The world of anime is filled with captivating stories, memorable characters, and epic battles. Among the most iconic and notorious groups in anime history is the Akatsuki from “Naruto Shippuden.” This organization of rogue ninja has left an indelible mark on fans’ hearts and the anime landscape. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricate details of the Akatsuki, exploring their origins, members, goals, and impact on the Naruto Shippuden series.
The Akatsuki, a central element of the beloved anime “Naruto Shippuden,” boasts a history as intricate as its enigmatic members. This clandestine organization has left an indelible mark on the anime landscape, captivating audiences with its dark allure and complex origins.
The initial concept of Akatsuki was devised by Black Zetsu as part of its plan to revive its mother, though it pretended the idea came from Madara Uchiha, whom Black Zetsu tricked into thinking that it was a manifestation of his will.
Akatsuki was originally founded by Yahiko during the Third Shinobi World War alongside his childhood friends, Nagato and Konan. As citizens of Amegakure who had been orphaned by the Second Shinobi World War, the three created Akatsuki as a way to bring peace to their home country, which too often got caught in the crossfire of the Five Great Shinobi Countries’ many conflicts.
In time, the three were approached by Tobi, who introduced himself as Madara Uchiha. Tobi claimed Nagato was the reincarnation of the Sage of Six Paths and offered to teach him to control the power of his Rinnegan, though Yahiko distrusted him and prompted Nagato to turn down his offer. Nevertheless, Tobi would later claim that it was he who encouraged Yahiko to form Akatsuki, unbeknownst to Konan.
Akatsuki’s desire for an end to war attracted many fellow Ame ninja to their cause and, in time, word of their exploits began to travel beyond Amegakure’s borders. Akatsuki’s early fame was owed largely to Yahiko’s leadership and his natural charisma, which kept the group united and motivated them to persevere despite the difficulties of their goal. Yahiko, however, viewed himself as merely a facilitator for Nagato, who would ultimately be the actual source of world peace because of his Rinnegan.
Ame’s leader, Hanzō, also became aware of Akatsuki and perceived them as a threat to his rule, a belief encouraged by Danzō Shimura in the anime. Hanzō approached Akatsuki offering to help them broker peace between Konohagakure, Iwagakure, and Sunagakure.
When Yahiko, Nagato, and Konan arrived to meet with him, however, they were ambushed by Hanzō’s men and members of Danzō’s Root, who took Konan hostage and forced Yahiko to commit suicide in order to save her. Enraged by Yahiko’s death, Nagato summoned the Demonic Statue of the Outer Path and used it to slaughter their attackers, though Hanzō himself escaped.
In the anime, the other members of Akatsuki were tipped off to Hanzō’s plan and attempted to provide backup to Yahiko and the others. Tobi and Zetsu intercepted them and after a long battle, Tobi killed the remaining members of the group.
With Yahiko’s dying breath he entrusted the pursuit of peace to Nagato. Nagato, grieved by Yahiko’s death, came to believe that the world would never willingly consent to peace and that Akatsuki’s previously pacifist approaches were therefore futile.
He concluded that the only way the world would turn away from its constant warfare would be to experience such catastrophic death and destruction that it could never again stomach the idea of conflict.
Intending to be the one to show these horrors to the world, Nagato began using the alias “Pain” and formed the Six Paths of Pain, into which he integrated Yahiko’s corpse so that he could symbolically continue leading Akatsuki. Nagato sought out Obito, under the guise of Madara Uchiha, and accepted his earlier offer of support, which he provided in secret.
After the Third Shinobi World War, Akatsuki began recruiting S-rank missing-nin; mostly through strong-arming them and promising protection to carry out their respective goals. Orochimaru and Itachi joined for their own reasons, while Kisame and Zetsu joined to secretly ensure the Eye of the Moon Plan. Once Akatsuki recruited its target of ten members, Akatsuki began following a three-step process to achieve this stated objective:
- Obtain enough money to support their organisation.
- Provide mercenary services at well under the competitive rate, using the money gathered in the first step to offset costs. This will make countries increasingly dependent on Akatsuki’s services, corner the entire market for shinobi missions, and eventually put all of the shinobi villages out of business because they can’t compete with Akatsuki’s prices. By capturing and strategically deploying the tailed beasts, Akatsuki could quickly start and then quell wars, thereby speeding up the process.
