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Mei Kusakabe (草壁 メイ, Kusakabe Mei) is the four-year-old protagonist little sister of Satsuki in My Neighbor Totoro and Mei and the Kittenbus. She is the daughter of Tatsuo and Yasuko Kusakabe.

She is also one of the mascots of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

Personality

Mei is the younger sister of Satsuki in My Neighbor Totoro. According to director Miyazaki's 1987 directorial memo, in contrast to Satsuki, who is reliable and quickwitted, Mei is a single-minded, persevering child. Stubborn yet cheerful, she is like her older sister in that she is persistent and not timid. But with her initial shyness and tendency to few words, she seems to be even more observant than Satsuki.

For some reason she doesn't fear goblins (Totoros), and the goblins that open up to her because her child's world has not yet been tainted by the common scene of adults-but this may also be due to her loneliness. Even Satsuki must bear up, but not having her mother around is an even greater hardship for a four-year old.

Yet Mei is a bold, happy girl, without any dark shadow sin her personality. She runs after her older sister and imitates her. But if she comes across something interesting she becomes obsessed with it and forgets the way home or time, upsetting her older sister.

History

Mei spots the totoros in their yard.

Mei is Satsuki's troublesome little sister. Born in Tokyo in May 1954, she is the first seen aboard the moving van along with her sister and her father Tatsuo. There are awaiting their mother's release from the hospital in a house where the air is clear. She greedily eats her favorite snack of caramel while the family passes the rice fields of Sayama Hills. She first spots their new home beneath a giant camphor tree and along with her sister, excitedly greet the spirits that inhabit within. Granny, the caretaker of the home, takes a liking to Mei, and tells them that she once saw spirits too when she was young.

One day, Mei encounters one of the totoros and chases after it. The littlest one leads Mei to a tunnel to the massive camphor tree's roots where she accidentally falls through. There she meets Totoro, the spirit that inhabits the camphor tree. Mei isn't the least bit scared the large creature, and is in awe even as it yawns. "Ta,ta, ra..." Mei exclaims. The creature blinks and lets out a loud "Buha, buha". Mei shouts, "To, to, ro!"

With this, Mei becomes convinced that the creature is called a 'totoro'.

Mei cares deeply of her mother Yasuko who is the nearby hospital for an unspecified illness. She gets into an argument with Satsuki when she finds out their mother wouldn't be returning soon. She takes it upon herself to go to the hospital and ends up getting lost. Only with the efforts of Satsuki, Kanta, Totoro and Catbus do they find her unharmed.

Characteristics

Mei Kusakabe is four-years old. In the Steamline dub, she is five. She has sandy brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. She wears a white puffy blouse with a bright pink dress (as present in her birthday and buyed from a shop) and sunshine yellow shoes and white bloomers, and carries a yellow bag. At the end of the film, she wears a carnation pink dress. Mei also wears a sunshine yellow night-dress at night and a sky blue night-dress at night in the sequel.

Behind the Voices

Mei is voiced by Chika Sakamoto in Seiyu, Cheryl Chase in Streamline dub and later Elle Fanning in Disney Dub. Sakamoto would reprise her role for Mei and the Kittenbus.

Relationships

Satsuki Kusakabe

Mei's older, more serious sister. She looks up to her, often imitating what she does. She even follows her to school, and sits in her class to the amusement of Satsuki's classmates.

Tatsuo Kusakabe

Mei loves her father, despite being mostly absent due to work.

Yasuko Kusakabe

Mei's mother, who is sick in the film. Mei misses her mother dearly, and wishes to be with her one day.

Granny

Granny takes a shine to Mei, who sees her as the grandchild she never had. She is patient with Mei, knowing that her mother is indisposed at the hospital. She is terrified of Granny's farm animals.

Mei and the Kittenbus

Actress Chika Sakamoto in a TV reunion. She reprises her role as Mei in Mei and the Kittenbus'.

Mei returns in the Ghibli-exclusive animated short Mei and the Kittenbus. The film was teased in the late 90's and completed shortly after the museum opened in October 2002.

The film begins in a blustery day at the Kusakabe home. Mei is busy running around the house. When she eats her favorite caramel cube candy, a mini whirlwind suddenly appears before her, the Kittenbus! The two quickly fly off in search of the great Cat Liner. In their journey, they meet up with Totoro and the Catbus, who leads them to a meeting point of all the totoros in the land.

Quotes

Can some ghosts live upstairs?
Do you like spirits, mommy? Even fuzzy ones?
To-to-ro? You're Totoro! I bet you're Totoro!
—Mei to Totoro

Trivia

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