Nan Desu Kan 2013by Bamboo Dong, Sep 20th 2013
Despite state-wide flash floods that buried freeways and crumpled bridges, fans braved the elements to attend Nan Desu Kan 17, a Denver-based convention that prides itself on being the “premier anime convention of the Rockies.” Taking place September 14-16, 2013 at the Marriott DTC, where the convention has resided for the past nine years, this year marked the convention's seventeenth birthday.
When I went to my first Nan Desu Kan (and my first convention) in 2000, the total attendance was only 4,431. Thirteen years later, Nan Desu Kan is a lot bigger, and it's a lot more crowded, too. The dealers' room is now accessible only by a long wait in line, and fans line up for hours just to step inside the rave. Lines for the elevators snake down the hallway. And yet, at its heart, it's somehow remained unchanged. Even though the attendance has quintupled since my first Nan Desu Kan (unchecked growth is stymied by hotel space; daily attendance is capped at 7,500 attendees, not including complimentary badges and volunteers), it still feels like a small-town con. Location-wise, it strikes a good balance between town and country. It's just far enough outside of the city center to provide fans a secluded place that feels all their own, but a short walk to the nearby light rail station provides fast access to downtown Denver and its cosmopolitan hang-out spots.
For fans who have only been to now-massive anime conventions like Anime Expo or Otakon, or pop culture juggernauts like San Diego Comic Con and Dragon*Con, it's hard to understand the quaint appeal of a smaller convention (for comparison, Anime Expo 2013 had a turnstile attendance of over 161,000, while a sold-out Nan Desu Kan controls attendance at just over 22,000). But with a smaller attendance size comes warmer hospitality, more attentive staff, and the ability to calmly handle any problems that might befall the event.
As if flooding in many parts of the state wasn't enough of a headache, Saturday was an unprecedented series of unfortunate events. It started with a fire alarm that was inadvertently caused by an attendee who triggered her hotel room's smoke detector by using spray paint. Thanks to the discipline of the convention's hundreds of staff members and volunteers, all 7,000-plus attendees were calmly and quickly evacuated in minutes. Medical volunteers tirelessly traipsed through the crowd, offering glasses of water to any who needed it. Pairs of volunteers hovered by guests and industry professionals, ensuring they were never without chaperones. When the hotel was declared safe to re-enter, the crowd was calmly herded back inside, with barely a hitch in operations. Somehow, the day still wasn't over. The rest of Saturday was pock-marked by tornado warnings and medical incidents—the masquerade was halted to address an attendee's health emergency. And yet, the convention soldiered on for the 7,000-some attendees who were able to attend .
Prior to the weekend, heavy rains (described by some media outlets as “Biblical”) poured down on many parts of the state, crippling the infrastructure and cutting off entire regions from the Denver metro area. Anime fans are nothing if not resilient and determined, though, and many were insistent on making their way to the convention, come Hell or… well, high water. Some attendees spent five hours carefully navigating their way through a jumble of closed roads and detours—for trips that usually only take 40 minutes. Ironically, it was the out-of-staters that had the smoothest trips, as rain barely made a dent in Denver International's daily operations.
Still, there were many who couldn't attend. For those, Nan Desu Kan has posted information regarding badge roll-overs, allowing attendees to use their pre-registration for next year's convention.
Industry reps in attendance included Justin Rojas from Funimation, E.J. Rivera from Aniplex USA, and John Sirabella.
At the Aniplex USA panel, Rivera announced that the company would be releasing the anime series Vividred Operation and Oreshura. Vividred Operation will be subtitle-only, and will be available as a complete set on DVD. The boxset will include all twelve episodes, as well as five postcards and reversible cover art. Meanwhile, Oreshura will be released in a complete, 13-episode DVD boxset with English subtitles. Extras will include a special booklet and reversible cover art.
At the Media Blasters panel, Sirabella talked briefly about some of their upcoming releases, mentioning that they will be dubbing Ladies versus Butlers, which they previously announced on their Facebook page. Sirabella also revealed that he would be going to Japan next month on business, hinting that the company is actively looking for licenses. He mentioned later that the company is currently focusing on "fanservicey" titles.
