Nan Desu Kan is a world unto itself, and the culture of that world sucks you in. It's something akin to jumping headlong into a manga book, and you begin to see things in terms of that skewed universe: Pink and blue locks, tails, huge eyes and supernaturally spiky hair are the norm, not the anomaly, at NDK. And you begin to feel like maybe you really need these things and their pop-culture accoutrements back out in the real world, as we did over the weekend.
That's why the the dealer room and Artist Alley at NDK can sometimes be packed chest-to-back with a conga line of costumed fanatics looking for the latest in J-pop treasures and keepsakes. That's what NDK is ultimately about, and if you don't leave the con loaded down with product, perhaps you have missed the point.
Here are few of our favorite things we spotted at this weekend's NDK:
Ponycatures by Stan Yan.
Local cartoonist Stan Yan is well-known in these parts for his trademark zombicatures. But in August at the Denver County Fair, he found a number of clients at his caricature booth asking for something less grisly, like unicorns.
At NDK, he tweaked the idea in deference to cosplay's Bronie culture -- boys who dress up in My Little Pony getups. He even had a Brooonie T-shirt for sale. BTW, Yan says that the ponycatures outsold zombie likenesses at the con.
At NDK, it's de rigueur to carry your favorite plushie character around like a four-year-old, or at least wear one in the form of a backpack. Besides the ubiquitous Hello Kitty icon, you can walk out of the dealer's room with a plush version of nearly any Pokemon on the planet, characters from Japanese companies like Sanrio and San-X, as well as other favorite figures from gaming, manga, Saturday-morning cartoons and anime. The latest trend? Squishy, fuzzy, pastel alpacas by Arpakasso. Kawaii on crack.
When it's time to nosh, anime conference habitues head for the Japanese snacks. That means downing a Ramune, the sticky-sweet soft drink that comes in a bottle sealed with a marble in the neck or munching on Pocky sticks, a kind of chocolate-dipped swizzle-stick of a biscuit. At NDK, one can buy Pocky in all its myriad flavors, from caramel to black sesame. Live dangerously.
Out in the muggle world, or whatever anime con fans call "out there," there is still an acceptable way to declare your love for characters -- on a T-shirt. At NDK, there are dozens, hundreds to choose from, each speaking its own cultural language of recognition.
We saved the best for last. This year's NDK featured a high-end Lolita boutique from Saxony LLC, a Tokyo outfit with a shop in San Francisco. The elegantly dressed proprietress explained to us how the Victorian-frilly Lolita look that originated in the Harajuku district of Tokyo empowers women looking for an alternative to mainstream fashions that cover less and less of the body, leaving little to the imagination. Lolita is a more feminine form of self-expression with a modern twist. The beauty of these garments, she pointed out, is in the details: little cupcakes in the lace edging of a skirt matches the cupcake print on the fabric; dresses come equipped with pockets and other functional attributes -- they are meant to be worn, not intended only as costumes.
Because...you need one of these.
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