|“||I still love that lonely little girl I met so long ago.||”|
–Kouta, confessing his feelings in the final anime episode
Kouta is the main male protagonist and the deuteragonist of the Elfen Lied series, second only to Lucy in central importance, born and raised originally in Hokkaido. He is the most important person to Lucy, and the tragic love of her life.
Shortly after his arrival, Kouta decided to walk around the Tanzawa mountains around Kamakura. While in the mountains, he encountered a mysterious horned girl as she buried a puppy she had adopted. Noticing the horns on her head, Kouta, unlike the children of the orphanage, was ecstatic over her unusual appearance, finding the horns "awesome." He quickly offered her his friendship despite her distrust and reluctance toward him, not knowing of just how much she'd been deceived by humans before meeting him. A persistent Kouta made a promise that he would come back to the same patch of wilderness the next day, at the same time.
Unfortunately, Kouta wasn't able to fulfill his promise; his father wouldn't let him outside because of the recent murder of a group of orphans in the area. Some time later, he was able to sneak outside to meet the girl, again. He arrived to find her having seemingly-waited for him in the rain the whole time. Remembering her distaste for the attention her horns brought her, Kouta presented her with a wool hat to cover them up. They agreed to meet up and play together the next day.
Again, due to the recent, unexplained homicides (by now, entire families were being killed in their homes), Kouta's father refused to allow him outside. Three days later, on the last full day of their holiday, Kouta begged his father to let him go out to meet his friend. Kouta's father allowed him to leave, taking into account the lack of murders since the ones that initially concerned him.
Kouta went to the usual place where they met and there he met up with the girl, who had been waiting for him all that time, having almost given up hope. Because it was the last day he could stay with her, Kouta decided to take her to the zoo and spend all day with her. Her fascination with animals she had never had the chance to know of (such as elephants and giraffes) surprised Kouta, and he took delight in her joy from this. They enjoyed themselves all day and this created a strong bond between them. Both of them were sad because of the little time they passed together. What Kouta didn't know was that he was so important to her and his imminent departure crushed her heart.
When she learned he was going to a nearby festival, she begged to go with him, but he said that he promised to go with his cousin. At nightfall, as they were returning on the bus, the girl, in a trance-like state arguing with an inner voice, began choking Kouta. When she woke up, she apologized, then startled him again as she asked him, if someday she couldn't stop killing, to kill her. Kouta was unable to connect this conversation to the recent murders, and soon after forgot about it.
When they had returned, the girl inquired Kouta as to his cousin's gender. Not wishing to hurt her feelings, Kouta lied and said his cousin was a boy. Kouta then went to the Kamakura beach with his cousin, Yuka, and his sister, Kanae, to play. Kanae collected shells to show her brother, but Kouta denounced how "pretty" they were, prompting Kanae to kick him, swearing that she would seek better shells.
Upset about his impending return to Hokkaido, Yuka, developing a crush on Kouta, asked Kouta if he wanted to say anything to her before he left. Naturally ignorant of when girls are attracted to him, Kouta simply annoyed her by being unable to answer it and was promptly scolded. It was at this point that Kanae returned with shinier shells, finally earning his praise. Later, Kouta realized he hadn't thought to ask the horned girl for her name, leaving it shrouded in mystery not just for him but for the audience as well.
Night came, and Kouta and Yuka went to the festival together as they agreed. During the festival Yuka began crying over her inability to cut out shapes at a modelling stall and hugged Kouta, begging him not to leave for Hokkaido. Kouta embraced her as well in order to console her, unaware that was being watched by the girl from earlier. Moments later, people began to panic and run away, saying that a bomb had gone off. Concerned, Kouta's father panicked and called for the children, finding Kouta and Yuka quickly but becoming worried over Kanae's absence. Kanae appeared soon after, terrified and covered in blood, saying that a number of people had been killed in front of her by a horned girl. Kouta immediately thought of his friend, but denounced Kanae's tale as being utterly fictitious. Saying goodbye to a tearful Yuka, Kouta promised that he would come visit her the next year, before setting off for Hokkaido on a train.
On the train home, Kanae kept insisting her story was true and that a horned girl really did kill people at the festival despite Kouta brushing it off as a lie. When the aforementioned girl appeared in the train car, Kouta was surprised and happy to see her despite Kanae's alarm. He angrily denied Kanae's account that his friend could be responsible for so many horrible deaths and slapped her, reducing his little sister to tears when he said he hated her. As she pleaded for him not to hate her, the horned girl tore Kanae in half with an unseen weapon, and soon after beheaded their father, before telling the horrified Kouta that Yuka would be next. In a mixture of grief and rage, Kouta assaulted her, demanding that she stop killing. The girl ran away, leaving the traumatized Kouta alone and covered in blood, surrounded by the bodies of his sister and father.