Guests this year ranged from voice actors to Japanese and American industry guests, as well as two musicians. Amongst the many voice talents in attendance were Bryce Papenbrook, Cherami Leigh, and Patrick Seitz, who play Kirito, Asuna, and Agil in the popular Sword Art Online series; as well as Chris Patton (Kaoru from Kids on the Slope, Asura in Soul Eater), Clarine Harp (China from Hetalia Axis Powers, Sei from Burst Angel), David Vincent (Grimmjow Jeagerjaques from Bleach), Kara Edwards (Goten and Videl from Dragon Ball Z), Lauren Landa (Kyoko Sakura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica), Leah Clark (Nodoka from Negima), Taliesin Jaffe (Blanka and Adon from Street Fighter IV, ADR director for Hellsing, ROD the TV), Tia Ballard (Happy the Cat from Fairy Tail), Todd Haberkorn (Keroro from Sgt. Frog, Death the Kid from Soul Eater), and Tyson Rinehart (Itaru Hashida from Steins;Gate).
From the industry side, the convention welcomed Hidenori Matsubara, who has done the character design for classic series like Oh My Goddess and Sakura Wars, and is currently working on the new Evangelion movies. Other guests included industry veteran Jan Scott-Frazier, Robotech Creative Director Tommy Yune, and Harmony Gold V.P. of New Media Steve Yun.
Music lovers also had the opportunity to attend a few concerts, thanks to musical guests Lotus Juice and Raj Ramayya.
Lotus Juice (LJ) is a Japanese-American rapper who has lent his skills to several anime and video game titles in the Persona franchise, starting with Persona 3. Other video game projects have included songs for the most recent Dead or Alive game, DOA 5. On the anime side, he has contributed songs for titles like Soul Eater, Katanagatari, Black Butler, and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Nan Desu Kan marked LJ's first North American convention appearance.
Raj Ramayya's name may not be known yet to many anime fans, but his voice most certainly is. He's collaborated in the past with Yoko Kanno, serving as a songwriter and session singer with The Seatbelts on a few songs, including writing the lyrics for "Cosmic Dare (Pretty with a Pistol)" and singing the opening credits song "Ask DNA." He also wrote and sang "Strangers" from Wolf's Rain. Other music projects have included his Indian fusion music project Bhang Lassi, his folk rock band The Beautiful Losers, and his #1 iTunes chart-topping collaboration with Japanese electronica group Studio Apartment, "Strawberry Rainbow."
For cosplayers, they had the chance to enter the convention masquerade, or strut their stuff in the Mountain Qualifiers for the World Cosplay Summit. All of the skits for the World Cosplay Summit qualifiers can be viewed in this official WCS playlist. This year's winners were Green Jello Cosplay, who cosplayed as characters from the Guilty Crown anime.
In addition to industry professionals and guests, fan panels and shows, there was another “event” that was held over the weekend— the Atrium Balcony Decorating Contest.
The Marriott DTC (Denver Tech Center) is comprised of two primary towers— a standard, eleven-story tower, and shorter, five-story tower that opens onto an indoor atrium. In recent years, Nan Desu Kan has offered a small bonus for atrium-facing rooms—attendees are encouraged to decorate their balconies, which are then put up for a fan vote. For those lucky enough to snag a coveted atrium room, it means being able to force your design and nerd aesthetic on tens of thousands of con-goers. For attendees, it means the unique experience of perusing Artist Alley tables while a human-sized Domo leers at you from a railing, or a Power Rangers birthday party watches you shop. Prizes are enviable too, ranging from a free room for next year's convention, to free convention passes.
For those who missed Closing Ceremonies, a few guests have already been announced for next year— Silent Hill composer and singer Akira Yamaoka, voice actress Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and voice actor Chuck Huber.
Overall, Nan Desu Kan was not without its share of hiccups (floods, tornado scares, hotel-wide evacuations…), but thanks in large part to its well-trained, enthusiastic staff members and volunteers, the convention ran smoothly and efficiently. With its friendly atmosphere and tight-knit community, Nan Desu Kan delivered a warm, hospitable experience that just can't be duplicated at the big city cons.
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