‘My Neighbor Totoro’ Kusakabe Family Tree Explained


The Big Picture

  • My Neighbor Totoro is a beloved animated film that celebrates the joys of simple, everyday life and the bond of family.
  • The characters of Yasuko, Tatsuo, Satsuki, and Mei bring heart and depth to the story, making it relatable and endearing.
  • Mei’s curiosity and bravery, Satsuki’s kindness and responsibility, and the parents’ love and support make the film a timeless classic.

Released in 1988, My Neighbor Totoro has become an iconic symbol in the world of animation. Totoro, the titular character, is the official mascot of Studio Ghibli and has since brought people from all different parts of the globe to celebrate the movie’s message of harmony between humans and nature. Not only has the animistic film stayed in the hearts of millions for decades, but Hayao Miyazaki‘s genius artwork, thought-provoking storyline, and majestic musical score stands the test of time.

There’s a reason why Studio Ghibli fans constantly go back to watching My Neighbor Totoro year after year. Mainly, it’s because of the film’s nostalgic heart and courage to remind us of the simple things we miss in life that we might have taken for granted. At the base of the story, it’s an easy-to-digest premise: two kid sisters move into a new home with their father in the countryside, during postwar rural Japan, where they wait for their sick mother to recover in the hospital nearby. While the plot is straightforward, Miyazaki manages to turn a modest story into a healing, slice-of-life momentum for us all. The acclaimed animated tale brings together hope, harmony, and pure belief through the unbreakable bond of the Kuzakabe family as the sisters befriend a forest spirit who is ready to show them that joy can be found anywhere.

My Neighbor Totoro

This acclaimed animated tale by director Hayao Miyazaki follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into an old country house with their father and wait for their mother to recover from an illness in an area hospital. As the sisters explore their new home, they encounter and befriend playful spirits in their house and the nearby forest, most notably the massive cuddly creature known as Totoro.

Release Date
April 16, 1988

Noriko Hidaka , Chika Sakamoto , Shigesato Itoi , Sumi Shimamoto , Tanie Kitabayashi , Hitoshi Takagi


Yasuko Kusakabe

Yasuko Kusakabe, the mom from My Neighbor Totoro
Image via Studio Ghibli

Yasuko Kusakabe (Sumi Shimamoto) has only a limited amount of screen time throughout the film; however, she is one of the most important characters in the story, if not the most central. As the mother of two little girls and a wife to her husband Tatsuo, Yasuko has a lot on her plate to handle as she battles with tuberculosis. One of the main reasons her family move to the countryside and start a new life is because of her sickness. Due to her illness, Yasuko needed to have more fresh air and sunlight on the daily. The reason Yasuko was admitted to the local hospital in the countryside is she is presumed to be treated with the best care for her disease.

When the audience first meets Yasuko, she’s visited by Satsuki and Mei in the hospital. Her personality is bright, calm, and motherly. She tries her best not to worry Satsuki and Mei about her sickness by talking with them about the spirit “ghosts” she wants to meet when she returns to the house. Yasuko’s character was loosely based on Miyazaki’s mother who also stayed in the hospital for a long period because of tuberculosis. She may not be the star of the film, but without Yasuko’s role, Satsuki and Mei might have never met the giant, loving spirit Totoro.

Tatsuo Kusakabe

Tatsuo Kusakabe, the dad from My Neighbor Totoro
Image via Studio Ghibli

The father of Satsuki and Mei is Tatsuo Kusakabe (Shigesato Itoi). Tatsuo, the husband of Yasuko, plays a crucial role as the main source of support and love for his two daughters. With his wife being admitted to the hospital, Tatsuo has a lot of responsibility on his hands to make sure his kids are happy and can find joy amongst the gloomy days.

No doubt, Tasuo is a wonderful father. The best part of Tatsuo’s character is his willingness to understand his daughters’ grand imagination and their belief in Totoro. As a college professor of archeology, he comes off as a very patient and kind man, taking the time to listen to his daughters’ every discovery. Even in one scene, Satsuki, Mei, and Tatsuo all take a bath together during a storm outside, Tatsuo reminds his girls that fears can go away when they laugh out loud. His devotion to being a devoted dad is evident throughout the film, standing as one of the best father figures of Studio Ghibli.


10 Movies That Feel Like a Warm Hug After a Tough Day

Life can be hard. Hopefully, these movies make it a bit better.

Satsuki Kusakabe

Satsuki Kusakabe, the older daughter from My Neighbor Totoro
Image via Studio Ghiblu

Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka) , the oldest daughter of Tasuo and Yasuko Kusakabe, is one of the main protagonists of My Neighbor Totoro. At 10 years old, she is the big sister to Mei and responsible for watching over her when their father is working. Satsuki likes to act like an independent grown-up, though often stressed about being a good role model Me due to the absence of their mother. As a whole, Satsuki is far less lively than her little sister, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t good-natured. In the film, Satsuki appears to be a diligently hard-working young lady who helps around the house, excels in her studies, and opens her mind to new possibilities.

Without her mother, Satsuki easily gets irritated about the smallest things Mei does on a daily. At first, Satsuki does not believe her sister when Mei discovers the owl-like cat creature Totoro, but she eventually does meet him in a time of well-needed healing. Satsuki and Mei both become closer after their adventures with Totoro and even closer when Satsuki finds Mei after she goes missing. Most importantly, Satsuki is a kind-hearted girl with a giant, selfless heart. She will do anything to make sure Mei is protected and happy, and that alone is what makes her such a beloved, relatable character.

Mei Kusakabe

Last but certainly not least is the film’s four-year-old protagonist, Mei Kusakabe (Chika Sakamoto) — the daughter of Tasuo and Yasuko Kusakabe. Mei is one of the most recognized characters in Studio Ghibli and arguably the cutest. In contrast to her big sister Satsuki, Mei is quite the opposite in almost everything. As a child, Mei views the world with unfiltered eyes. She is extremely energetic and easily becomes distracted with things she discovers by accident. She distinctly becomes stubborn when things don’t go her way, often irritating Satsuki. Just as much as she loves her parents, Mei adores her big sister. She looks up to her as an essential guiding figure in her life in the absence of her hospitalized mother.

Without Mei’s bravery to follow the little spirits, she would have never found Totoro’s hangout. Her curiosity is behind the average which allows her to have a vivd imagination when playing with her sister and Totoro. She takes people’s words to heart, though she is quick-witted. After hearing the news that their mother won’t be returning home anytime soon, Mei throws a fit and ends up running away to find the hospital her mother is at. When it comes down to it, Mei is a bright little girl who cares deeply about her family and friends no matter the circumstances. Today, Mei has become one of the mascots of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

My Neighbor Totoro is available to watch on Max now in the U.S.

Watch on Max


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *