Please note: I’m going to be discussing major spoilers for the Naruto manga series, so if you haven’t read it and would like to avoid spoilers, you may want to skip this article, or proceed cautiously. Thanks!
One of the most iconic fight scenes in the manga medium is the one that takes place between Sasuke Uchiha and Itachi Uchiha. There is so much angst and tragedy that surrounds these two brothers that when their time came to settle their issues with their fists and awesome ninja badassry, I was exceedingly excited, more so because Itachi is one of my favourite characters in the series. Yet, once the fight arrived and unfolded upon the coarse little pages of the volume, I found myself feeling disappointed and somewhat unsatisfied by their battle. At least at first.
When the fight starts, they exchange very little words and Sasuke doesn’t hesitate in his attack upon his older brother. I really liked the way things kicked off with them exchanging a lot of hits back and forth in a close-combat situation. The amount that Sasuke has matured as a warrior becomes very apparent in the manner with which he keeps up with Itachi, predicting his moves. I loved this because it does an excellent job of adding to the already massively thick tension of “Who’s the superior Uchiha” that has been building up since Sasuke was a wee one dreaming of vengeful bloodshed.
As the fight moves on, Sasuke has questions about the way of obtaining a very special variation of the Sharingen and proceeds to ask big bro while they bat back and forth with their Genjutsu. This whole second phase is interesting because it shows just how well the younger Uchiha is able to anticipate Itachi’s attacks and it reveals the true depth of how far he’s come with his training from the last two to three years. In a small way, this is where I started to feel a bit let-down. Itachi had been portrayed as one of the most dangerous members of Akatsuki; the ultimate badass of badasses. Yet, during the entirety of his battle with Sasuke, the younger broody bastard seemed to be one-step ahead for the most part.
Storyline wise, I know why Itachi handles the fight in the ways that he does. Between his illness and the shocking truth behind the crimes that would cause his brother to passionately hate him afterwards, and what he really wishes for Sasuke to accomplish—I get it, but it still felt like a copout; a crappy excuse for a convenient win to be handed over.
The rest of the fight is pretty fucking epic. Itachi manages to rid Sasuke of the poison that is Orochimaru (another favourite character of mine) as they continue by utilising their über moves. Even though their energies are completely exhausted, you can tell that Itachi’s heart isn’t in destroying his younger brother. Because his lack of interest in taking Sasuke’s life pours off the pages so strongly, in spite of the supremely outstanding attacks he’s inflicting, I think it really diminishes the impact of this otherwise incredible fucking fight. When the end finally came, I was left gripping the pages with such a sense of dissatisfaction. I wanted more from this, especially after the humongous build-up. Granted… Itachi’s final moment was rather perfect all around, frankly speaking but still.
Things that I wish this fight had more of include Sasuke getting beaten down more frequently and actually having to suffer physically so he could feel the range of what he was doing on a more personal level. I wanted Itachi’s ass-kicking to feel more genuine and ruthless and vicious. These were feelings I never experienced while reading this scene. I experienced it while reading the fight between Jiraiya and Pain, but not here. It was more of a final match that a master would give his apprentice to test his wills to see how much he’s grown. I also think I wanted there to be a little less dialogue and flashbacks to the past. The flashbacks happened towards the beginning and were long enough to disrupt the flow and intensity of the fight early on, which worked to weaken the effects of the brothers’ assaults, at least from my personal perspective. If this break didn’t exist or at the very least if it were timed differently, then maybe some of my frustrations would’ve been allayed.
Even though I walked away from my most-anticipated duel with a disheartened heart (great word usage, I know), I also applaud Itachi at his manipulative prowess. It was absolutely brilliant and that is what I shall remember when I think of this scene and it’s also what cements him as one of my favourites from the series as a whole (not that I’m done with the series yet).
In order to pull of something of that calibre, one has to have an insanely unbreakable sense of fortitude and willpower, as well as the affection to match. If Itachi didn’t have the strength to hold on to his emotions and if he didn’t wield his love for his brother like a shield as much as a weapon to keep him focused, he may very well have abandoned his path upon the first time they reunited, especially after the grotesque slaughter of his entire fucking clan. His expressions, his words, his very actions were all carefully executed to incite the appropriate feelings of hatred and fury within Sasuke necessary for Itachi to pull off what he does at the end of their altercation. The level of patience itself is mind-blowingly unbelievable.
I’m really curious to see what Sasuke is going to do now that he’s killed his brother and has learned that this was Itachi’s goal all along and why the older Uchiha felt compelled to take such extreme measures. We already know that he’s incapable of thinking things through on a rational level and is strictly driven by emotion and irrational desire to act rather than comprehend what’s going on between the lines, so I definitely expect more brooding and useless tantrums. I’m also curious as to why he gathered himself a small team. The manga had made it seem like he was seeking strong allies for his impending battle with Itachi, which was not the case in the end. Whatever he does next, I’m sure it’s not going to make me like him any more than I already do, which currently is completely nil.
These were my own personal thoughts, reactions, musings, etc. on the Sasuke vs Itachi shindig. I openly admit that I hate Sasuke with every fibre of my being and find him to be such a waste, and I’m sure that these feelings contributed somewhat to the disappointment that I felt. I’m not jaded enough to believe otherwise. However, even with the shite I didn’t care for, I have a deep respect for this fight and how it sets the bar for the future fights that shall follow suite, all of which I’m looking forward to quite enthusiastically!