I think people have misunderstood the statement about really what it means for Naruto to not really understand the depth of ‘love’ in a lot of ways, and differentiate between love of something such as ramen or sweets and for a person, IE: Hinata. This will be a short little essay on it, and it will contain MINOR spoilers for Last, however most people have heard this by now.
Who here has seen the movie Ratatouille? I won’t spoil much, but there is a character in it, Anton Ego. He’s a resturant critic and portrayed very cold, hardnosed, and the like. However, near the end, he is served a dish of ratatouille, and is taken back to his time as a child, having memories of his mother making it, it being his favorite as a child, and it cheering him up. I bring this up because I want to explore what ramen really is for Naruto, as a character, and how he could misunderstand his love for it, and then romantic and the like love.
To start off, I think we sort of should evaluate what Naruto’s love of ramen really is. It’s more than just a funny character trait he has. He legit is obssessed with ramen. He eats it whenever possible, and in large amounts. He bonded with Iruka, the closest thing to a legit father figure he had early in his life, over ramen. To a lesser extent, this extends to food, but what could this trait mean on a deeper level? Naruto loves ramen. Ramen makes him happy, it brings him joy, and he has good memories associated with it. He likes to share ramen with folks because that is, in a way, him sharing joy with others.
Naruto is an orphan, and was socially ostrizied from an early age. We are presented to how this has made him uncouth, and also to crave acknowledgement. However, there is more to this. He also doesn’t understand people. This makes him a unique character: he is both highly empathetic, yet lacks the proper context to understand certain people. Part of Naruto’s journey is not just seeking acknowledgement, but also growing to understand and acknowledge others too.
This was made explicit when it came to how he dealt with Sasuke. Until he lost Jiraiya and nearly lost Hinata he did not really understand the concept of both love, and then losing it. It took those, and other, losses for him to really understand Sasuke’s feelings. However, this did not mean he really fully understood love itself yet, and really that what is key in the Last.
Without going too deeper into the spoilers, there is a scene when Naruto is being torn between various memories, both his own and Hinata’s. There, he hears her confession again, and also it flashes back to an earlier scene, where he used the same expression to describe how he felt about ramen, and then it jumps also to a scene where Sakura was talking with Hinata, saying about how its like Naruto doesn’t know the difference between love of people and love for sweets or ramen and the like, and Naruto ends up taking Hinata’s spot and says ‘they’re different?’
It’s a funny scene, but remember how it is presented for one: it’s not said as a joke. Rather, it’s part of a general revelation for Naruto. Why?
Because Naruto associates food, particularly ramen, with happiness and joy. As an orphan, he didn’t really know acknowledgement or love until far later in life. He did, though, find joy in small places. His love of ramen is part of this. Ramen made him happy, Ramen is a happy memory, joyful.
This scene jumps to the same early scene, but with a tweak, Naruto now sees himself saying ‘yeah, I really love Hinata.’
Why? Because Naruto is starting to realize the difference in love, but even deeper, because he is associating the feelings he feels for Hinata with ones he feels for something that gave him joy and happiness in his lonely childhood.
No Ramen, No Life is more than just a funny joke. It’s a character trait. The Last really is shown its not just that he now understands Hinata’s confession, but rather realizes that his feelings for Hinata are there, and have been. He falls into the love he already had.
Which is why, at the end, his confession is so deep. I want to spend every day with you, every moment, until I die.
No Hinata, No Life.