Everything in Naruto seemingly has a Japanese cultural reference. From the name Sasuke meaning legendary ninja to the Sannin summons (slug frog snake) representing the Japanese version of the game Rock Paper Scissors.

I recall briefly that I read Itachi's crow also had a special, underlying meaning culturally, but cannot recover the source.

What cultural reference does the crow come with? And if there are nonculture related themes, please state those as well.

  • I have an explanation myself but it will take time to construct the answer. Can we include the tag tropes here?
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:12
  • @NaraShikamaru Is the crow really a trope? If you can include that in your answer, I will tag it as well.
    – krikara
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:16
  • it's just a thought though. But I think you can include it.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:20

3 Answers 3


Crows are serious—and seriously creepy—wherever they show up. In most of their fictional appearances, they are the go-to scary bird, and are traditionally associated with death in many mythologies and cultures.

On the other hand, crows are also very clever. They may feature a crow as:

  • the "Deadpan Snarker" - A character given to gnomic, sarcastic, sometimes bitter, occasionally whimsical asides.

    The Deadpan Snarker exists to deflate pomposity, point out the unlikelihood of certain plans, and deliver funny lines. Typically the most cynical supporting character. In most cases, it is implied that the snarker would make a good leader, strategist, or consultant given their ability to instantly see the flaws in a constructed plan;

  • the "Trickster Mentor" A Trickster whose actions, while seemingly pointless, selfish, antagonistic, or just plain random that contains a valuable lesson.

    In more fantastic settings, a Trickster Mentor educates their proteges by subjecting them to various transformations, body-swaps, literal wishes, and faked tests of character. Trickster Mentors love it when someone who first meets them doesn't realize who they are. They get to assess the "true character" of someone, then beat their sense of superiority out of them with it after the revelation. Or, rarely, give them a small break if they reveal honesty and good intentions.

  • or the "Zen Survivor" A character who has been through utter hell, and came out sad, cynical, and wise beyond their years. Part of their wisdom is knowing that it is wasted on most people, so they don't go around babbling it to everybody. Instead, they wait until they see somebody who is worthy, and serve as the worthy one's mentor.

As for Uchiha Itachi, his summoning technique best suited for what happened in his life. Itachi with his symbolic crow can be related to the "Zen Survivor" of his clansmen who is wise beyond their years (technically because of his age) and serves as a worthy one's mentor (both Sasuke and Naruto). On the other hand, the "Trickster Mentor" part also include faked tests of character also for both Naruto and Sasuke.

Please comment if you want to clarify something.

  • Interesting answer. These relations seem to be describing Western culture's depiction though. Is there anything significant to the Japanese culture, like folklore, mythology, or tradition?
    – krikara
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:54
  • Maybe I can edit my answer later. I have a very limited resources as of now. Other pages are blocked here at my workstation.:)
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 8:00
  • 1
    Please properly cite your sources and use block quotes, if you're going to copy them from elsewhere.
    – кяαzєя
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:37

Let me express my theory as well then... Western cultures usually connect a crow with bad, evil and unlucky phenomena. However, among Ainu, indigenous tribes of Japanese islands, crow is a bird which sacrificed itself so that evil could not destroy the Sun, and with it the whole world. I believe that Kishimoto used this concept when he chose a crow as a symbol for Itachi.


Well, crows can symbolise death as crows are known to pick at human corpses, it's not just that the crow is a dark bird, it is quite predatory in that sense. It could be that the writer liked the film The Crow (!) (The lead actor- Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee died during that film creepy, suspicious and sad)... Also there is "The Madara Rider" which is a World Heritage Site carving. Madara is the name of the horse (a horse universally represents power) that has a snake, a crow and a dog at it's feet, I wondered if the crow could represent Itachi, the Snake Sasuke (he works with it later) or Orochimaru, and Madara's dog seems to be Tobi (don't want to give anything away there though). Also it's clear that that site must have been carved by Ninja's as it was carved up a straight 100 metre wall quite far down and people aren't sure how it could have been made, so there's your answer to that one:- IT WAS NINJA'S! (joking :D )

  • In Japanese culture, crows symbolize rejuvenation and rebirth. Only in Western culture are they seen as a stigma.
    – кяαzєя
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:43

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