Natsu - NaLu Theory
I feel like there is a lot of frustration over NaLu not becoming cannon recently. I am going to write a character meta-analysis of both Natsu and Lucy which will help explain (I hope) why NaLu won’t happen until both characters overcome/realise this:
1. Natsu is dense when it comes to romance/love and he won’t realise unless it becomes undeniable/obvious.
2. Lucy gets over her unrealistic ideals prince charming or her knight in shining armour expectations. She is a hapless romantic and naive when it come to love. (Note: this is not me bashing Lucy, it’s just a reality of her character. I think she has gotten better recently but I will do another analysis for Lucy)
I haven’t gone in-depth into every single scene because this was getting too long. If you would like to know my thoughts on a particular scene, please don’t hesitate to ask. I love a good discussion ;)
In regards to manga panels, there were more I could put in as evidence. I chose the events I thought illustrated my point the best. This took me a few weeks to compile between uni and life in general, so I hope you find it interesting. Please keep in mind, these are my observations and I am not bashing any characters or ships.
Natsu and FT
Erza is a mother/sister figure to Natsu, she is essentially his female role model who taught him how to behave around people, showed him a motherly/sisterly love (I think it’s a combination) so she’s the role model he will fall back on when he’s trying to be affectionate with Lucy. Erza is an important supportive role model to both Natsu and Gray.
Examples to prove Natsu’s reaction to Erza is different can be seen by looking at his initial reaction to her being in danger, and his reaction is the same as his reply to Lucy’s question as to whether they should help Gray. He replies that he would want to finish the enemy himself, not to have anyone interfere. Natsu doesn’t apply this logic to Lucy.
You might say that’s because Natsu doesn’t respect Lucy’s ability and that isn’t true he does, but the emotions he feels for Lucy compels him to protect no matter what. Even if he knows she can protect herself. The panel above is a key example because it was a lighting fast reaction to protect who mattered the most to him (keeping in mind Happy and other friends were there but it’s Lucy he covered with his body). It is the split-second decisions which I hold in high regard, due to the fact they reflect a person’s true feelings.
If you want to read more about my thought in regards to Natsu, Lucy and Happy —-> Link
After the Tenroujima fight with Kain, Natsu’s behaviour towards Lucy changes once again. This is shown in the Grand Magic Games (GMG). I believe during the fight with Kain, Natsu subconsciously fell in love with Lucy. However, that doesn’t mean he acknowledges it because he doesn’t think too much outside the moment. This shift in feeling does change how he acts around her, even in general situations.
I didn’t watch Fairy Tail for years and I didn’t ship anyone. I was on the fence about NaLu (is there something, isn’t there?) it sparked my interest before the GMG arc but there wasn’t definitive evidence Natsu felt the same as Lucy. It wasn’t until the end of Tenroujima and the GMG which convinced me Natsu had feelings for Lucy.
What changed my mind wasn’t the obvious Natsu going to save Lucy. There was a considerable difference in Natsu making his opinion known when a subject/situation concerned Lucy. Which compared to the others who are friends, guildmates and close team-members (Gray, Erza and Wendy) were over-reactions to the situation. Saying this is because of a life threating situation and he wants to protect is a weak argument. In these panels, Natsu is substantially more powerful than the characters concerned. You might say with Yukino that was purely Natsu’s dislike for Saber showing but he is an instinctual person, he would have noticed her mood but it didn’t matter in this case because his priority was Lucy.
Before this Natsu was not as concerned with what was happening with Lucy, which solidifies my point on Tenroujima being the event that changed the depth of his feelings (note that in the manga neither Natsu or Gray are waiting at her flat).
Despite Natsu being oblivious to his true feelings (which even a child -Aska- picked up on), Natsu still flirts with Lucy. He even admitted himself that he can’t resist teasing her. And the number one thing emotionally immature guys do when they like a girl? Tease them, annoy them, be a brat to get attention. All behaviour which Natsu exhibits, because Lucy makes him feel comfortable enough to do those things.
Natsu can be himself because he doesn’t fear that Lucy will hurt him. He’s is used to a gentle Lucy and shows restraint he otherwise wouldn’t when she has hit him (in a serious situation). If it was anyone else in the guild, I believe you wouldn’t get the same reaction. He starts fights with them all the time, so what difference would it make knocking them out.
The fact that Natsu will fight with everyone in the guild, apart from Lucy, is a telling factor that he loves her. He doesn’t want to risk hurting her and as I said before, this isn’t because he doesn’t believe she is strong. When he does bring up the prospect of sparring, it is usually in a playful manner.
Natsu’s Emotional Growth
I think the problem on Natsu’s side is he’s dense when it comes to romance. Shown by his interaction with Gildarts.
Indicating that Natsu’s emotional intelligence when it comes to recognising the difference between friendship and lovers isn’t great. Though I have no doubt about his feelings for Lucy are intense because of his different reactions to losing his love interest and losing a beloved friend/family member.
This to me is a desperate man losing a woman who he didn’t realise was vital to his future. With Erza and Igneel he was very sad/aggrieved but he wasn’t devastated.
As for the breast groping, I don’t give these a lot of credence other than it’s a shonen manga (there’s always going to be fan service like that) and Natsu is a young man who is sexually aware of the girl he likes. Lucy is grown woman capable of making it known what she feels about that. And she does, the first time she punched him.
Considering current events in the manga, I don’t believe NaLu will happen until Natsu’s role within Lucy’s life is challenged in some way. Natsu knows that he wants Lucy in his future, he wants things to be the same with them going on adventures. They are best friends, it’s natural. However, it wouldn’t be the same if she were to go out with another guy. Yes, they would likely stay on the same team but he wouldn’t be able to continue the same behaviours.
I believe Natsu has come to depend on Lucy emotionally (in a good way). He seeks her out before significant events and feels most secure when he’s vulnerable by surrounding himself with her. Lucy provides him with a different kind of care and affection that isn’t provided by other guildmates, which is why he chooses to spend most of his time around her. Another reason I think he finds this in Lucy is the start of the manga.
At the beginning, he says ‘I chose you’ and the way Happy explained the way teams worked, it sounded like Natsu didn’t work well in teams before Lucy arrived. Plus, Natsu is always reminding that her presence on his team is essential. Erza and Gray come and go (they pair up with other people) but Natsu and Lucy are always together by choice.
He is sensitive to her mood and when she is upset, he knows it and it throws him. Especially if it is him who upset her. Any other time he has a nonchalant attitude but with Lucy, he feels the guilt.
He won’t be able to be ‘more than friends, less than lovers’ if she were to marry another man. If she had a boyfriend he wouldn’t be able to crash around her house, play games, sleep in her bed, eat her food, go through her draws etc. Which is why Natsu will need an event that triggers this realisation before NaLu will happen. There will be more angst because angst is essentially the hard lessons the characters need to learn. No emotional events, no story progress.
I have considered the possibility of this event being Lucy’s perceived death but I’m not holding my breath. I still think he has some more growth to go before NaLu happens. I think this is good because it means Mashima pays attention to character growth and development, if the character isn’t at that stage then it shouldn’t be forced. The slow burn is why I like NaLu, seeing two individuals develop an unconditional love and it’s beautiful.
Thank you for reading! <3 xx