One of the most iconic characters from the whole Naruto franchise is definitely Itachi Uchiha. He was a prodigy and was so well-written that it was impossible to defeat him in a normal battle, which is why Kishimoto had to give him a deep and tragic story for his sacrifice to make sense in the story. Itachi Uchiha is a character that has been talked about on several occasions here on Fiction Horizon and in this article, we are going to explain the mysterious illness that he contracted at one point.
Absolutely nothing is known about Itachi’s mysterious illness, which seems to be a plot element Kishimoto used more than once to be able to remove well-written characters from the narrative. It is speculated that it was a respiratory illness, the same one that killed Kimimaro, and it is known that Itachi prolonged his death only through sheer willpower, as he wanted Sasuke to be the one to kill him.
The remainder of this article will give you a detailed overview of Itachi Uchiha’s illness as well as his death in the Naruto franchise. You already know what happened and how it happened, so we are just going to bring you the details so you know the whole context. Be careful, though, as the article is going to contain a lot of spoilers so if you don’t know all the details, be careful how you approach the text.
What illness did Itachi Uchiha have in Naruto?
In Naruto Chapter 401, it was officially revealed that Itachi Uchiha was suffering from a terminal illness. He would have died from it quite quickly, but it was revealed that he wanted to die from Sasuke’s hand and that he managed to sustain himself long enough through sheer willpower. Okay, his Chakra definitely helped there, since Itachi was one of the most powerful characters in the series, but it was mostly his willpower. Now that we have cleared this up, we can tell you what kind of illness he had. Or – can we?
Sadly, we cannot. Namely, even after all these years, we know absolutely nothing about the illness that Itachi Uchiha had. We don’t know what it was, how he became ill, and why it was fatal. The reason for that is, as fans keep speculating, that Kishimoto never actually wanted to explore this illness, so he just used it as a plot device for his own reasons. And he has done it more than once.
A notable example is Kimimaro, a very powerful villain who also, at some unknown point, contracted an unknown fatal illness. Treatment was suggested, but due to the unknown composition of Kimimaro’s body, no one dared to do anything so as to not make things worse; Kimimaro simply lived out the rest of his life before the illness finally killed him just as he was about to kill Gaara. As with Itachi, nothing is known about Kimimaro’s illness and it is speculated that both of these characters had the same type of illness.
Based on the manifestation – coughing and profuse bleeding from the mouth – it is suspected that both of them had an unknown respiratory illness. Comparison-wise, Bleach‘s Jūshirō Ukitake also had a fatal lung disease since childhood and it was manifested through debilitating bouts of coughing and bleeding from the mouth. This is why Itachi’s illness being a respiratory one would make complete sense, but we don’t actually know if it is true or not. This is just speculation on our part.
As for the reasons for doing this like this, Kishimoto never revealed any but seeing that he has used this technique more than once, we assume that it was a leitmotif for him to allow overly powerful characters to be defeated. Namely, both Kimimaro and Itachi were extremely powerful and it would have been very difficult to defeat them at 100% of their powers without it being unrealistic. This is why Kishimoto, possibly, added this narrative element so that the characters could be defeated or removed from the plot, because they had to be weak(er) to transition smoothly. Self-sacrifice is a similar leitmotif used in the Naruto series.
Again, all of this is pure speculation as no one ever gave us any official information on this, so these are only some theories based on our knowledge of the series and some background information.
How did Itachi Uchiha die in Naruto?
After defeating Orochimaru, Sasuke creates a small elite group called Team Hebi to hunt down and kill Itachi. Konohagakure found out about Sasuke’s plan, so he started sending a group consisting of Kakashi, Sakura, Sai, Yamato, Naruto, Shino Aburame, Kiba Inuzuka with his dog Akamaru, and Hinata Hyuuga to find and kill Itachi. With that, they would also find Sasuke, whom they want to bring back to Konohagakure.
Both groups have Itachi as their main target to kill him, but Akatsuki also got wind of this plan, so Pain issued orders to prevent Sasuke from getting too close to Itachi, as he was too important to Akatsuki. After a while, Itachi seeks out Naruto who, after talking about Naruto trying to protect both Konohagakure and Sasuke, gives him some strength and leaves. Later, Sasuke finds Itachi.
A fight ensues, with Itachi surprisingly dying after a hard fight just before defeating Sasuke. Tobi later tells Sasuke that Itachi intended from the start to die at Sasuke’s hands and that he had long been marked by a serious illness. In this final encounter with his younger brother, Itachi transferred all of his eye skills to Sasuke, giving him the Mangekyou Sharingan as well.
As Tobi later explains to Sasuke, Itachi was always careful to protect his younger brother; transferring all of his Dojutsu to Sasuke was an attempt to keep Tobi away from him. Tobi also explains that Itachi only became a target for Sasuke because of an order from Konohagakure. Itachi was supposed to kill all the Uchiha because at that time they were planning a revolution and wanted to conquer Konoha.
Tobi tells Sasuke that his brother was with the ANBU to brief the Uchiha clan on what the Konoha government was planning. In reality, however, the opposite was the case and Itachi told the Third Hokage all about the plans of the Uchiha clan. Tobi tells that at the age of four, Itachi had to witness a horrific fighting scene of the Third Shinobi World War and that this triggered a trauma in him that made Itachi hate war and violence and always wanted to make peace. Which is why he decided to exterminate the Uchiha clan with Tobi.
Therefore, Itachi did everything to make Sasuke believe that the Uchiha clan was Konoha’s pride and that what he had done was done out of pure malice. He made Sasuke’s life a quest for power and revenge to make him stronger and thus protect him from the Konoha government. Sasuke is confronted with all these facts within moments, which leads to Sasuke slowly going insane and denouncing Tobi as a liar.
Tobi then throws at Sasuke the fact that Sasuke would not have stood a chance against Itachi if he really wanted to kill him. Furthermore, Tobi says that before his death and even after his death, Itachi only ever tried to protect his little brother and give him more power. Itachi also intended for Sasuke to be accepted by the village and hailed as a hero once Sasuke defeated him.
However, it wasn’t Itachi’s intention at all for Sasuke to reveal all of this. Itachi has always been fiercely loyal to Konoha and wanted peace for his homeland. The fact that Sasuke now feels a deep hatred for Konoha because of this knowledge, since Sasuke thinks Konoha ruined his whole life, was not Itachi’s intention.