Nan Desu Kan 2012: Next level anime convention awesomeness
I am in no position to call anyone a "nerd." Coming from me -- a mere observer/outsider at this past weekend's Nan Desu Kan Sweet 16th annual Anime convention -- that word would be derogatory...and wrong. Sure, anyone could snag a ticket (or a three-day pass, as I did) to the gathering celebrating anime and gaming of all eras, tropes and worldly origins. But once you were inside the sacred halls of the Marriott Denver Tech Center's full-on transformation into NDK, you were in a safe and sacred space where those who are devoted to the art form congregated to celebrate it -- and you must respect that.
These anime conventioneers, however, can definitely call themselves "nerds" -- a term I heard used repeatedly in self-descriptions over the course of 72 hours of NDK immersion. To put it as bluntly as one of the convention's directors, Jeremy Pieta, did at last night's closing ceremony: "This is what I like, this is who I am and goddamnit, I'm going to Nan Desu Kan!"
Technically, this wasn't my first NDK, but my "N00b's first Nan Desu Kan" experience in 2011 hardly qualified as an experience. The gathering runs for three days and includes raves, cosplay costume contests, panel discussions with leading industry experts and voice actors, auctions, how-to courses, live video game competitions and so much more than I fit into the few hours I spent snooping and judging that which I did not understand last year. This time, though, I was ready to learn.
Second guessing my own choice to immerse myself in three days of NDK.
I opted to begin my journey with a little Gothic Lolita education. It was the first year this subculture-within-a-subculture had a prominent presence at NDK, but the women carrying this fashion movement's flag on American shores were ready to inform the masses.
Women from the Colorado Gothic Lolita Society ran a Gothic Lolita Jeopardy, in which teams of contestants had to answer questions related to the various brands, sub-styles and defining characteristics of the clothing and accessory-focused fashion lifestyle. While I had no clue what they were talking about the majority of the time, I did learn that Baby, The Stars Shine Bright is the predominant store carrying this childish Victorian-inspired clothing (but San Francisco is the only U.S. city to have one), and that Angelic Pretty is a favored brand throughout the community.
Questions moved too quickly for me to even ingest most of the information, proving that I was the foreigner in this world, but I got to see lots of girls in frilly petticoats with cute wigs and pastel everything, so I was happy. The game was followed by an information session on the fashion subculture, where I learned that Ougi and Kodona are a "boy-style" or more masculine forms of Lolita, and that Spoon, Zipper and Egg are all premiere fashion magazines catering to Gothic Lolitas of many varieties -- Sweet, Princess and Punk styles among them.
Gothic Lolita expert.
I also learned that Gyaru -- the Myspace queen equivalent of Gothic Lolita, with an emphasis on a creepy fake tan -- is out of style. So don't even try to go to a Colorado Gothic Lolita Society meet-up dressed as such, or you'll look foolish. Also, the entire time I was learning about this fashion lifestyle, all I could think was, "Do the women in these magazines work? Or do they just wander around dressed like a candy-flavored doll all day?" Maybe they get to wear their pink patent leather shoes to work...what do I know?
Since day one was just a half-day event, I spent most of it wandering around looking lost and getting educated on extreme baby-doll fashion. I was too tired to stay up for the late night J-Pop concert, but I heard that this was when the festival really got popping. I was sorry to miss it, but I had to get home to get my rest for a full Saturday of events.