What happened to Kouta between this point and his coming to Kamakura again is left up to speculation. Presumably, other family members cared for him in the period between his release from mental care and the start of the series. All that's known for sure is that after the murder of his family, he repressed all memory of that summer trip to preserve his sanity. His new memories consisted of his father instead dying in a car accident and Kanae passing away from an illness.
Returning to and reunions in Kamakura
Eight years later, he returns to Kamakura in the Kanagawa Prefecture to attend college and goes to meet his cousin after arranging to stay with her while at school. To her dismay, he does not seem to recall either those childhood times or her. While walking on the coast beach (where they used to play many times in their childhood with Kanae), they encounter a young woman, with long pink hair, nude in the surf and completely amnesiac, with a childlike personality and horns on her head. Closer inspection reveals her horns are indeed real, leading Kouta to flash back to a blurry, forgotten memory. Instead of taking her to the police, they take her to Kouta´s new home at Maple House, the former restaurant Yuka's mother either bought or rented, where he's free to live in without paying rent as long as he maintains the grounds.They decided to name the girl they found "Nyu" after the only word she seems able to speak.
At night, in his new house while Kouta is unpacking, the seashell Kanae got for him falls out of his bag. Yuka recognizes the shell from the last day of their summer-vacation, the day his family was killed. Kouta's sad face while looking at the shell gets Nyu's attention, and thinking the shell is something bad, Nyu picks it up and promptly cracked the it in half, much to the two cousins' shock. Kouta is instantly infuriated and begins to shake her, demanding to know why she did that. Nyu, terrified by his reaction, runs away from the house. Yuka goes after her after suggesting Kouta honor Kanae's memory with something other than grief and bitterness.
After some time, Kouta decides to go after her as well. When leaving, he encounters two policemen, who show him a picture and ask if he saw the girl in it, whom he recognizes as Nyu. Asking what she's accused of, Kouta is told by the younger policeman that she is a dangerous serial killer, though the second policeman claimed his partner is merely joking, and that the girl was just missing. Nevertheless, Kouta lies to them and goes to find Nyu before they do, not believing someone with her mental state could be a killer. He finds Nyu at the beach in the freezing water, and Yuka arrives shortly after. They realize Nyu fled there to get shells to replace the one she broke. Suddenly, Yuka takes a blow in head from a soldier searching for Nyu, that leaves her and then Kouta unconscious. After a stay in the hospital, the pair are reunited with Nyu, unaware of where she was, or what she did, while away.
After some awkward encounters with the grope-happy Nyu, Yuka decides to stay with them. When Nyu briefly disappears once again, Yuka and Kouta search for her again and encounter Mayu, a young homeless girl who also eventually comes to stay with them.
Kouta's amnesia concerning his childhood is eventually revealed when he states how his father and sister died, statements Yuka knows to be false. Also, it slowly becomes apparent that he and Nyu have met before, without having a clue that she is actually his other childhood friend and the murderer of his family. Unbeknownst to anyone, Nyu is just an alternate personality for Lucy, a powerful killer with an agenda to replace the Human race with beings like herself. And as Lucy, she still remembers Kouta and continues to love and adore him.
Life at Maple House
Still largely ignorant of Nyu's past with him and her true self, Kouta, Yuka and Mayu continued to live at Maple House, where they were joined by Yuka's friend Nozomi and Nana, a Diclonius girl like Nyu, who was the first to assert the danger Lucy presented. Though she was indeed wronged and maimed by Lucy and attacked Nyu in retaliation, no one but Nana and later Mayu knew the reason why. Nana was only allowed to live with them when they discovered she had nowhere else to go, and only under the stipulation that she apologize to Nyu and never attack her again. During the battle with Mariko, Nyu and Nana disappeared, leaving Kouta worried. When they returned, Nyu had lost her horns and began to develop a more mature personality. Events outside continued to build as the people who once held Nyu continued to seek to regain custody of her.
Through all this, Kouta, according to Nana's journal, continued to try and play protector to Maple House, with his results mixed but always appreciated. His relationship with the girls often meant him fetching them back and telling them how sad he would be if they left. Even Yuka began to calm from her anxious state, realizing his lack of memory of that important festival was due to trauma and not coldness. When the Unknown Man attacked Maple House, the group was dispersed for a time, once again reuniting in large part due to Kouta's determination that they should remain together and safe.
When Nousou and the Agent, backed up by clones of the Diclonius Mariko, led a full paramilitary assault on Maple House, Kouta attempted to end the situation by taking Nousou hostage. Unfortunately, he was then shot by the Agent, which triggered Nyu to not only develop longer horns than before, but full-fledged vectors as well. As she bisected Cynthia, one of the Mariko clones, Kouta's memories came back to him in a flood and he remembered how exactly his father and his sister died and who was. He swore vengeance against a newly woken up and shocked Lucy, but passed out before witnessing her fighting the remaining clones and subsequently being taken away by the Agent. Kouta was taken to the hospital, which he left prematurely upon sensing that Nyu had returned.