- Once all other major shinobi forces have dissolved, Akatsuki will be able to quickly conquer all the countries of the world.
The early years of Nagato’s Akatsuki were very successful, as the hidden villages increasingly hired Akatsuki to fight in wars and perform assassinations that the villages themselves were unwilling to get involved in during times of peace.
The Fourth Raikage claims that only Kumogakure never hired Akatsuki, while the Third Tsuchikage in particular became a frequent employer. Despite being such a popular and successful group, Akatsuki was largely a mystery to those outside the organisation, with many (incorrectly) coming to believe they operated out of Kirigakure.
Akatsuki experienced some turmoil amongst its members over the years: Kakuzu regularly killed his partners in fits of rage and stole their hearts for his Earth Grudge Fear only being teamed with the immortal Hidan prevented him from continuing to do this.
Orochimaru attempted to steal Itachi Uchiha’s body after the latter joined the organisation, and when that failed he was forced to defect. Despite this, Akatsuki was able to begin working towards capturing the tailed beasts.
Nagato’s actual objective behind acquiring the tailed beasts was to harness the tailed beasts’ chakra to create a powerful kinjutsu, using it to wipe out one side in a conflict and, from the display, frighten the other side and the world at large to stop the fighting.
If and when the fears abated and conflicts renewed, the kinjutsu would be deployed again, creating small periods of peace in an endless chain of hatred. Because all but one of the tailed beasts were in the possession of the hidden villages, their capture risked antagonising many of Akatsuki’s former clients.
Despite this, Deidara claims that the previous owners of the first two tailed beasts captured by Akatsuki (indicated in the anime to have been the Five-Tails and the Seven-Tails) were glad to be rid of them.
After years of inactivity, the Akatsuki’s return with the mission to capture the tailed beasts gradually elevates them from the shadows of the world and, in turn, prompts a growing resistance by the hidden villages.
After Deidara captures the One Tail, Sasori is killed in battle with the Suna and Konoha forces sent to rescue the One Tail’s jinchūriki. Obito takes this open position as an opportunity to officially join Akatsuki as “Tobi”, helping capture the Three Tails.
Around the same time, Hidan and Kakuzu capture the Two-Tails, but both are subsequently defeated in unrelated confrontations with Konoha’s Nijū Shōtai. Kisame Hoshigaki later acquires the Four-Tails, after which both Deidara and Itachi separately die in battle against Sasuke Uchiha.
Because of their shrinking numbers, Tobi pressures Nagato into taking a more active role in capturing the remaining tailed beasts. In the anime, he and Konan are first sent to capture the Six-Tails, which was captured at some earlier point in the manga.
They are afterwards sent to Konoha to capture the Nine-Tails, and in the course of the resultant Pain’s Assault the village is destroyed. When he finally locates and meets with the Nine-Tails’ jinchūriki, Naruto Uzumaki, Nagato begins to doubt the direction he has taken Akatsuki in since Yahiko’s death.
After Nagato’s Six Paths of Pain are defeated, Naruto convinces him that a bloodless peace is worth pursuing no matter how impossible it may seem. To make up for all the missteps he took, Nagato gives his life to revive the Konoha villagers that died during his attack, using his last breath to encourage Naruto to achieve the peace that he was never able to. With Yahiko and Nagato gone, Konan opts to leave Akatsuki.
Tobi approached Akatsuki in order to get close to Nagato, whose Rinnegan he needed to complete the Eye of the Moon Plan. Over the years, he remained in the shadows, allowing Nagato to stay as Akatsuki’s leader while Obito manipulated him towards his desired ends, specifically capturing all nine tailed beasts so that he can restore the Ten-Tails and use it to cast the Infinite Tsukuyomi on the world, ending all conflict by trapping everyone in a dream.
Obito follows the Eye of the Moon Plan under instructions of the real Madara Uchiha, whose identity Obito assumed after Madara’s death. Madara intended Obito to have Nagato revive him in the final stages of the plan, though Obito had no plans to uphold that end of the plan and intended to use Nagato to revive himself should anything happen to him. However, this subterfuge was rendered moot by Nagato betraying Obito and using the Samsara of Heavenly Life Technique to revive everyone he killed during his invasion of Konoha.
Even before Nagato’s death, Obito takes a growing role in Akatsuki’s activities, due in large part to Itachi Uchiha’s death. He reveals himself to Kisame, who worked with him during their time in Kirigakure and is happy to collaborate with him yet again.
