Studio Ghibli: Happy Mother’s Day!

Screenshot of Yasuko, Mei, and Satsuki from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. Copyright goes to Studio Ghibli.

Hey! Hallie here!

To all the wonderful, hard-working mothers reading this, Happy Mother’s Day! In honor of all the mothers and mother figures in all of our lives, I want to go over some of the most prominent mothers in Ghibli movies! Because, fortunately for the Ghibli moms, they don’t generally get killed off before the movie starts (Sorry Disney moms). For this list I’m not necessarily going to keep it to just the good mothers. Sometimes the bad mothers are just as fun to roast as the good mothers are to praise. Either way, all of them are interesting characters that stick out in the minds of Ghibli fans. Let’s get started!

Yasuko Kusakabe:

Let’s start with one of the best moms Ghibli has to offer. Yasuko is the mother of Satsuki and Mei in ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. She isn’t really there for her children much throughout the movie, but that isn’t exactly her fault. She’s sick during the events of ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ and is forced to stay in a hospital to watch her condition. Fortunately for all of us who at first thought Ghibli would make her illness terminal, she’s actually getting better. In fact, she has plans to return to living with her family the moment she gets better. She constantly speaks to her husband about how concerned she is that she’s absent from so much of their lives, but that only makes her more determined to get herself cleared from the hospital. And though concern for her health leads to a scare at the end of the film, the credits prove she does get better and keeps all of her promises to spend time with her daughters. Even though she isn’t always there, she’s always the ideal mother.


Moro, from the film ‘Princess Mononoke’ is a very different kind of mom from the others on this list. As a wolf, she is very obviously not the biological mother of San. That said, she is extremely protective of her and caring towards her. She doesn’t care much for humans on principle, but San is always her exception. She even bemoans her obligations as a guardian of the forest because she feels she can’t give San everything she deserves and has doomed her to a life tied to the forest. By the end of the film, Moro risks her life and her revenge on humans for her daughter. Ultimately she dies, but not before demonstrating her undying love for her daughter.


Osono is from ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ and she isn’t actually Kiki’s mom. Kiki’s mom is present in the first few minutes of the movie, but Osono takes the role of mother figure for the entire rest of the movie. Osono is a soon-to-be-mother who meets Kiki when she has nowhere to go and no way of knowing what to do in order to make a name for herself as a witch. Osono gives her a free place to stay with Kiki’s only payment being lending an occasional hand in Osono’s bakery. Afterwards she does everything to help Kiki. She advertises her delivery business to her customers and frequently looks for jobs for Kiki. She cares for her and cooks for her when she isn’t feeling well. She tries to make sure she has friends to spend time with. There isn’t anything Osono won’t do for Kiki, and I love that about her.


Yubaba isn’t the best mother, but I’d argue ‘Spirited Away’ can’t boast amazing mother figures anyways. Chihiro’s mom isn’t the most attentive, nor does she listen to Chihiro at all. She even berates Chihiro for tripping her up when Chihiro needs comforting. Yubaba definitely carries on the bad parenting for the rest of the movie. She spoils her child, Boh, rotten without caring at all for what her baby actually needs. When Boh finally learns how to be less selfish and care for others, Yubaba is more concerned that she can’t have access to her baby in the way she used to. She’s never supportive or understanding of Boh, and then wonders why she isn’t important to him by the end of the movie. Boh deserves better.


Honey is Sophie’s mom in ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. She’s notorious for being one of the worst mothers in all of Ghibli. And yeah, agreed. I mean, she betrayed her own daughter near the film’s end by planting a bug in Howl’s house under the pretense that she was worried about Sophie (For once). At the beginning of the movie she also seems to be oblivious to any of Sophie’s feelings, leaving her to go to her sister whenever she needs support. Instead, Honey abandons Sophie most days in favor of going out to town without any indication of knowing how much Sophie feels like an outcast. Sorry Honey, but apologizing to Sophie when she isn’t actually present doesn’t make up for bad parenting.

Granmare and Lisa:

‘Ponyo’ has the privilege of having two absolute badass mother characters. Ponyo’s mom, Granmare, isn’t present in a lot of the film. But when she is, she makes a large impression. She’s big, gorgeous, and always supportive of her daughter. Unlike Ponyo’s overprotective father, Granmare feels Ponyo should be able to explore her interests and carve her own path. When Ponyo decides to stay with Sosuke, Granmare worries for Ponyo because of the fear that she may become sea foam, and because of her concern spends days and nights discussing with Lisa whether or not to let Ponyo do what she wishes to. But ultimately, Granmare trusts Ponyo to lead her own life, and trusts Lisa to protect her. And it makes sense for her to trust Lisa. Lisa may be a reckless driver and she may be too quick to leave Sosuke home alone, but she’s clearly a caring and attentive mother. She cares for Ponyo like she’s her own, tries to be the most she can be for Sosuke when his father isn’t there, and works constantly to provide for Sosuke. Lisa’s basically a superhero.


Last on this list, but certainly not least, is the pirate captain from ‘Castle in the Sky’. At first Dola comes across as a villain, hunting down Sheeta for the necklace she possesses with her pirate underlings. But these underlings are actually her sons, and while she can be a harsh mother, she always demonstrates that she cares for her sons. She often doesn’t think they’re very bright, but she’s proud of them all the same. And she’s just as caring towards the other children who come into her care. Pazu and Sheeta are always treated with support and respect when they’re on her ship. Dola especially dotes over Sheeta, who reminds her of herself as a kid. Her bond with Sheeta makes her protective over her and frequently worried over her safety. Despite her initial position against Pazu and Sheeta, her concern for them turns her into a fierce ally who’s quick to embrace them at the film’s end.

Those are all of the Ghibli mothers I’m going to cover with this post! Ghibli has so many mother characters, it was hard to narrow them down for this post. I love all of the strong girls and women in Studio Ghibli films, and looking at all of the strong mother characters in their films made me appreciate the way these films portray women even more. I hope that all of you celebrating Mother’s Day had an excellent day celebrating the awesome women in your lives. They deserve to be celebrated every day!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


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