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- “Who knows? Something important to me... Maybe?”
- — Mitsuba to Kou
Prior to the story, Mitsuba and Kou were former friends and classmates in junior high. They weren't best friends, per se, but due to sitting in name order, Mitsuba sat in front of Kou. They seemed to get along well and became friends fairly quickly. Mitsuba ended up moving classes, however, and later died in a car accident while going out to buy potatoes for his mother's birthday curry. Mitsuba reappears as an apparition, though his new look differs from that of his middle school appearance. He roams the school entrance, and reaches out to those he remembers asking if they remember him, though he looks more like a silhouette. When Mitsuba reaches out to Kou, Kou grabs his hand and knocks him back into a locker, revealing Mitsuba's true form. Kou didn't recognize him, but he did recognize Mitsuba's middle school uniform.
At the time, Kou had made up his mind to only exorcise spirits that cause harm to others, so he had spared Mitsuba and decided to help him get rid of his regrets instead. Initially, the two did not get along. Mitsuba constantly lashed rude nicknames at Kou, his favorite being "Hella-lame-traffic-safety-earring boy" in which he'd refer to Kou on multiple occasions. He'd also assume Kou was trying to "do pervy things to him," resulting in Kou getting called a pervert often. In return, Kou thought Mitsuba was rude and obnoxious, though he helped Mitsuba rid of his regrets anyway.
At first, Mitsuba refused to answer any questions that Kou had, leading to Kou threatening him to get answers. Eventually, Kou learned that there was a picture Mitsuba wanted to take when he was alive, so Kou decides to help him take that picture. That was when Kou's friend, Yokoo stops by to say hello to Kou. Yokoo notices the camera Kou is holding and said it belonged to Mitsuba, and gave some insight on who he was. This helped Kou remember Mitsuba, and he felt bad for not recognizing him at first. Mitsuba then tells Kou "I reached out to everyone who I thought was my friend, but nobody recognized me... only, I remembered them." It began to rain, so the two decided to head inside together, taking the stairs to the top floor. On the stairs, Mitsuba reveals that he was bullied in elementary for being too "girly" or "cocky," so he decided to build a new persona in middle school. He was nice to everyone, but nobody noticed him. He wasn't bullied, but he didn't make any real friends. When he died, nobody seemed to notice or care. Kou then reassures Mitsuba that he'll remember him as a boy who was "cocky, girly, selfish, sarcastic, had an annoying voice, obsessed with his camera, went emo sometimes, and a faker" and that he needs to be himself to make friends.
When Mitsuba asks if they could have been friends if he was alive, Kou tells him that it doesn't matter if he were alive or dead, because they could still be friends. Mitsuba then takes a picture of Kou, and when asked what he was shooting, Mitsuba smiles brightly and responds with "Who knows? It's something important to me.. Maybe?" before changing the subject and rushing Kou to go inside. Before they enter the building, however, Mitsuba stops Kou, presses his head up against his back and says "The photo will be ready tomorrow, just stay with me until then, and I think I'll be okay," to which Kou agrees, saying they should pick things up tomorrow.
When Tsukasa finds out about their friendship, he was confused to see Mitsuba satisfied with just one friend and revealed that Mitsuba had wished to make friends, and to be with those friends. Tsukasa had granted his wish, but "his way" - changing Mitsuba's rumors, unwillingly changing him into the "Bent-Necked Boy" - a spirit that would break one's neck if they didn't remember his name. Tsukasa attempted to get Mitsuba to kill Kou, but Hanako had saved Kou before that could happen. In a less distorted form, Mitsuba was left lifeless, and unable to go back to normal. This deeply affects Kou, who's left with nothing but Mitsuba's camera as a memory. He swore he'd never forgive Tsukasa for what he did.
In the Hell Of Mirrors arc, Mitsuba appears as a completely different being with no memories of Kou. Kou is confused when he sees this Mitsuba since he had previously died in his arms, but is overall relieved and tries his best to help him out. This "new Mitsuba" was made by Tsukasa from the concoction of weak spirits that have nearly disappeared and a piece of Mitsuba's soul. This Mitsuba is a new person with no memories, and the Mitsuba that was once human is gone forever, but this doesn't discourage Kou. Instead he crouches on the railing over a steep drop and pulls the new No.3 close to him, staring at him closely (as per usual, Mitsuba accuses Kou of being "enchanted by [his] adorable visage"). Kou continues staring at him and decides to finally speak, saying, "You... don't remember me?" Taken aback, Mitsuba responds, "Who are you...?". Although the question shocks Kou, it never discourages him. He reintroduces himself, vigorously telling Mitsuba to remember his name before giving him the Gardening club Records book that had the previous Mitsuba's photos in it.
