I remember that my mom was iffy about pokemon evolving, but I remember at least placating her with a "it's more like metamorphosis" explanation. This was in maybe '98 or '99. She went on to become a fan. Some of my other relatives weren't allowed to have anything pokemon related.
If I recall, it was focused primarily (for my relatives, at least) on the CCG. Gateway to Magic, to D&D, to devil worship and all that. To be fair, I actually did follow that exact route - minus devil worship, mind you - but my little brother didn't, as he is less of a nerd. :D