Itachi Uchiha (うちは イタチ Uchiha Itachi?) is a fictional character in the Naruto manga and anime series created by Masashi Kishimoto. In the series, Itachi is the older brother of Sasuke Uchiha and is responsible for killing all the members of their clan, sparing only Sasuke. Itachi is treated as an antagonist for much of the series, however around the time of his death his villainous role is greatly downplayed. It is revealed that he was ordered by the former leaders of Konohagakure to kill the clan in order to prevent the Uchiha coup d'état which would have resulted in war. Despite his reservations, Itachi fulfilled his mission and defected from Konohagakure to become part of the criminal organization Akatsuki to continue protecting Konohagakure from behind the scenes.
Itachi has not been featured in the films and original video animations from Naruto, but he is a playable character in most video games of the series. His character has been very popular within readers from the manga, having ranked high in various popularity polls from the series. Also numerous anime and manga publications have commented on Itachi's character. His fights are often noted to be "one of the best" in the series. His appearance as an antagonist has been praised by several writers although some considered his initial not to be very surprising. The gradual revelations of his past and its impact on the story has also been praised. Several types of merchandising have also been developed based on Itachi's appearance including figurines and plush.
For much of the series, the only information given about Itachi's background is what his younger brother, Sasuke Uchiha, knows or remembers, as is chronicled in volume twenty-five of the Naruto manga. He grew up as the child prodigy of the Uchiha clan, establishing milestones for Sasuke and future Uchiha to live up to. Over time, however, Itachi began to distance himself from the clan, acting hostile towards its members when he is accused of murdering his clansman Shisui Uchiha and prompting his father to discourage Sasuke from following in Itachi's footsteps. Itachi soon afterwards killed every member of the clan with the explanation that he was testing his potential. He spared only Sasuke, who he claimed was too weak to be worth killing, and challenged him to live a life of hate so that he would get strong enough to someday pose a challenge to Itachi. Itachi vanished into the night, leaving Sasuke with the motive for revenge that drives his actions for most of the series.
Towards the end of Naruto manga volume forty-three, after Itachi's death, the truth of his background is given in full by Madara Uchiha. Itachi's early childhood was marred by war, the violence of which caused him to seek peace at any cost. When years later the Uchiha clan began planning a coup d'état to take control of the village of Konohagakure, Itachi feared the attempt would cause another war and became a double agent, providing Konoha with intelligence on his clan's actions. The village eventually gave him the mission of assassinating the Uchiha, a task he asked Madara Uchiha for assistance with. After the Uchiha were eliminated, Itachi, tormented by his actions, could not bring himself to kill Sasuke too. He made himself out as a villain so that Sasuke would someday kill him to avenge their family. To keep Sasuke safe until then, Itachi threatened to share everything he knew about Konoha with its enemies if the village ever harmed Sasuke. In the meantime, he joined the criminal organization Akatsuki to keep an eye on it and Madara in case they ever conspired against Konoha.
Itachi usually has a dispassionate appearance, rarely showing emotion and keeping his composure even when surprised or irritated. When first introduced, Itachi is portrayed as being extremely loyal to Akatsuki, trying to have Kakashi Hatake disposed of for knowing something about the secretive organization. He is also shown to be confident in his abilities, taunting Kakashi for not being as strong as he is. In both instances, Itachi proves to be on good terms with his partner, Kisame Hoshigaki, who immediately does as he asks and worries about Itachi's well-being. He is more considerate to his opponents in Part II, praising Kakashi during their re-encounter for improving his abilities and, when later confronting Naruto Uzumaki, only desiring to speak with him. Itachi is, however, consistently hostile towards Sasuke; during their first meeting since the destruction of the Uchiha, Itachi breaks Sasuke's wrist and ridicules him for still being weak. This attitude reaches its peak in the conversation that precedes Itachi's death, where he abandons his passive expression for excitement at the prospect of finally getting to kill Sasuke. This is all explained to be a facade after his death, as his chief concern is Sasuke's safety, the evil persona being used only to cement Sasuke's resolution to kill him.
Within the series, Itachi is renowned for his mastery of all ninja abilities. From his days as a ninja of Konoha, Konoha ninja know by reputation not to underestimate Itachi, his killing of the Uchiha clan only elevating him to the classification of an extremely dangerous criminal. During his appearances he is shown to be very fast with his movements, with such actions as attacking before his opponents have the chance to respond and making his hand seals so fast that even those with a Sharingan cannot follow them. Generally, however, Itachi does not actively participate in battles, remaining in a stationary position where he analyzes an opponent's actions, only then acting in self-defense. In these instances he relies heavily on trapping opponents in illusions to keep them preoccupied, something he can do merely by pointing or looking at them.
As an Uchiha, Itachi possesses a Sharingan, an eye technique that gives the user heightened analytical capabilities. Before he assassinated the Uchiha he killed his best friend to advance his Sharingan to its next level: the Mangekyo Sharingan. When activated, the Mangekyo Sharingan changes the Sharingan's appearance and grants Itachi with abilities derived from Japanese mythology. The first, Tsukuyomi (月読?), traps his opponent in an illusory realm in which Itachi is allowed to torture said opponent for what seems like days in a matter of moments. The second, Amaterasu (天照?), generates black flames at his focal point that will continue to burn until the target is reduced to ash. The final ability, Susanoo (須佐能乎?), creates a massive ethereal warrior that uses the Totsuka-no-Tsurugi to attack for him and the Yata no Kagami to protect him. Despite the effectiveness of the techniques, use of the Mangekyo Sharingan deteriorates Itachi's eyesight to the point of blindness. Only by taking Sasuke's eyes can he restore his vision.
