Where it’s confirmed the reason Naruto liked (romantically) Sakura was because of his rivalry with Sasuke, and that his feelings for Hinata are the real deal. It is 100% approved by Kishimoto. “In describing Naruto and Hinata’s relationship, however, when I was writing while approaching the last chapter of the manga, I thought multiple times, mentioning it during meetings, that it was important that Sakura and Naruto had a scene together. This movie, in a sense, talks about how Naruto always, from the beginning, kept continuing to like Sakura. It’s a story about how Naruto and Sakura parted ways. The way that the readers interpreted the last chapter, having questions and problems unanswered and feeling a bit hazy and sad over it, with this situation to be neatly resolved, I think that it would be great if the readers would be fine with my answer too (/and feel a peace of mind about the ending)!” - Masashi Kishimoto, 2014 (x)
*Kishimoto felt that this scene in the movie was important, and it’s his own answer to those who were/are unhappy with the ending.
*”Parting ways” meaning “resolution” to this pairing.
*”Canon” means “official in story”. According to Kishimoto, this scene is canon (the whole movie is, but let’s save that for another day). It’s his explanation as to why Naruto was saying in the past that he liked Sakura.
*Chapter three establishes Naruto’s feelings were because of Sasuke, and because he desired acknowledgement in general, not because he understood romance. The Last supports this further.
When asked about his favorite scene in the movie:
“When Naruto confessed and got rejected (laugh). It seemed as though it was like, “Giving a test to Naruto”, “ Don’t push your luck”, “Hang in there, Naruto”. I like that about that scene (laugh). Later, Sakura and Naruto mutually recognize that they are not romantically interested in each other, and it’s also their parting scene, where Sakura is speaking on behalf of Hinata’s feelings to Naruto. I also like that scene.” - Masashi Kishimoto, 2014 (x)
*Not only did he approve it, but the scene is one of his favorites. A scene that’s contradictory to the original manga would not be on an author’s favorites list.
*For the longest time, we have been saying that Naruto’s feelings for Sakura were never real love. Kishimoto backs this up with not only this scene, but the manga itself. They lacked development, depth, and were never a central part of his character (unlike Hinata and Sakura’s feelings). He was always the most likely to move on (promise of a lifetime). His feelings were mainly treated as a joke. The movie also made apparent that Naruto did not know what romantic love really was, until he realized his love for Hinata and hers for him. In fact, Junko and Chie explain this pretty well. Here is an excerpt from the Da Vinci interview that the other “translators” twisted or conveniently left out:
(Credit goes to honyakusha-eri for the translation and scans of this interview. Thank you!)
Interviewer: Concerning Naruto, were you able to feel that he has matured in regards to romantic love?
Takeuchi: No, not at all for Naruto! Naruto stays the same without ever changing. The only time he was shown to have matured in regards to romantic love is in “The Last- Naruto the Movie.” Naturally, he’s always had human love. However, when it comes to romantic love between a man and a woman, it was in the movie that he first came to know it.
*Naruto matured in romantic love in The Last (not that he just didn’t “go through it”) because he actually understood what it was at that point. How could Naruto be so in love with Sakura if he didn’t even know the difference between a lover and ramen? He matured after two years; he realized the woman he loves romantically is Hinata. Not Sakura.
Interviewer: So you say, but when he received a confession from Sakura, whom he loves, he immediately saw through that lie, understanding her heart.
Takeuchi: But that’s really just Naruto seeing Sakura’s true feelings more than it is about romantic love. Since long ago, Naruto has always been in tune to the hearts of others, and there are areas that he values, so even if it had been someone else besides Sakura, I think he would have immediately seen through any lies that might be in their hearts.
*There is your answer as to why he saw through Sakura’s fake confession yet still could not understand his own feelings for Hinata as well as Hinata’s own. Naruto caught Sakura in her lie because it wasn’t about his own heart, not because he knew what romantic love was. oh and her lie was pretty obvious I mean shit Naruto wasn’t the only one who recognized it
Nakamura: Right. If Naruto had even the slightest experience with romantic feelings, there’s no way he wouldn’t have recognized Hinata’s obvious feelings (laughs).
*Hit the nail on the head. If Naruto had even slightest experience with romantic feelings of his own, he would have recognized Hinata’s. But he never did. Not real romantic love… until The Last, when again, he realized he was in love with Hinata and saw the nature of her feelings for him too.
*Naruto liked Sakura (for reasons that were explained above, plus she was pretty and the female character of his team who also interacted with him the most), but it never went beyond a crush. Hinata was his first love. 「最後の物語は、はじめての愛」”saigo no monogatari wa, hajimete no ai. The last story is, a first love/love for the first time”.
*Naruto hadn’t pursued Sakura romantically since the Pein arc (even Kishimoto’s assistant noted this on Twitter right before the finale). Red flags included Naruto addressing Kushina’s dying words regarding women. He spoke to both her and Minato about them, and Sakura (that girl he’s supposed to totally love) did not cross his mind at all.
tl;dr: Naruto’s feelings for Sakura were never real love, Kishimoto 100% approved their scene in The Last via interviews (it’s also his own answer/resolution to the pairing), and if Naruto actually knew what romance meant then he would have recognized his own feelings and Hinata’s a lot sooner.
Listen, if that interview was prerecorded, they could have asked him questions about anything, and anyone. Then all they have to do is splice in a new question with the answer that they have that could match it. They could’ve (and I wouldn’t put it past anyone right now) just bait and switched him. It doesn’t happen as much these days, bc of legal issues, but it DOES happen. That’s why 99% of interviews go live!!
edit// I want to clarify that interviews that have been done within a couple hours get played as live, especially phoners. For example; “I’ve got Liam on the phone now” implies a live conversation, but it could have been an hour or so ago. You try to leave as little opportunity for bs to pop up between the convo, and opportunity for a cut of something if necessary. Also, 99% is probably high, that was based on personal experience.