10 things to do and see at this weekend's Nan Desu Kan anime convention

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Celebrating seventeen years as Colorado's premiere anime convention, Nan Desu Kan opens its doors today, taking over the Marriott DTC for a cosplay-packed weekend of fun. With voice-actor guest speakers, educational panels on the industry, cosplay contests and late-night dance parties, NDK has packed Friday, Saturday and Sunday with cool things to do for all ages. Whether you're an anime convention expert or a first-time visitor, here's a list of just some of the exciting stuff you'll find. (For a comprehensive list, download NDK's guidebook app.)

See also: Five things we had to have at Nan Desu Kan

1) Costume & Cosplay contests Held throughout the convention's three busy days, the costume and cosplay contests are the best way to check out the character craftsmanship of your fellow NDKers. From Gothic Lolitas and Bronies to the most detailed of Sailor Moon ensembles, these contests are open to all characters. Plus, if you're a first-timer, take notes -- each costume is described in detail when a contestant takes the stage. 2) The Dealer's Room An NDK staple, The Dealer's Room is a marketplace jammed with cool stuff you never knew you needed. Pocky Sticks, Anime body pillows and rare DVDS are just some of the things you'll find in this massive pop-up shop. Proudly a bootleg-free environment, NDK is also happy to welcome industry giant Aniplex for the first time this year -- just one of many local, national and international merchants selling authentic goods. 3) Autographs Throughout the weekend, voice actors, animators and industry experts will sign autographs for fans, free of charge. All of these scheduled signings are BYO-piece of merchandise events; NDK will also be checking for bootlegs, so leave the inauthentic swag at home. 4) Voice actors Tia Ballard, Todd Haberkorn and Patrick Seitz are just some of the dozen or so international anime stars making appearances at NDK this year. If you're not familiar with voice actors, these are the folks who provide the artful voices of anime characters from feature films to video games.

5) Dance parties Another staple of the convention, NDK proves that after dark, these cosplayers can get funky. A J-Pop dance party Friday night will bring out the best in Japanese Pop and Saturday, the MasqueRAVE sees NDK regular DJ Bullock behind the decks. Costumed or plain-clothed, all are invited to the all ages get-downs, which start at midnight -- so you don't have to worry about missing any scheduled events.

6) Live music On Friday at 10 p.m., just before the J-Pop dance party begins, two special guests will be performing live. Raj Ramayya, best known for his vocals on "Ask DNA" (from the anime series Cowboy Bebop) and "Strangers" (also from an anime series,Wolf's Rain) this anime star has more than 250 songwriting and singing credits under his belt. Also taking the stage Friday evening, rapper Lotus Juice comes from Japan to make his first-ever appearance in America with a performance at NDK. He too is known for his anime stylings -- He's contributed music to the Persona series, Soul Eater and many more anime titles.

7) Video rooms Need a break from the madness? Video rooms spread throughout the Con provide a much needed respite from the heat (thousands of bodies in costume circulating through a hotel can create quite a temperature change.) Playing a wide variety of anime, these dim hang outs are a great place to relax and catch your favorite episode or feature-length film. 8) Panels and games With dozens of informative and interactive panels happening over the course of three days, NDK brings out industry experts in droves for one of the most popular facets of the convention. Discussions around LGBT video gaming, advanced creature costume making, Japanese fashion history and the ethics of anime story lines, NDK asks the best and brightest in the industry to share knowledge and answer questions from the audience.

9) Video game Room Offering another interactive spot to hang out and challenge your fellow NDKers, this room will feature seven tracks of constant gaming. From PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii to classic gaming stations, the video game room has you covered. Want to chill out and play your own portable game? There's a lounge area for that. Looking to test your skill in a tournament and get a chance to win prizes? Sign up for any of the HALO 4, Ultimate MvC3 and Street Fighter X Tekken tournaments, or just hang and play Rock Band between challenges.

10) Brony and Gothic Lolita sightings Seriously, NDK is an overload of information and fun, but the costumes alone are worth a trip to this convention. Don't feel like sitting through a convention-wide cosplay contest? Catch The Gothic Lolita dress-up battle, J-Walking: a Japanese fashion show, or just wander the anime con and you're bound to catch the best in Brony (that's dudes who admire the My Little Pony franchise) and Lolita attire.

The seventeenth annual Nan Desu Kan anime convention starts today at 11 a.m. and runs through Sunday evening, September 15. For a full, detailed listing of events and guests or to learn more about NDK, visit the anime con's website. Presale ticketing is now closed; badges are $50 and can be purchased at the convention itself, which is held at the Marriott DTC.

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