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Why Did Itachi Uchiha Kill His Entire Clan?

Itachi with sharingan eyes

Itachiiiiiiii! You got some ‘splainin’ to doooooo!!!! But seriously, why the hell did my man kill his entire family? He had it all going for him. He was beloved by his father. He was the pride of his clan. He was one of the greatest ninjas of his generation. And he was cooler than Sasuke—way cooler. Why did he throw it all away and commit the worst genocide in ninja (and Naruto) history? Is it because he’s a Gemini? That would explain some of his unbalanced and murder-y impulses.

But surely there is a deeper psychological explanation for his actions? Surely there must be some mistake? Surely the Itachi that we see in Naruto: Shippuden must contain multitudes like Walt Whitman and Lana Del Rey? How else could he be capable of such a heinous act against his own kind?

Let’s start with some backstory: Who is Itachi Uchiha?

Itachi Uchiha is the eldest son of Fugaku and Mikoto Uchiha, the former being the leader of the Uchiha clan. Itachi was born in a tumultuous time. The Third Shinobi War was raging by the time he was four years old, and he was exposed to violence and death on an unprecedented scale. The bloodshed left a deep impact on the young Uchiha, and he became a pacifist—not a hippy-dippy pacifist, no. He still killed people—a lot of people—but his goal was to become the strongest of ninja in order to stop the violence in the world, not unlike another “bad guy” Uchiha in the Naruto universe: Madara.

Itachi applied himself to his goal and graduated from the Academy at six years old, becoming one of the youngest genin in history. He then joined Team 2 and quickly distinguished himself as a chunin, earning the attention of the Leaf Village’s leaders. While serving as a bodyguard to the Fire Daimyo, Itachi witnessed a masked assassin murder his teammate, Tenma Izumo. This allowed Itachi to awaken his Sharingan powers, which he (surprise, surprise) also quickly mastered. He then passed the chunin exams at age 10, and was recruited to the elite Black Ops fighting force known as the Anbu at age 11, making him the world’s deadliest sixth grader.

Itachi was the pride and joy of the Uchiha clan, and was showered in praise from his father. Meanwhile, Itachi’s little brother Sasuke received barely any affection from his father, and lived in his older brother’s shadow. Nevertheless, Itachi and Sasuke maintained a close relationship, and Itachi was able to provide Sasuke with the praise that his father withheld. Itachi himself was not exactly a fan of being praised for his murder-y abilities, as his pacifist nature was continually at odds with a society that valued his capacity to do violence above all else. This caused Itachi to remain distant from other people, just as the Uchiha clan as a whole tended to distance itself from the Hidden Leaf Village.

And there’s where the trouble started …

Wait, so the Uchiha clan itself was to blame?

Oh, yes. The Uchiha clan was the black sheep Konohagakure since the very beginnings of the village. The history of the Hidden Leaf Village is a bloody one, and centers around the conflict between the Uchiha and the Senju clans. After a cataclysmic confrontation between the rival warriors Madara Uchiha and Harashima Senju, the two clans were finally able to broker a lasting peace. However, many of the descendants of the Uchiha clan still harbored resentment in their hearts due to their defeat and subsequent ostracizing by the rest of the village; Itachi’s own father, Fugaku, was one of them. Fugaku encouraged Itachi to rise through the ranks of the Anbu in order to spy on the Hidden Leaf Village. The Uchiha chief’s plan was to organize a coup d’état and oust the leaders of the Hidden Leaf Village from power. Itachi knew that a coup would result in bloodshed, and instead became a double agent. He reported his clan’s activities directly through the Third Hokage himself in hopes of preventing the revolution.

In the meantime, Itachi rose through the ranks of the Anbu, and eventually fell under the command of the radical Danzō Shimura. While working for Shimura, Itachi learned of his father Fuguka Uchiha’s plan to use the power of the Nine Tailed Fox demon in order to launch the coup. Itachi reported this information to his superiors, and Danzō offered him a choice: either let the Uchiha clan launch the coup and allow the entire clan to die, or kill all of the Uchiha himself and spare Sasuke. Itachi chose to save his little brother.

SO ITACHI WAS A GOOD GUY THE WHOLE TIME!?

Yes, in a villain to anti-hero story that rivals that of Severus Snape, Itachi became the villain so a hero could survive. Itachi massacred his entire clan, including his parents and his lover. His parents loved Itachi even at the end, and told him how proud they were of him while asking him to protect Sasuke. Wracked with guilt, Itachi believed that the only person who could punish him for his crimes was his little brother. Itachi allowed himself to be discovered by Sasuke while standing over the corpses of their parents. Itachi then tormented Sasuke with visions of the murders using his Sharingan. Even though Itachi had nothing but love for his little brother, Itachi cast himself as the villain so Sasuke would someday kill him and avenge the deaths of their parents. Itachi reported to the Third Hokage that his mission was complete, and then fled from the village and began working as a double agent inside the Akatsuki, a criminal organization of powerful ninja bent on overthrowing the Hidden Leaf Village. During that time, Itachi developed a terminal illness, yet kept himself alive in order to die by Sasuke’s hand.

In the end, Itachi was a hero who yearned for peace in the world. And he fought for peace using the only skill he had: killing people. A tragic dichotomy, and an all around compelling character. The Uchiha clan should be proud.

(featured image credit: Pierrot)

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