I’m not going to lie I’ve been waiting to write this one for a while now. Truthfully since the moment that the Naruto Shinden novel Itachi Shinden: Book of Bright Light and Book of Dark Night were being adapted this was my goal as a sort of a coming home as it were for this whole concept which I first used to cover Naruto Gaiden. I wont lie it also helps Itachi is a fascinating character and is widely regarded as one of the best characters in the series, hell for myself he is second only to Jiraiya as my personal favorite.
First things first I’ll state this right off the bat; Naruto Shippuden has sucked lately it wasn’t even bad by anime standards it was just bad. After nearly a year of pointless poorly written fillers its about time we got some good content and I’m not going to lie Itachi Shinden nails it, as bad as Shippuden has been lately Itachi is as good. This episode has me excited going forward something I couldn’t really say regarding this franchise since Naruto Gaiden ended. Anyways moving on lets get to Naruto, no better yet Itachi Shinden!
The episode begins where the series left off the Infinite Tsukuyomi has been cast upon the world and almost all residents of the ninja world have been ensnared by its light. With this they dream of their perfect world while the God’s World Tree drains them of chakra converting their husks of bodies into White Zetsu in preparation for a yet unknown plan of Madara’s, for these write up’s I’ll pretend not to know the plan...
The viewer sees many of the dreamers inner desires, while some are funny such as Kiba being a dog loving Hokage, others are predictable Choji eating with a pretty wife at his side or Hinata finally being with Naruto (while making a living Neji jealous..., a few are even quite touching. The highlight though was Gaara’s dream of an ideal childhood where he was but a normal kid and Naruto was his friend, showing the profound impact that both his traumatic past and Nartuo’s friendship has had on his psyche.
Back in the world of the awake there remains a few stragglers such as the resurrected Hokages who due to being dead are immune from the Infinite Tsukuyomi’s effect. Where they try valiantly yet fruitlessly to save others from the God Tree. Also still awake are the various Zetsu’s which basically being a product of the God Tree itself are immune and of course Team Seven. The Team stays free due to the protective cover of Sasuke’s Rinne-Sharingan produced Susanoo, where they debate their next action.
However in the conversation Sasuke starts to remember events of his brothers life. Explaining during their fight with Kabuto before returning to the netherworld Itachi transferred the memories of his life to Sasuke via their forehead tap, much in the same way he transferred his Amaterasu previously following the fight where Sasuke killed him. This sets up the transition to the Itachi Shinden: Book of Bright Light content we’ll be following.
Flashing back many years to Itachi’s childhood the Second Great Ninja war is raging on and Itachi watches in horror as a battle unfolds where various ninja’s are mercilessly slaughtering each other. Following the conclusion of the battle which appears to be one of the many pointless battles of the war Itachi wanders among the dead and dying. Hearing a Hidden Stone Ninja asking for water Itachi rushes over to give him some, however noticing his emblem marking him a Lead Ninja the Stone Ninja try’s to kill Itachi - forcing Itachi to end the mans life.
Itachi to his father asks why are strangers killing each other, as it makes no sense to his childish mind. His father responds war is more then something between two people its between nations and to serve your nation you must fight and kill strangers. This is interesting as while explaining to his son Itachi’s father Fugaku Uchiha actually seems warn down and tired of the fighting a stark departure from his more common depictions as a do whatever it takes Uchiha nationalist. I expect his evolution as a character to what we have seen previously will become a key plot point in the Book of Light story line.
Fast forwarding an unspecified amount of time, the end of the Great Ninja War has come however not without great cost. The cost of life being so high and the initials aims of the various nations now lost to time time and buried in the mud there is unease with the current leadership of the Village. The Third Hokage who was raised twenty years prior following the death of the Second in the First Great Ninja War decides to step down to let a new Hokage take his place, setting up Minato’s ascension to the title. However many in the Uchiha Clan encourage Fugaku to make his case being Head of the Police - the traditional role of the Uchiha Head.
Another point of contention for the Uchiha gathered is Kakashi’s Sharingan, which many want to retrieve. Again showing a calmness we the viewer didn’t know he possessed, Fugaku says that the Sharingan shall remain with Kakashi. As Obito fought like a hero and it was his dying wish for Kakashi to have it.
In the end Fugaku declines both calls for action saying their has been enough confusion and violence. Showing a very different character then we have seen previously during this time frame. While this is going on Itachi sees Orochimaru looking at the grave stones of the fallen, thinking Orochimaru is in mourning Itachi asks what is the point of life. Orochimaru characteristically explains to the young ninja who will become very important to his path going forward, there is no point really because it ends. Only an eternal life has meaning.
While contemplating this answer Itachi stands on the foot of a cliff and jumps. Likely planning to end his life that has no meaning however as he falls a crow flys by causing Itachi to slow his descent and live. At the bottom an entire flock of crows surrounds Itachi in a scene very reminiscent of one found in Batman Begins; showing the origins of Itachi’s connection to the bird as one lands on his out stretched arm.
After Itachi’s existential crisis Sasuke’s birth finally arrives with Itachi saying to his pregnant mom he wants a baby Brother. At Sasuke’s birth a piece of information that has never been know is revealed apparently Sasuke is named after the Third Hokage’s father, which Fugaku asked for permission to use. I know I sound like a broken record but Fugaku’s actions are so different from his previous appearances it almost borders on night and day, making me really curious and excited to see what will happen to change him. If anything I’m more interested in Fugaku’s path to the rebellion then I am Itachi’s.
However despite having a new younger brother not all is well for Itachi as he is still purposefully isolated. As he is wandering a young girl calls Itachi over to play with them as they prepare to play kick the can. Ignoring her request Itachi continues past the group saying he has to train with the shuriken. Angered by his aloof attitude the boys start hurling rocks at him all of which miss as Itachi easily and likely instinctually dodges them.
Eventually the children call him a coward for running away ignoring the protests of the young girl to leave him alone. The children fire one last volley of rocks at the young Uchiha. However Itachi quickly deflects them all with a rock of his own showing even at the age of four/five he is a formidable in battle setting up the next episode “Genius”. Eventually the sun goes down and the episode ends with Obito - “Madara” overlooking the leaf with both Itachi and Sasuke sense something ominous.
In the end I got to say this was a really good episode that certainly sets it apart from other flashback arcs in long running anime. It doesn’t radically change any of the canon while simultaneously expanding on it immensely. Fugaku’s actions are without any doubt one of the big mysteries and his change I expect will prove to be quite entertaining. Watching Itachi grow into the man we know is of course the driving force of the story and already we know much more about him. However he will provide a vital and missing view point to the series.
While many could argue correctly that this is just an attempt to pad an already bloated series longer using one of its most popular characters. I think it’ll serve as an important addition to the canon as already it’s shown more about some characters in 20 minutes then we have seen from them in over 600 episodes. While seeing the final battle between Naruto and Sasuke is the end goal I’m more then content with taking a little detour with Itachi for now.