One of the things that we learned early on in the Naruto storyline was that Sasuke’s main reason for becoming stronger was so that he could finally defeat and kill his brother Itachi, who was responsible for massacring the entire Uchiha clan when Sasuke was still a child. In that regard, he trained hard to the point that he thought that he was already strong enough to defeat his brother, but Itachi proved to be more than a match for Sasuke in that fight until his younger brother finally defeated him. But did Itachi really let Sasuke win?
Itachi allowed Sasuke to win that fight because it was never his intention to defeat and kill him. He only wanted his brother to become strong enough so that he could return to the village as the hero that killed the wanted Akatsuki criminal. Itachi’s main goal was to make sure his brother was strong and protected.
The fact that Itachi could have defeated Sasuke in that fight was one of the things that fans knew, as it was impossible for Sasuke to have been able to defeat his older brother at the level he was at that point in the storyline. Simply put, Sasuke wasn’t even strong enough to match Itachi if he had decided to go all out. So, with that said, let’s go over the reason why Itachi held back against Sasuke.
Did Itachi Let Sasuke Win?
During the time when Sasuke was introduced in the Naruto anime, he didn’t keep it a secret that he wanted to kill his own older brother. That’s because his brother, Itachi, was the one responsible for killing the entire Uchiha clan but spared him and told him to become strong enough to kill him someday. In that regard, Sasuke’s main motivation for becoming strong was so that he could kill Itachi.
In fact, Sasuke had to join up with Orochimaru and abandon Konoha so that he could become stronger while training under one of the legendary Sannin. It was during his training with Orochimaru that he became strong enough to perfect his lightning-based chakra attacks while also learning some of his teacher’s snake-based techniques. Sasuke also received a cursed seal which was meant to amplify his powers.
Of course, after Sasuke had become strong enough to actually absorb Orochimaru into his body after the latter tried to absorb him and take over his body, he went looking for Itachi so that he could finally settle the score with his older brother. The two met in a fated battle that allowed them to exchange genjutsu techniques until it was clear that they couldn’t win that battle by using genjutsu alone. Despite the fact that Sasuke didn’t have Mangekyo Sharingan, he was seemingly capable of making Itachi work hard.
During that battle, Itachi had to resort to his Mangekyo Sharingan technique, Amaterasu, to try to defeat Sasuke despite the fact that using it only made him weaker due to the terminal illness that he was diagnosed with a few years back. However, Sasuke used this technique to his advantage because he utilized Amaterasu’s hot flames to strengthen his new Kirin technique. However, he was surprised to see that Itachi survived his most powerful attack at that time by using his Susanoo.
That was when Sasuke had no choice but to use his cursed seal. This was the moment that Orochimaru was waiting for as he came out of Sasuke’s body and tried to gain control over it once more. But Itachi used this opportunity to seal Orochimaru using his Susanoo’s Sword of Totsuka, as this effectively removed Sasuke’s cursed seal.
At that moment, Sasuke had run out of options because he had used all of his chakra for that Kirin attack and did not have anything in his arsenal to penetrate the powerful armor of Itachi’s Susanoo. The older brother approached Sasuke and told him that he wanted his eyes so that he could create an Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, which would heal his deteriorating eyesight.
However, the moment Itachi was ready to take Sasuke’s eyes, he poked his forehead instead, as this was one of the things that he often did to his younger brother when they were still young. Itachi could no longer keep up with the façade as he died smiling at his brother while apologizing to him. He succumbed to his disease and died.
Given the fact that Sasuke won that battle when Itachi fell to his own disease, it was quite clear that the older Uchiha was holding back until the final moment and simply allowed Sasuke to win. The younger Uchiha was not in the position to defeat Itachi in that fight, considering that he wasn’t even strong enough to penetrate the Susanoo armor.
Of course, some would say that Itachi didn’t lose that fight but simply died due to the effects of his disease. Nevertheless, it was clear that he never wanted to defeat and kill Sasuke, as he simply allowed the younger brother to defeat him in that fight.
Why Did Itachi Hold Back Against Sasuke?
As mentioned, Itachi clearly held back in the fight against Sasuke and didn’t use his strongest attacks until the final moment. In fact, as we saw in the fight against Kabuto during the Fourth Great Shinobi War, Itachi had tricks and attacks that he didn’t even try to use against Sasuke in their fight. So, why did Itachi hold back against Sasuke?
The reason why Itachi held back against Sasuke was that he never wanted to kill his brother. His only goal in making Sasuke hate him was so that he would become strong enough to one day defeat him and allow him to die free of guilt for killing the entire Uchiha clan. Of course, he also wanted Sasuke to become strong enough so that he no longer had to protect his younger brother. And the only way for Sasuke to seek strength was to have a reason for wanting to be strong.
Another reason why Itachi held back against Sasuke was that he simply wanted his brother to exhaust all of his options until he needed to use the cursed seal left by Orochimaru. Itachi knew that Orochimaru was still somewhere within Sasuke and was biding his time until he was ready to take over a weakened Sasuke’s body.
Considering that Itachi was still a protective older brother, he was waiting for Sasuke to use up all of his options so that he would be desperate enough to use the cursed seal. As such, the moment Orochimaru came out, Itachi sealed him and finally freed Sasuke from the Sannin’s clutches.
If Itachi wanted to kill Sasuke, he could have done so early in the fight by using the full power of his Susanoo. But he neglected to do so because that would mean that Sasuke would not yet be desperate enough to resort to his cursed seal.
Of course, after Sasuke obtained his Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan and gained the powers of the Sage of Six Paths, he reached a level that would have allowed him to defeat his brother. Nevertheless, the Sasuke that we saw in that final fight against Itachi wasn’t strong enough to defeat his older brother. As such, it was clear that the older Uchiha was holding back. And had Itachi been at his peak and disease-free, he would have been a totally different monster in terms of how powerful he could have been.