As far as Naruto characters are concerned, Itachi Uchiha is one of the best and most interesting characters from the whole series. Not only is Itachi’s story one of the best ones, but his importance for the development of the story, and also Sasuke’s character development, is pivotal. Now, Itachi was involved in a fair share of controversial and puzzling moments and this article is going to be dedicated to one such moment, as we are going to resolve another popular issue related to Itachi. Namely, in this article, you are going to find out the real truth behind Itachi’s decision to join the Akatsuki criminal organization.
After massacring his whole clan save for Sasuke, Itachi Uchiha left Konohakagure and joined the Akatsuki criminal organization, at the time led by Pain (Nagato). And while that destroyed his whole reputation and earned him the label of a criminal, as well as increased Sasuke’s hatred for him, Itachi actually joined them to protect Konoha, as he infiltrated the group in order to prevent them from launching a direct assault on the village.
The remainder of this article will give you a detailed overview of Itachi Uchiha’s story and the overall impact of this decision on 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.
Why did Itachi join Akatsuki?
Before we bring you a direct answer, we have to give you some context, i.e., tell you about the events that basically led to Itachi becoming a member of the Akatsuki. Itachi was born into one of Konoha’s most powerful clans. But at first, his childhood was not as nice as that of other children. He grew up during the Third Shinobi World War and witnessed the deaths of many of those around him when he was just four years old. These events marked him for the rest of his life. He made it his goal to become a strong shinobi and prevent future wars. This was reflected in his performance at the academy. He was always the best and showed great talent in the ninja arts from an early age. At the age of eight, he finally awakened his Sharingan and was thus considered a great talent in the Uchiha clan.
It all started when Itachi’s best friend, Shisui Uchiha, committed suicide in front of Itachi to prevent a planned Uchiha coup d’état. Upon Shisui’s death, Itachi awakened the Mangekyō Sharingan and shortly before his death, Shisui gave Itachi his left eye, which Itachi placed in one of his crows. Later, many members of the Konoha Police Station accused Itachi of murdering Shisui, since only these two were absent from a clan gathering.
Itachi, furious, attacked the police officers and, when his father ended the argument, stared at him hatefully with the Mangekyō Sharingan without him seeing it. This is when Sasuke saw the Mangekyō Sharingan for the first time. When Sasuke was delayed from shuriken training a few months later, he found all members of the Uchiha clan dead. Shortly thereafter he also saw his parents and Itachi. Itachi was still alive and Sasuke asked, confused, what had happened. Itachi didn’t answer but instead used his Mangekyō Sharingan and Tsukuyomi to show his little brother how he murdered their parents and kill the rest of the clan as well.
Sasuke ran away from Itachi in panic but was quickly caught up by him. He took the opportunity to ask his brother why he did this. But he didn’t get an answer from Itachi, just this much: Sasuke should fight, train, and get stronger until he – just like Itachi – had learned the Mangekyō Sharingan, and then come back to him. Meanwhile, Sasuke should hate and despise him.
Since then, Sasuke only wants to become strong enough to take revenge and kill his brother. In truth, however, Itachi was commissioned by Konoha’s village elders to kill the members of the Uchiha clan. The village elders of Konoha suspected that the Uchiha clan planned to seize power in Konoha to escape years of government discrimination. This would have led to a new war, which the village elders wanted to prevent with this measure. The masked man, who calls himself Madara Uchiha, helped Itachi in the mass murder.
However, Itachi didn’t have the heart to kill his innocent little brother. Wanting to ensure Sasuke’s survival, he challenged him to take revenge and train hard so that one day he could kill Itachi and avenge his murdered family. However, this should only lead to the Uchiha clan gaining respect again, since the last surviving Uchiha would have murdered the renegade Itachi and thus would have done something good.
