to perform and share their talent with people. This year’s concert was a little different in how we got to interact with the musical act. The concert this year was done by Animiku Productions run by Re:VB-P featuring Miku. This was the first Vocaloid concert done at NDK and had two showings, Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The concert featured 18 songs performed solo and as duets with other vocaloid characters. As novices to the vocaloid scene we were unsure of what to expect. There was dancing, singing, some special effects, and audience participation and excitement. We were provided with room to dance and those that wanted or needed had chairs to sit in. The overall performance was good, with pleasing audio and visual effects. Some of the movements however seemed a bit too simulated making it distracting at some points. It was also frustrating having other concert goers talking through the show instead of watching the performance; this was the most distracting piece of the whole show. As previously stated, it was a good show and it would be great to see them come back again with even more added to the show.
This brings us to Saturday, the busiest day of the con. Saturday was filled with amazing panels, fabulous costumes, and AMV’s that make some of us green with envy at the skill level these editors are showing off. We won’t go too far into detail on the AMV’s since there will be a separate post about the show and the winners. What will be discussed are the changes that were made this year. Since the beginning of this blogger’s time at NDK there have always been four categories Action, Drama, Category X, and comedies. This year they added a fifth, Fun and/or upbeat. This was the category or AMV’s that didn’t really fit in any of the other categories but needed to be shown because of the talent that created them. There was also another change to the AMV’s; we actually got to keep a list of the videos with the title, editor, and song so we could find them later after the con to be re-watched. This was made possible by making the ballots out of cardstock and having the voting portion is detachable at the bottom. This made for a much more enjoyable experience, now we don’t have to feel guilty about asking for a second ballot so we can watch the exact videos we loved later, or in our case to keep track of and report the winners. After fueling our want to watch more anime it was time to meet one of the guests and listen to his experiences in the industry, it was time to see none other than Piccolo himself Toshio Furukawa!
Mr. Furukawa made his NDK debut this year and delighted his fans with stories about the characters he has played. We even got to try our hand at being a voice actor with him. During his panel, Mr. Furukawa focused on the characters he has played and provided samples of the voices for some of them and gave the audience a chance to experience what it might be like to have that job for a day. He discussed some of the differences in the voices and how he viewed them. It’s also worth noting and remembering, for a lot of actors the voices are not easy to do every day. The portrayal of the character also may change. We can sometimes think the reason the character changes are because the voice actor or writer wished to do so. But, it can also be natural progression and growth in the character. The example he provided was Kai Shiden from Mobile Suit Gundam going from sort of young and naïve to becoming more confident throughout the series.
After the enjoyment of Q and A with Mr., Furukawa it was time for the costume and cosplay context. This year’s contest included the following categories: Children, beginners, intermediate, masters, and skits with 59 different entries. This is also another event where the talent of the contestants is continuing to amaze, so much so it was hard to choose the favorite. They have also been adding in fashion shows during the intermission so that attendees of the event are not sitting idly by while ballots are counted. This year h.naoto sent some things and put on a show. If you are like us and have no idea who that is we will spare you the embarrassment you obviously feel and tell you he does what appears to be some Gothic Lolita fashion. Both the contest and fashion show were done well, and as stated in the AMV section a blog post, with pictures of the amazing outfits will be posted at a later time.
After the excitement and adventure of Saturday, Sunday came around promising a nice relaxing day filled with more Japanese culture. This time around we focused on many of the SANA panels. The first panel we will be discussing is the Japanese emoji with Dr. Alisa Freedman We looked at the culture of cellphone novels and the differences between American eBook habits verses the Japanese. This panel also focused on how cellphone culture in particular has changed throughout the last decade with the creation of smartphones and texting. The creation of these things has changed the way we communicate with each other both over the phone and electronic correspondence. Texting has become such a large part of our lives that we now have created short hand and incorporated pictures into our repertoire. There are thousands of pictures or emoji that we add into text each day that mean so many things making it possible to get a lot of information across to the person we are texting these images to in a few tiny pictures. One of best way to understand the pictures and their meanings when you don’t have a member of faculty who studies these things to tell you their meaning is to visit websites such as emojipedia and iemoji.com. These will help you up your texting or tweeting game.
Last up was the SANA roundtable with Professor Peggy O’Neil and Dr. Freedman. This panel asks the question of why anime is so popular in the U.S. This was a much more informal panel relying heavily on audience participation. What began as a discussion on where we first were introduced to anime and manga quickly became discussion on ways to improve what’s out there so we can have more! Many of the audience members brought knowledge and ideas on this matter that we believe could take and probably should take much more time than the hour we were allowed. Even though we were small in numbers in the group our hope here is that everyone in that group walked away with some determination to educate others on ways to bring more, better quality adaptations of Japanese literature and visual media to the U.S. so we can continue to enjoy it and come together to share our experiences.
Thus wraps up another year and another NDK. This year was filled with many changes and many exciting adventures. The overall impression of the con was a positive one, more space, more food options, and more fun! We hope you enjoyed the review from our perspective. We hope to see you all and make more new friends at next year’s NDK but until then, Game On!