Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting Your Parents into Anime and Manga

I have been staffing convention for a long time, much longer than your average convention staffer. If you have been staffing cons as long as I have, an interesting dynamic I notice is when I see a young teenager drag their parents to an anime convention. The parents looks dejected, even irritated that they have been dragged into an event that they really have no interest in. I have an easy solution to stop this from happening, get your parents into anime and manga so that they have an appreciation of your hobby. If they appreciate your hobby, then it will be easier to bring them along and they also have a personal emotional investment in your hobby. There is such diversity in the media of anime and manga; I strongly believe that this diversity can possibly have series that appeal to your parents. Here are my suggestions of anime and manga to show your parents that can be the spark that can start a love of anime and manga.

Anything Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most celebrated and respected men in the Japanese Animation industry. He has been working in the industry for so long that there is a pretty large library of incredible work that can be referenced. What makes Miyazaki very easy to swallow for someone who isn't an anime fan is that the flow of the story and the themes can appeal to many Westerners. Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa is about the destruction of the environment without consideration of the native wildlife and the cost of technology in the human world. Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service are about young girls who are thrusted into a world of adventure and come of age through experience. Castle in the Sky is about adventure and letting go of the past. The brilliance of a Miyazaki film is that the film is a medium to tell a story about the characters. Lots of care is spent on developing each character so that they are believable, even the antagonists are affable and even likable on some level. There is no black and white, but shades of gray for each of the characters. What makes it better is that the flow of the story is easy to get into. It is this strong character focus, relatable themes, and great story flow that puts anything from Miyazaki on this list.

Yotsubato by Kiyohiko Azuma

This manga is one of the most charming manga ever made, bar none. Yotsubato focuses on the adventures of the eponymous lead character of the series, Yostuba and the people she interacts with. She is a charming girl who looks at everything with a childlike innocence that has been rarely captured by any series. The series is genuinely funny with a great set of characters to help expand Yostuba's world. With the great writing, genuinely funny interactions, and the nostalgia from her fresh viewpoint this manga is a great introduction manga to get your parents into the hobby.

Spice and Wolf

Sick of hearing your parents tell you that you don't learn anything from watching anime? Introduce them to Spice and Wolf to challenge their assumption. This series teaches graduate school-level economics better than most classes and should be required watching for any Economics major. Did I also mention that the anime and/or novel is incredibly addictive? The interaction between Lawrence and Holo make for some of the best writing seen in an anime. The series is so damn quotable, an example of that is when when Holo the wise wolf says, "When a person lies, what is important is not the lie itself. No, it is their reason. Their why.” It is a seemingly simple quote, but is is so profound in its meaning. The mature storytelling is complete with some of the most complex situations that involves economics, like investment in currency that is switching its materials. For the great character interaction, intelligent script, and some of the deepest explanations of economics I have ever seen in a fictional story, I highly recommend this to get your parents into anime and manga.

Kare Kano by Masami Tsuda

There are lot of romance stories out there, what makes the manga of Kare Kano so special? The answer is simple, because the love story doesn't end when the two characters get together. For most anime and manga, a romance story ends when the guy hooks up with the girl, Kare Kano is special, the story actually starts when the boy and the girl start dating. The two lead characters, Arima and Yukino, are very special people with a unique set of circumstances and personalities. An initial confusion between the two of them start what is probably one of the best romances in a shojo manga. The first half of the story line focuses on Yukino and her side of the story, it takes a darker turn halfway when the story focuses on her boyfriend. Despite all the trials and tribulations that come forth, it strengthens the bond between the two of them, not breaks them. Your parents probably has been through a lot, and reading an uplifting story about how true love conquers all is an easier story to relate to. The story line is smart, the writing is superb and it hits on the right emotional nerves. If your parents are romantics at heart, a copy of Kare Kano may be that anime to bring them close to your hobby.

