Mahiru was Sato's best friend since her former middle school Photography Club. Because Mahiru attended Hope's Peak Academy as the Ultimate Photographer, Sato followed her there by joining the Reserve Course. Mahiru cared for Sato very much and always went to the Reserve Course building to eat lunch with her. Sato is very protective over Mahiru and went as far as to kill Natsumi Kuzuryuu in fear of her hurting Mahiru. Mahiru cries over Sato's death when she is killed.
It is implied that Sato may have romantic feelings for Mahiru. She is very protective of her, to the point of appearing somewhat obsessive. During one scene, she insists that Mahiru has great talent and her photos will become famous (in the English dub, Sato describes it as the beauty Mahiru brings into the world), of which Mahiru is surprised and flattered. The two then continue to talk about their food, both of them appearing quite joyful. In the English dub, Natsumi also mocked Sato's behavior towards Mahiru by calling her "lovesick". Within this implication, Sato's feelings appear to be one-sided, though this has not been confirmed.
In Twilight Syndrome Murder Case, when Mahiru (Girl D) goes to Sato (Girl E) to talk about the murder, Sato assumes Mahiru is going to confess her love to her which further implies Sato's potential romantic feelings.
- “No matter how important you are, even if you're a gangster's daughter, you'll never be a match for her talent!”
- — Sato saying Natsumi would never be a match for Mahiru's talent.
- “Mahiru, you're the hope of everyone in the Photography Club.”
- — Sato cheering Mahiru up.
- “Mahiru... Mahiru, I'll protect you... I will... I will. I will!”
- — Sato vowing to protect Mahiru from Natsumi.
The ship sailed even back during Chapter 2 of Danganronpa 2 where it was revealed that "Girl E", Sato, had killed Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu's sister to protect Mahiru. Episode 3 of Despair Arc fueled the ship even more, showing their interactions on-screen, with some suggestive elements that imply the two, especially Sato, might have had a crush on each other.
This ship is however quite a base-breaker in the fandom. There are fans who find it sweet that they cared about each other and that Sato wanted to protect her best friend. However, there are also fans who see Natsumi's point of view, especially after her character development, and consider this ship to be an unhealthy obsession on Sato's part, as it led her to kill Fuyuhiko's sister out of paranoia. Some may also accuse this ship of preventing Natsumi and Hajime from having more interactions and putting Hajime Hinata on a path to Izuru Kamukura Project right when he started having doubts about it.
- Mahiru's relationship with Sato on Danganronpa Wiki
- Sato's relationship with Mahiru on Danganronpa Wiki
- Twilight Syndrome Murder Case Girls refers to the ship between Hiyoko Saionji, Ibuki Mioda, Mikan Tsumiki, Mahiru and Sato