In the Picture Perfect arc, Tsukasa makes Shijima Mei, school mystery No. 4, create a fake world where Hanako, Tsukasa, and Mitsuba are alive and every other somewhat supernatural beings are normal. Unaware he was placed into a fake world, Kou wakes up and walks into class early for morning duty and is shocked to be met face to face with Mitsuba, who was wearing the male Kamone Gakuen school uniform and appeared to be completely human. Mitsuba playfully scolds Kou for being late for morning duty and whines about how mean it was to leave a cute person such as himself to do all the work while attacking him with a dry eraser. Mitsuba eventually gets into an accident when his science experiment explodes, injuring his hand. Kou rushes over to wash and bandage it, then walks him down the hallway, holding his hand, to take him to the nurses office. Mitsuba decides to tease him, declaring that he could've gone by himself, and that Kou was being a "worry-wart."
Next time Mitsuba and Kou are seen together, they're cleaning the pool together with the other students. They seem to be having a genuinely good time, playing in the hose together and such. Earlier, when Kou and Nene had spotted each other, they run excitedly towards each other as Hanako and Mitsuba looked at their friends jealously. Later, when Nene and Kou were sitting on a bench discussing the fake world over some canned beverages, Mitsuba interrupts, complaining about Kou not giving him a drink.
In chapters 47 and 48, their relationship really begins to blossom. They meet on Mei's tower, away from the other students to watch shooting stars. Kou attempts to explain that in order to leave this fake world, he'd have to kill Mitsuba. Mitsuba was upset that Kou wanted to go back - he was happy here. Mitsuba changes into his real form - his No. 3 attire - as he shows that he has the power to present the past by looking through mirrors. He claims that Kou doesn't really care about him because he's a fake, and that it's the other Mitsuba that truly matters. He smashes the window, and the blow knocks Kou back before he could deny it. Mitsuba talks about how he had fun in this fake world - cleaning the pool with everyone, making cookies - and cries when he says it'd be even more fun if it were real.
Mitsuba tries telling Kou that it doesn't matter, that in this world they could pretend the original Mitsuba never even died, and that they could live happily here forever. He conclusively asks Kou to be his friend again while holding out a trembling hand. However, Kou asserts that Mitsuba will never find true happiness in a fake world, causing more tension to build. They get involved in a fight but soon after Mitsuba calms down and he admits his wishes of wanting to be alive- eventually crying out, "You're human! You could never understand how I feel!!!" With Mitsuba's hand in his grasp, Kou promptly offers to give up his life- "Then I can be with you forever." He pulls Mitsuba down with him, and two of them fall from the building until Mitsuba quickly acts to save him. Furthermore, in this arc Mitsuba even gathers some courage to protect Kou from Hanako; in past chapters he was quite intimidated and afraid of him.
During the school sleepover, Mitsuba shows growing concern for Kou and his behavior. Something is clearly bothering him, and so he tries to get Kou to vent to him. Before he can, Natsuhiko's screams are heard in the distance- cutting their talk short. Later on, Kou shares that he wants to become stronger like Natsuhiko and his older brother. There's a pause, and he adds, "But... I don't want want any more regrets." His gaze shifts towards Mitsuba's sleeping body.
In chapter 74, after Kou had revealed that he knows how to become a supernatural, Nene assumes it’s by dying. Kou immediately laughs and brushes it off, saying it was a “dumb conversation” before trying to leave. Concerned, Nene grabs Kou's arm and asks him if something happened; Kou's mind instantly flashes to Mitsuba’s disappearing body during the severance. He's interrupted before he has the chance to explain. Downstairs, Akane asks Kou and Nene to look for something deeply connected to Mitsuba to open a path to his boundary, which stuns Kou. "Didn't you get along with him?" Akane adds. The next day, the two set out on their journey to search for clues until they end up at Mitsuba's graveyard, where they run into his mother. They spend some time in Mitsuba's mother's home, where she reminisces her memories with him and the events leading up to his death. Kou comes to the realization that Mitsuba Sousuke really is gone, forever.
