Initially, Maki appeared to be annoyed and irritated by Kaito. Her first interaction with him started with her sarcastically pointing out that he claimed he could take down the Monokuma Kubs singlehandedly, even pushing him to attempt this when the Monokuma Kubs appeared in their Exisal form (which terrified Kaito). Kaito also angrily shouted at Maki for blaming Kaede Akamatsu for the conflict between the students, while Maki successfully pushes the blame onto Kaito during the first trial.
Despite this, Kaito seems to have taken an interest in Maki following the events of Chapter 1, even nicknaming her "Harumaki" or "maki roll" (in the English version) to her displeasure. During the investigation of Angie and Tenko's deaths, a frightened Kaito forcefully pulls Maki into a hug (as she was, coincidentally, the person nearest to him at the time), although this only resulted in her angrily punching him. However, Maki soon starts to show more care for Kaito during Chapter 4. She is furious when Kokichi Ouma knocks down Kaito following Gonta's execution, even going as far as to make threats, and is shocked when Kaito suddenly begins coughing blood. He also becomes one of the few people Maki will actually listen to, as shown when she attempts to strangle Kokichi in front of the other students, halting only at Kaito's request. It's shown that Maki had developed romantic feelings for Kaito over the course of the game, and it's possible that he felt the same.
In Chapter 5, the two join in the group effort to take down Kokichi, who was believed to be the mastermind at the time. When Maki attempts to kill Kokichi by shooting him with a poisoned arrow, Kaito purposely takes the hit to prevent her from doing so, and it is implied that he did so to avoid her becoming the blackened in case their theory was incorrect.
Kaito later commits the deed himself, causing Maki to persistently attempt to steer suspicion away from him during the class trial by stating how she "killed" him. However, she is forced to stop when he confesses to it during the class trial despite her pleas. She evens threatens to fight Monokuma and the Kubs, but is stopped by Kaito, who asks her to promise him not to cry, something that Maki couldn't bring herself to follow through on. It's heavily implied that Maki was about to confess her feelings for Kaito before his execution. During their voting time, Maki had no choice but had to vote for Kaito as a culprit still due to his final words before his execution started. This shows that Kaito had become the only one of Maki's companions who she had any genuine care for. Kaito is the only person who Maki truly cares about, as evidenced by the line: ... And...I've never... ...fallen for someone before. He is, additionally, the only one who made Maki cry during the killing game.
Later, at the beginning of Chapter 6, Maki promises that she won't cry again and feels thankful to Kaito for saving her life. During the final class trial, when she is told that her feelings for Kaito were all just a lie and fabrication, Maki became shocked and emotionally unstable. However, with Shuichi's help, she eventually regains her composure, believing that her feelings for Kaito have always been real.
The ship sailed as a result of a lot of canon ship tease between the two throughout the game, with most noticeable examples being Kaito coming up with a nickname for Maki, and Maki confirming her feelings for him in Chapter 5.
It is one of the most written Danganronpa ships, as well as the most written one for both characters on Archive on Our Own.
- Kaito's relationship with Maki on Danganronpa Wiki
- Maki's relationship with Kaito on Danganronpa Wiki
- They're pictured together on one of Danganronpa V3's Steam cards, specifically, the one entitled: "Training."