Itachi debuts in Part I after the death of the Third Hokage, Konoha's protector, by infiltrating the village with Kisame. After drawing the attention of Konoha's forces Itachi reveals that, as part of Akatsuki's goal to capture the nine powerful tailed beasts, they are after Naruto Uzumaki for the nine-tailed demon fox sealed within him. During a scuffle with Konoha's ninja they discover that Naruto has left the village, and upon tracking him down find that he is under the protection of Jiraiya. Itachi sets up a distraction to draw Jiraiya away from Naruto and the two try to capture him. Sasuke, having heard that Itachi was back, intervenes, and Jiraiya soon returns as well. After briefly tormenting Sasuke for still being weak, Itachi and Kisame leave to avoid capture by Jiraiya. After Itachi's death in Part II, this entire visit to Konoha is revealed to have only been to make sure that the Third's death did not cause Konoha to forget their vow to protect Sasuke.
Itachi makes a brief appearance at the start of Part II, distracting Naruto and the rest of his team while Akatsuki seals one of the tailed beasts it has captured. Later, Itachi learns that Sasuke has absorbed Orochimaru, a man who defected from Konoha for in order to get strong enough to kill Itachi. Knowing that a stronger Sasuke is now coming for him, Itachi meets with Naruto. After his death he is revealed to have given some of his power to Naruto to be used to protect Sasuke and Konoha in case Sasuke ever attacks the village. Sasuke ultimately tracks him down and they have their final battle, during the course of which he uses his Mangekyo Sharingan to push Sasuke to his limits. In doing so, Orochimaru is drawn out from Sasuke's body, and Itachi seals him away to keep him from Sasuke before he dies of disease.
As his final act, Itachi implants his Amaterasu within Sasuke, meant as a failsafe that would kill Madara in case he ever approached Sasuke. Since this surprises Sasuke, Madara explains the truth of Itachi's past, what is claimed to be an unfounded mistrust of Madara, and that, even though Itachi had been dying of disease, he kept himself alive with drugs so that he could die by Sasuke's hands. Now knowing his long-hated brother to have led a tragic life because of Konoha's orders, Sasuke resolves to destroy the village, even though Itachi had gone to lengths to protect it.
Appearances in other media
Itachi is not present in any of the six featured films in the series, and has only a brief cameo in one of the original video animations; however, is a playable character in nearly all Naruto video games, including the Clash of Ninja series and the Ultimate Ninja series. In some games, he utilizes variations on his techniques not seen in the anime or manga. Naruto Shippūden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX marks the first appearance of Itachi in a video game set in Part II, with the second one being Naruto Shippūden: Narutimate Accel.
Itachi has ranked highly in the Weekly Shonen Jump popularity polls for the series, continuously placing in the top ten and reaching sixth place once. The last such poll was in 2006, in which Itachi was in 11th place, staying out of the top ten for the first time. Several pieces of merchandise based on Itachi have also been released, including key chains, plush dolls, and figurines.
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media have provided praise and criticism on Itachi's character. IGN reader Jason Van Horn characterized Itachi as "badass" and jokingly mentioned he is a character to be afraid of since in his first fight in the series he did not make any remarkable move. He found that "there is just something about the cold and numb Itachi", that makes the viewer "want to breakout in chills". IGN's Charles White liked the episode where young Sasuke and Itachi's relationship were revealed, and hoped to see more on their past to resolve the mystery of Itachi's character commenting that learning about their "past has been intriguing".  Jason Van Horn criticised the first battle between Itachi and Sasuke, as "good" but not "as epic as it should've been". James Musgrove commented that Itachi and his partner Kisame "make a dramatic and well-timed entrance into the story".
In the Shelf Life section from Anime News Network (ANN) Bamboo Dong comments that Itachi is one of their favorite characters from the series noting his background and his introduction as the best parts of the series. Activeanime writer Davey C. Jones celebrated Itachi's fights as the best ones in the series remarking his abilities to be as amazing as a "sci-fi ninja". Holly Ellingwood from the same website agreed on this, noting his fight against Kakashi Hatake as one "few will be able to forget." The reviewer also praised Itachi's attitude commenting that he "is as cold and as ruthless as any villain yet." In a review of the volume 16 from the manga, Debi Aoki from About.com listed Itachi's introduction in the series as one of the cons from the volume. He praised his first fight in the series to be very entertaining and that was meant to "whet readers' appetites" for future fights between Konoha ninja and the Akatsuki. Additionally, his last fight with Sasuke before dying was considered "epic" by Casey Brienza from ANN. She found it to be more to be "a battle of minds" since even after Itachi's death Sasuke changes his thought about him when learning about his past. She also anticipated the impact of Itachi's past revelations on the future storyline of Naruto.
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