Anime takes over Denver

Sep 092010
Authors: Ali Sylte

This weekend nerds will finally get to take over the world, or at least the Denver Marriott Tech Center.

The 14th Annual Nan Desu Kan, NDK, one of the 10 biggest anime conventions in the country, is expected to draw more than 20,000 enthusiasts from all over the world as well as numerous artists and voice actors from the anime industry.

“Fourteen years ago, when we started the convention, it was just 200 friends in a small meeting room,” said Jinnie McManus, a media representative for the convention. “Now, with anime becoming more popular and accessible than ever before, we barely have room to fit them all.”

NDK is a pun that combines the Japanese abbreviation “kan,” meaning convention and the phrase “nan desu ka,” which means ‘what is it?’ It highlights the ever-growing popularity of Japanese anime. Rooms at the Marriott on South Syracuse Street hosting the event have been booked since June.

For many enthusiasts, NDK is a major event that requires a great deal of planning and preparation.

“I definitely spent about $400 on my costume last year,” said Courtney West, a sophomore journalism major who dressed as a “Final Fantasy” character at last year’s event. “But it was so worth it.”

According to convention attendees, “cosplay,” or wearing elaborate costumes in tribute to their fandom, is a defining part of the NDK experience. The convention even has costume contests for the true die-hards.

“I actually spent only $30 last year. All I bought was fabric and prints,” said Sarah Wiebelhaus, an undeclared sophomore. “But most people thought that it turned out pretty well.”

For people at NDK, approval is generally given through a convention tradition called “glomping,” which attendees can only describe as “intense tackle hugging.”

“I don’t really know how it came about,” said Sara Pease, a sophomore at Denver University, who will be running a booth at NDK this year. “I think that it’s just nerds longing for physical affection.”

“We don’t technically allow glomping at the convention, mainly because it’s a personal bubble thing,” McManus said. “We’re also one of the few conventions that regulates how much skin people can show in their cosplaying. We try to keep the event as family-friendly as possible.”

Wiebelhaus and West are just two of the many anime fanatics at CSU. Meetings for the Anime Club are held in the student government Senate Chambers at the Lory Student Center monthly. Some meetings draw up to 100 people.

“Anime is one of those underground cultures that just not that many people know about,” Wiebelhaus said. “I got into it like most people did: trading Pokemon cards in elementary school and then just getting into the other, more adult-themed anime out there as I grew older.”

The anime club coordinates activities throughout the year and offers members rides to NDK, which for many is the highlight of their year.

“NDK is the only convention that I go to. I save up all my money, blow it all at the convention and then I’m broke for the rest of the year,” Wiebelhaus said.

In addition to “cosplaying,” NDK features panels of voice actors and animators in the industry, booths set up by fans, and a vender room that features anime themed art. On Friday night NDK will even have its first rock concert, featuring two Japanese bands now based in the U.S.

“Music is another integral part of Japanese culture, so we really just wanted to highlight that,” McManus said.

For the CSU students who attend, NDK is just another opportunity to highlight their originality.

“I like going to NDK because it’s the one day where I get to be an entirely different person — no school, no work, just me having fun in a ridiculous outfit,” West said.

“And to the people who think that we’re nerds, we don’t do it because we’re weird, we do it because that’s what we like to do,” Wiebelhaus said. “At least we’re passionate about something.”

Outdoor Beat Reporter Ali Sylte can be reached at

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