Before readers around the world have a chance to love Naruto, the ramen-loving ninja has a completely different job than the author’s original idea. Fans today are familiar with Ichiraku Ramen, the noodle shop that Naruto often visits to enjoy a delicious meal and rest after his missions in Konoha village. However, in the original conception of the character and his story, this store plays a much more important role in the plot.
Masashi Kishimoto mentioned many times, like in this famous interview with Fuji TV’s Kendo Kobayashi, that his manga went through drastic changes before reaching its final form. After being inspired by his university ramen restaurant, Kishimoto initially planned to write a story about a young apprentice at a ramen shop who goes up against the older chef. Apparently, after this idea was rejected, Kishimoto decided to keep some elements of it in Naruto, including the main character’s love for ramen (which was also the inspiration behind the name Naruto). ) and his frequent visits to Ichiraku’s store.
Naruto was originally a ramen chef, not a ninja
When Naruto was first introduced, Kishimoto envisioned the story of a boy who stumbles upon a ramen shop and is accepted as an apprentice. The story would have focused on character development through the boy’s antics as he trained under the chef. Shonen Jump rejected the idea because it did not fit the shōnen genre at the time. Kishimoto accepted this and reworked the idea. By 1997, he successfully published the short story collection Naruto as a one-shot about a shape-shifter on the hunt for human friends. This plot was further influenced by another Kishimoto one-shot, Karakuri, and the story of the ninja that fans know and love was officially born.
Fans can clearly see the impact Kishimoto’s college-era ramen shop had on him. The thread that ties Naruto back to its roots persists through the existence of Ichiraku Ramen, Naruto’s love for food, and his own name. This lasting influence means that the original story is still likely to come to light, perhaps even in the very magazine that first rejected it. The shōnen genre has evolved since its debut; Gone are the days when plots had to focus on combat as motivation. For example, in Akane-banashi, Akane’s quest for revenge revolves around developing her skills in rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of comedy.
The original Naruto was ahead of its time
Other newer manga that focus on cooking like the former Naruto are also finding their place in the shōnen world. Food war! took the world by storm after the anime’s release. Like Akane-banashi, the action that drives the story takes the form of intense cooking competitions and Soma’s dedication to becoming a famous chef. The series still features many of the tropes associated with the shōnen genre – rivalries, tournament-like competitions, and plenty of drama – without the focus on old-fashioned physical combat.
Naruto is loved by audiences all over the world, so perhaps Shonen Jump did the right thing by rejecting Kishimoto’s original idea and encouraging him to come up with something different, however it’s a shame that the original plan Kishimoto’s head for the manga was never made. . Naruto fans can only imagine an alternate universe where they could witness their favorite ninja’s antics in his original job: ramen chef.
Source: Kishimoto Fuji TV interview translated on Narutopedia.