Naka Kon Attracts Diverse Crowd to Overland Park

Photo by: Erin McGowan
Naka Kon attendees show their strong sense of community wherever they go.

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Naka Kon: A celebration of Japanese culture and animation in the Midwest. Often confused with Comic Con, it is a different beast entirely. Nerd no longer is the term that can be used to describe this subculture. Nowadays those well versed in internet slang call these fans of Japanese art and animation “Otaku”.

While some may find conferences like these a weird hobby, others look forward to it year-round, preparing costumes meticulously, down to the last wig strand and saving up all their funds to collect more anime memorabilia.

At the conference, I was able to talk to a few of the attendees about their personal experiences there.

Mack Grimes and Nicole Giomi were some of them.

“We look forward to this very much… it just is a great time for people who all share similar interests.”

It seems that everyone at Naka Kon couldn’t help but smile wherever they went from the Vendor area, Karaoke party and even to the Q & A panels. It was a sanctuary for those who just really liked Naruto or Sailor Moon enough to dress up as those respective characters.

On the matter of all the outfits, or “cosplays” as the otaku call them, they are a mixed bag entirely. Some simply dawn a similar color scheme to their favorite characters or others go the whole nine yards with some really killer outfits. I interviewed four college students who explained their group cosplay experience to me.

One girl said, “I kinda dragged these guys into the whole thing. We just wanted to have really accurate outfits that all came from the same place. So we all pitched in and ordered these (cosplay) a month in advance.”

The dedication shown at Naka Kon was astounding, especially by some of the volunteers.

A veteran volunteer had this to say, “I come back every year because the folks here just seem so happy to have this whole thing. And there may be better run cons in Ohio and in St. Louis, but this one (Naka Con) was my first thing like this. It allowed me to express myself and I am just so grateful for that.”

She added, “There was this one guy one year who was a little too friendly, and he gave out a ton of unsolicited hugs. He made a lot of people uncomfortable, myself included.”

But as she went on with her story she described how at Naka Kon the people open up with each other, coming together under one Hobby. Be it: Manga, Anime, or merchandise.