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. 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.
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