From Danzō Shimura, who, like Hiruzen Sarutobi and his two advisors, knew the truth, Itachi demanded never to lay hands on Sasuke, otherwise, he would reveal all of Konoha’s secrets. Itachi asked the Third Hokage never to tell Sasuke the truth so as not to destroy his belief in the honor of the Uchiha clan. After that, Itachi left the village as an outlaw to prepare for the day when he has to fight his little brother.
After the assassination of the rest of the Uchiha clan, Itachi leaves Konohagakure and seeks out the Akatsuki organization to join them. There he meets Orochimaru again, whom he cuts off after a short argument because he tried to attack Itachi in order to take over his body. Orochimaru then leaves Akatsuki. Itachi is also known to have Deidara, whom he outwits in a short fight, join the organization, who in turn is given the job of taking down Orochimaru. But, why did this happen?
Namely, Itachi killing the Uchiha clan was one thing, but his joining the Akatsuki afterward? Wasn’t that a bit too much? And while it is later revealed that Itachi only joined Akatsuki to learn from Madara Uchiha how to get even more powerful and to protect Konoha from within, a lot of people still think of Itachi as an evil traitor, but as many things with Itachi, this is a completely wrong interpretation of things. Itachi knew the situation Konohakagure was in and he was also aware of how dangerous the Akatsuki were.
This is why he risked his reputation and Sasuke’s infinite hatred, deciding to join the Akatsuki so he could work to protect Konoha from the inside. Although he was not the leader, he could still influence some decisions from within and could work to protect Konoha from an assault by powerful criminals. This actually gave Sasuke’s story more depth, as it showed that he was willing to risk his whole persona just to protect those he cared for. And that is the answer to your question, but let us now explore some of the future.
So, what did Itachi actually do as part of the Akatsuki? Initially, Itachi is assigned Kisame Hoshigaki, a former member of the Kirigakure Shinobi Swordsmen, as his partner, with whom he is given the task, among other things, to go to Konohagakure and fetch the Jinchūriki of the Kyūbi, Naruto Uzumaki. Arriving in Konohagakure, Itachi and Kisame Hoshigaki were intercepted by Asuma Sarutobi and Kurenai Yūhi. A fight ensued between the four shinobis.
However, when things looked bad for Asuma and Kurenai, Kakashi showed up as a savior and took over the fight against Itachi. Itachi used his Mangekyō Sharingan and attempted to trap Kakashi, Asuma, and Kurenai in a Genjutsu. However, he was only able to do this with Kakashi, since he saw through the technique with the help of his Sharingan and warned the others not to look into Itachi’s eyes.
However, Kakashi himself used his Sharingan to look Itachi in the eye and thus became trapped in Itachi’s Genjutsu. Unlike normal Genjutsu, a Genjutsu created by the Mangekyō Sharingan cannot be disintegrated by the victim. Itachi used Tsukuyomi to torture Kakashi for 72 hours. In Genjutsu, Kakashi was tied to a pole, and Itachi and his clones stabbed him with a sword for 72 hours. This happened in the real world within a few seconds. Kakashi wasn’t really wounded as a result, but he was mentally drained and lost consciousness.
When Itachi and Kisame then heard from Kakashi that he knew about Akatsuki, they wanted to take him with them, but Maito Gai was able to drive them away for the time being. Itachi and Kisame then pursued Naruto and Jiraiya, who were looking for Tsunade to appoint her as the next Hokage. Itachi knew if they fought Jiraiya, they had little chance of taking Naruto with them. So Itachi put a beautiful woman under a Genjutsu. This woman lured Jiraiya away from Naruto, allowing Itachi and Kisame to kidnap Naruto easily.
However, Sasuke intervened and insisted on a fight against Itachi. But, Itachi was superior to his brother and used his Mangekyō Sharingan to knock him unconscious. Just before they could then take Naruto away, Jiraiya arrived in time to protect Naruto. Since Jiraiya is very strong and Itachi used the Mangekyō Sharingan too often, the two Akatsuki retreated. Itachi would go on to remain a member of Akatsuki up until his final clash with Sasuke, during which he died as a result of the lung illness he was suffering from.