“We are humans, not fish. We don’t know what kind of people we truly are until the moment before our deaths. As death comes to embrace you, you will realize what you are. That’s what death is, don’t you think?”Uchiha Itachi
In my previous personal essay for the blog, I wrote about my journey into the anime world, which is quite a beautiful experience and I have my brother to thank for that. I promise that my next personal essay will be about a whole new content so I don’t bore you with just anime write-ups. Now back to my love for anime, my favourite anime of all time is Naruto (p.s. I do not care about the old/upcoming animes) and it revolves around the growth of an extraordinary young man, Naruto. It is an enchanting story–– a few episodes into it and you are hooked–– but that isn’t the most captivating thing about this anime, as it also boasts of many memorable characters. In fact, no character in Naruto is insignificant because there is always an exceptional quality about each of the characters. Amongst these interesting characters is Uchiha Itachi, a prodigy and one of the toughest Shinobi (also means ninja) in Naruto.
Who is Itachi?
Itachi is one of those phenomenal and inexplicable characters that divides an audience. He is the pride of his clan, the Uchiha, a remarkable talent and an all-round genius. Itachi graduated from his Academy at the age of 7; mastered the Sharinghan (a rare optic ability of the Uchihas) at 8; passed the Chunin exams (an exam to become a fully-fledged ninja) at age 10; became an Anbu captain (specialized assassination squad) at age 13; and years later, he murdered his whole clan and spared only his younger brother, Sasuke. Itachi’s character, particularly his philosophy, has been a subject of debate, one I believe has been going on even before I watched Naruto–– the question of whether he is a hero or a villain. He is a man who mercilessly murdered his whole clan and left his brother to carry the painful burden of loss at a young age, for reasons hinged on the sole basis of fighting for the greater good. While some people believe it is a barbaric and a terrible thing to do, some believe it is the most heroic act in Naruto.
As a child, Itachi witnessed a Shinobi war that shaped him into a pacifist due to his past experience on the battlefield; he wouldn’t want any part in any act that would incite war or bloodshed. Ironically, the Uchihas themselves stand for the very thing he opposes–– war. His tribe is an embodiment of hatred. The Uchihas feel they are superior to every clan in Konoha village and therefore have every right to be part of the ruling class instead of being cast aside and banished to the extreme end of the village. Therefore, the Uchihas began a plot to invade the village and they assigned Itachi with the role of spying on the village. However, knowing that this act would lead to bloodshed, Itachi turned his back on his clan and instead reported his clan’s plans and movement to the village elders. His role as a double agent resulted in a great dilemma, in which he needed to make a choice––either he kills his whole clan and sides with the village or the village revolts and there is more bloodshed which might also result in his brother’s death. On this basis, he chooses to annihilate his whole clan for the purpose of peace and absolute love for his brother.
Is Itachi a Hero or a Villain?
There is no word to vindicate Itachi of his wrongdoing, since he committed genocide (by wiping off his entire clan) to save his village, and most importantly, his brother. Itachi’s love for his brother outweighs the fate of the village. In my opinion, no one has the right to determine how valuable one life is compared to another. He promised the village head to do the deed on the basis that his brother will be spared, which means he might not have agreed if they didn’t reach a consensus. In this way, on his path to be branded as a traitor of Konoha village, Itachi fueled his own selfish desire too. He planted the seed of vengeance in his brother and waited patiently for the day he would be strong enough to set him free. This shows that no matter how much a man tries to be righteous or virtuous, his concern for himself will always be exhibited.
The creator of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto, blurs the line between what it means to be a hero and a villain. In other words, in an attempt to make Itachi the ultimate villain, he humanized and empowered him with heroic traits that make it hard for viewers to arrive at a general viewpoint. Itachi’s role as a villain or hero depends solely on one’s belief. Although Itachi believes his actions and choices are for peace-keeping, this does not in any way make them morally right. His goal is for the greater good but his means of getting there is a close gap between good and evil. From my own perspective, Itachi is more of an anti-villain than a hero or villain because in the long run, his approach and strategy in achieving things is questionable.
With this little summary on the character of Itachi in Naruto, do you think he should be praised for his heroic deed or he should be condemned for committing such an atrocity?
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