Summer Wars

This Anime movie is one of my favorite anime movies released in a long time. The anime is about an accidental  criminal, a girl he has a crush on, and her entire family. The story has two major themes that run throughout the story, our extreme dependence on the internet and the idea that the bonds of family and friendship can bring together people in times of trouble. Seeing that this is the internet age, a movie about our dependence on the internet is easy to relate to since it does parallel our own world. The last theme is the idea of networks and the bonds of family and friendship, which a parent treasures. To top it off, the movie has some of the best cast interaction seen in an anime. The anime looks great, has a great cast of characters, and has amazing writing. When you combine all three of them you may have a winner on your hands.

Kaleido Star

If your parents tell you that anime is sexist and violent, the best counterexample is Kaleido Star. If you haven't heard of it, the story is about a Japanese girl named Sora who runs away to a Cirque du Soleil-like circus known as the Kaliedo Stage. While in America, she meets the anime's international cast who treat her like dirt because they felt that her getting in was unfair. She works tirelessly hard to show them that she deserves her position. This is the major theme that pervades the story, work hard and do your best and people will recognize your talent and skill. The major theme of Kaliedo Star is a quintessentially American theme that is very easy for any hardworking American to relate to. While Sora's feats and daring earn her respect, it is easy to recognize that she would not go anywhere without perseverance and hard work. Kaliedo Star has a cast of very strong female characters that are amicable, amiable, and they are independent. The anime also takes place in a fictional city either in Hawaii or California, so the setting has a level of familiarity for many Americans. Kaliedo Star also has a great story, a wonderful cast and an amazing musical score. When you combine all these positives in a wonderfully addictive story line, Kaliedo Star shines. Of all the anime out there, this has a lower barrier of entry and it is a great way to get your parents into anime.

Cowboy Bebop

How can I mention getting parents into anime and manga while ignoring a legendary series with a strong western influence. Instead of taking place in the frontiers of the wild west, Cowboy Bebop takes place in the frontiers of space. Each episode has a unique distinct influence like the action packed church battle that screams John Woo or the dark noir episodes that showcase influences from the early 20's movies. The heavy western influence is showcased in the little vignettes in each self-contained story through the incredible cast of characters. From the main cast of Cowboy Bebop who are probably some of the coolest men, women, and dogs to ever grace a ship, to the supporting characters who show up for one episode; each character is lovingly developed and plays a significant role in the Bebop universe. The wonderful exposition with the unique environments, world-class music and amazing storytelling are lovingly combined in one of the greatest anime ever made. Bebop is a one of a kind anime that should be emulated more. Due to its great western influence packaged in one of the best anime ever made, Cowboy Bebop has the potential to make a fan out of your parents.

Final Thoughts
I cannot guarantee that any of these anime will make your parents fans of the medium, but I believe that these anime are some of the best suggestions to get your parents into the hobby. They are an eclectic mix that have low barriers to entry. These series are not filled with gratuitous violence, rampant fanservice, and moeblobs. What they do have are great storytelling, interesting themes, incredible music, and each are shining examples as to why our hobby is such a great one. These series are great introductory anime and manga can give your parents a great understanding of your hobby. I strongly believe that there is an anime or manga out there that can appeal to anyone, all you have to do is to find the right one for your parents to light the spark to start the fire. Once the fire starts, they will go to an anime convention and enjoy the experience. After all, when your parents are having fun at an anime convention, they will more likely to support the hobby you love so much.

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast.

1 comment:

apricotsushi said...

Great post! I have to say I didn't enjoy Summer Wars as much as you did, though... I thought it was extremely generic and dull apart from the gorgeous animation....

Anyways, my mom has always been great about watching the occasional anime with me. Her favorite is Trigun, believe it or not! I definitely second starting with any Studio Ghibli films... Many of me relatives love those even though they never watch any other Japanese animation. My uncle's favorite is Porco Rosso... He always loves reminding me how much he liked that "Japanese flying pig movie." Haha