As the two are making their way back, Kou tries to cope with Mitsuba's death, calling Mitsuba an idiot for leaving to buy potatoes. When he insults Mitsuba one last time, he says it with a very pained and exhausted expression before breaking down and weeping. Nene comforts him.
In chapter 77, while Kou is searching for Nene, he discovers that the Red House reflects his desires. Him and Tsukasa make several encounters before abruptly running into Mitsuba. This Mitsuba, another one of the Red House's illusions, tries to coax Kou by telling him how helpless and vulnerable he is, that he's "no good without you, Minamoto-kun. You're all that I have." Mitsuba then directly asks Kou to die and join him as a supernatural, mirroring his desires from chapter 48. Kou is extremely taken aback by this. He's brought back to his senses when Mitsuba claims that he believes in him, slapping his hand back and professing, "Mitsuba doesn't believe in someone like me...!" before running away.
- As a running gag in the series, Mitsuba frequently assumes Kou is a pervert that is attracted to him because he's so cute.
- There was a scene in the manga where the two were sitting under a tree and Kou asked if Mitsuba was into any girls when he was alive. Mitsuba said no, his reasoning being "I was way cuter than any girl!"
- The original Mitsuba Sousuke died in Kou's arms in an emotional scene, holding his hand. Kou held onto Mitsuba's camera as a memory.
- When Kou found Mitsuba's name in the credits of the gardening club's records, Kou carried the book with him until he found Mitsuba in the Hell Of Mirrors. He gave the book to him, and Mitsuba held onto it.
- After seeing him go with Tsukasa, it became Kou's goal to save Mitsuba from him.
- In the Picture Perfect arc, Yokoo and Satou tell Kou that he and Mitsuba have been great friends for a while.
- The two had a playful "dry-eraser" battle when Mitsuba got mad at Kou for being late to morning duty.
- Kou believed that Mitsuba made a wish to be human and Tsukasa granted it, so he angrily ordered Mitsuba to take off his uniform. Mitsuba took this the wrong way and called him a pervert. Later, Yokoo and Satou bring it up.
- Kou's preferred type is said to be someone with a cute smile. In most of Kou's flashbacks to his moments with Mitsuba, Mitsuba is beaming.
- During chapter 77, child Tsukasa asked Kou if he likes Mitsuba, and in the previous chapter he had asked Kou the same question but instead with Nene (who Kou canonically has/had a crush on). Tsukasa also asked Nene if she was dating Hanako back in the tea party arc.
- In recent chapters, it is heavily implied that Kou is still considering dying to become a supernatural solely for Mitsuba's sake.
- Morning glories are closely associated with Kou and Mitsuba and are often seen in scenes with them, as when taking pictures, morning glories are seen in the bushes and are decorated around certain panels together. In Chinese folklore, morning glories are said to be "the one day lovers meet." This references the one day Kou and Mitsuba met at the lockers, but Mitsuba was only there for one day.
- Kou's Japanese voice actor, Chiba Shoya, and Mitsuba's Japanese voice actor, Kobayashi Daiki, are good friends, just like the characters they voice.
- “Even if it's only in this world, be my friend, and stay by my side...”
- — Mitsuba to Kou in Perfect Picture Arc
- “I did think... that if Mitsuba were alive in this world... then it wouldn't be so bad. I would have been so happy.”
- — Kou in Perfect Picture Arc
- “Want me to die? Then I can be with you forever.”
- — Kou to Mitsuba in Perfect Picture Arc
The fandom identified the ship to mirror Hananene, another ship in the series that is mostly canon. It also sailed because of their really close relationship growing in so little time, and their interactions in Perfect Picture Arc fueled the ship even more.
On AO3, Mitsukou is the 2nd most written ship in the Toilet-bound Hanako-kun tag and the 1st most written ship for both characters.
|SHIPS||het||Aoikane • Akanene • HanaAoi • Hananene • Kounene • Mitsunene • NatsuSaku • TsukaSaku|
|slash||Hanakou • Mitsukou • Terukane • YamaAka • Yotou|
|femslash||Aoinene • Sakunene|