Anything Hayao Miyazaki
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
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.
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.
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.