…we still don’t quite have the answer! We’re close at least, and judging from Itachi’s words both then and now, I’m starting to wonder if the crow he left in Naruto is intended to stop himself instead of Sasuke. Given how far ahead Naruto’s parents planned, it seems highly probable for Itachi to take into account the possibility that he’d be used by Madara someday. Back in chapter 403, he also mentioned that he hopes Naruto will never have to use “it”, and considering how the technique activated now, one way to interpret what he said is that he hoped he’ll never be trying to kill Naruto. The other possibility is that it’s a Sharingan counter in general, in which case it was intended to protect Naruto from Sasuke or Madara and activated prematurely here.
In both cases, “hoping that Naruto will never have to use it” would still fit, but in the latter one, I like the idea that Itachi’s technique was intended for Madara, just like the Amaterasu he left with Sasuke. As revealed in this chapter, Itachi believed Sasuke returned to the village after killing him, having exacted his revenge and never learned the truth, and may have anticipated that Naruto and Sasuke would have to face Madara one day. There was also further indication that Itachi hoped his death would free Sasuke from an endless cycle of hatred, and that he believed in Naruto because he desperately wanted to save Sasuke as well, suggesting that Sasuke was never the intended target. Coincidentally, Itachi’s surprise from learning that Sasuke decided to seek revenge on Konoha and sided with Madara to that end made me open up to the possibility that story is building up to a climactic finish where Naruto does save Sasuke somehow and together they stop Madara, ending generations of strife between the Senju and Uchiha.
Naruto and Sasuke are the descendants of those clans after all, so ridding the world of Madara would be a rather symbolic way of putting the past behind them. The sound of that has a befitting, climactic shounen feel to it too, and while I agree it may be a bit cliche, it does bring together the entire story that’s been told so far — from the very first moment that Team 7 was formed. I’m clearly getting ahead of myself, but I do want to see the above scenario happen simply because it seems to fit and I can picture it quite clearly. 🙂 For now, it’s just a matter of which route the story will take, depending on Itachi’s explanation of his technique next time.
Lastly, I know it doesn’t seem like much of a fight when Pain and Itachi are purposely warning Naruto and B of their attacks and explaining how to counter their techniques, but that hasn’t taken away from the scale of their battle for me. That’s mainly because it has the whole sentimental aspect going for it, and the fact that chakra limits don’t seem to apply for resurrected ninjas.