Kouta waits for Lucy on the beach, and when she notices he's still injured and goes to help him, he snaps at her to not touch him. However, he's not fit to walk long distances and relents to letting her carry him to the Sea Candle. While at the top of the tower, Lucy offers her apology for murdering Kouta's family, and explains that an inner voice drove her to kill others. Kouta states that he can never forgive her for what she's done and dismisses her explanation of The Voice as something all people must deal with. Because both Nyu and Lucy share a body, he cannot bring himself to carry out his vengeance since that would mean losing Nyu too, and instead offers Lucy a peaceful life at Maple House so long as she promises never to harm anyone ever again.
Although Lucy initially agrees, a chain of events lead to her instincts betraying her and Kouta is once again mortally wounded, this time by being shot by Kurama while trying to save Lucy's life. In retaliation for his sure death, she almost destroys the world in her despair, but with her body falling apart, she decides to use her powers to save him instead. Upon regaining consciousness, Kouta finds that Lucy is literally melting away from her last act of selflessness. Unfortunately, the violent personality she spoke of once again breaks through and starts assaulting the world once more. Kouta shoots and kills her at both Lucy and Nyu's urgings, thus stopping her violent rampage forever.
After Lucy/Nyu's death, life goes on at the Maple House, with Kouta helping Yuka, Mayu, Nana, and Nozomi repair the house. Every year, he goes to the spot where Lucy's puppy is buried to "wait" for her, mourning the friend he never truly knew. Several years pass and he has a daughter, Yuka's based on her appearance, and names her Nyuu in memory of his deceased friend. While visiting the grave with his daughter one year, he discovers the jade stone he gave Lucy and a letter she wrote for him that contains her real name buried near the grave marker. Through his tears, he laments the friend he never truly knew, finally having a name by which to remember her. As he is crying, Nyuu calls to a girl named 'Kaede' and two twin girls with ribbons in their hair appear nearby. The two girls are heavily implied to bear some connection to Lucy and Nyu, and tell Nyuu they've been waiting for their "special friend," to which Kouta finally turns around and smiles.
Kouta's role in the story is pivotal to the plot due to his importance to Lucy. His kindness toward her kept her from spiraling into a total meltdown, and apologizing to him motivates Lucy to continue living. He serves at the counter for the mistreatment she's faced.
Prior to the horrific events that changed his life, Kouta was a very outgoing child. He loved going out into the woods and countryside to draw, and easily befriended a young girl who, until then, had known only cruelty from her peers. He was even a disobedient child, as he snuck out to see his new friend despite his father forbidding him to do so because a murderer was on the loose. His wish to spare Lucy's feelings by telling her a white lie about Yuka's gender unfortunately led to the deaths of his father and sister by Lucy's hands, traumatizing him.
After the deaths of his family members, Kouta's personality changes completely. No mention is made again of his passion for drawing, and for most of the series, he is more introverted and blase toward most things unless they have to do with the welfare of the people he cares about. Losing his younger sister leads him to empathize with the unfortunate girls he and his cousin take in, as well as make him resistant to things which would tear the new family apart, such as going to the police to report they found an amnesiac girl with horns.
In the manga, Kouta's personality shifts to be angrier and wishing revenge against Lucy for the deaths of his family members once he remembers it was she who killed them. This change shows up again during he and Lucy's final confrontation in the manga, where he insists she not touch him (until he stumbles and she has to carry him) and he harshly rejects her notion that she was forced to listen to the DNA Voice within her. He never forgives her for the deaths of his sister and father, but ultimately admits that she could have a place with him and the others of the Maple House if she never kills again. The idea of losing a member of his family outweighs his wish for vengeance, and though his interactions with Lucy on the beach and on the Sea Candle make it apparent he still hates her and what she's done, he's willing to accept her as part of Nyu so he won't lose yet another person he cares for. He even takes a bullet meant for her, not wanting her to die like Kanae: with his last words to her being unkind ones.
In the anime, at least, this aggressive change in personality is hinted at during smaller moments, such as when he angrily bangs his fists against the table upon hearing the police lied to them and shaking Nyu when she breaks the seashell Kanae gave him. His treatment of Lucy's apology in the final episode isn't as harsh as it is in the manga either, as he states he loves who she once was and loves Nyu as well. While he does not forgive the murder in either version, his approach in the anime is a great deal more tender.
- It is only through Kouta's narration at the end of the manga that we learn of the war that followed Lucy's death.
- Kouta's name is sometimes romanized as Kohta, most notably in ADV's promotional materials.
- Kouta appears by himself on only four manga chapter covers, a surprising number for the series' secondary lead. However, male characters appear only a total of five times on these covers, excluding the cast shot cover of the final chapter.