He also convinces Sasuke Uchiha and his team, Taka, to join forces with Akatsuki, an alliance that Obito believes is worth the losses of all the other Akatsuki members. While Nagato goes after the Nine-Tails, Obito sends Taka after the Eight-Tails, the only other remaining tailed beast.
Although Taka initially appears successful, they are discovered to have been tricked by the Eight-Tails’ jinchūriki, Killer B. When Zetsu shortly afterwards reports Nagato’s own death, Obito is deeply agitated by the setbacks, particularity Nagato’s betrayal, and increasingly irritated by Naruto’s constant thwarting of his plans.
With their ranks so diminished and with the Five Great Shinobi Countries finally starting to mobilise against Akatsuki, both because of the attack on Konoha and the botched capture of Killer B, Obito is forced to start taking drastic actions. He first sends Kisame to capture B and then sends Taka to attack the Five Kage Summit.
Sasuke does not perform as well against the Five Kage as Obito wished, as he had hoped they would be weakened enough to be forced to negotiate. Instead, he must approach them diplomatically, asking that they help him complete his Eye of the Moon Plan by surrendering the Eight-Tails and Nine-Tails. They refuse, prompting Obito to initiate the Fourth Shinobi World War.
While preparing for war, Obito is approached by Kabuto Yakushi, a former subordinate of Sasori and Orochimaru. Kabuto offers to bolster Akatsuki’s fighting strength with the Impure World Reincarnation, reviving Akatsuki’s past members and several other once-notable shinobi.
Obito is reluctant until Kabuto blackmails him by reviving the real Madara Uchiha, on whose name Obito has been banking the credibility of his threats against the hidden villages. Obito is forced to agree. He then goes to Amegakure to take Nagato’s Rinnegan, killing Konan in the process. News eventually reaches them of Kisame’s death, but Kisame is at least able to send them intel that enables Kabuto to strengthen Obito’s White Zetsu Army.
In the two days of the war between Akatsuki and the Allied Shinobi Forces, both sides suffer heavy casualties, yet Naruto and Killer B elude capture. When most of the White Zetsu are defeated and Kabuto is made to end the Impure World Reincarnation, Obito, having no more options, prematurely revives the Ten Tails.
Madara, having escaped Kabuto’s influence, lends a degree of support, eventually leading Obito to become the Ten-Tails’ jinchūriki. He is defeated by Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke (who has since sided against Akatsuki) before he can perform the Infinite Tsukuyomi, and as a result Obito stops pursuing the Eye of the Moon Plan.
With Obito’s surrender, Akatsuki’s schemes officially end. Following his defeat, Obito undergoes a change of heart, thanks to both Naruto and Kakashi’s influence, and Obito attempts to redeem himself by using the Samsara of Heavenly Life Technique to revive everyone he killed during the war.
However, his attempts are foiled by Black Zetsu, who latched itself onto Obito and forces him to indeed utilise the technique, but instead of reviving those killed during the war, Black Zetsu successfully forces Obito to fully revive Madara.
Madara’s plans are momentarily set back, however, as his Rinnegan eyes start to crumble away (due to his original eyes being elsewhere; his left eye being in Obito’s possession, and his right eye being hidden away by Obito himself) as his reincarnated eyes were merely part of his reincarnated body.
Nevertheless, Madara quickly regains possession of his right eye, and successfully perseveres, sealing the Ten-Tails into his body. Afterwards, Madara engages in battle against Might Guy, who received a boost in power from opening the Eight Gates Released Formation, whom Madara barely manages to survive against.
Madara subsequently battles against both Naruto and Sasuke, who gained Six Paths Senjutsu and Rinnegan, respectively, from Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki, during which Madara regains possession of his left eye from Obito.
With both eyes returned, Madara subsequently awakens the Rinne Sharingan and successfully launches the Infinite Tsukuyomi. However, he is afterwards betrayed by Black Zetsu, who has been scheming for centuries to revive Kaguya Ōtsutsuki, with first Madara, then Obito, and then Akatsuki itself being mere pawns used in pursuit of that goal.
Kaguya is restored using Madara as a medium but, with Obito’s and Team 7’s efforts, she and Black Zetsu are defeated by Naruto and Sasuke, after which Madara succumbs to having the Tailed Beasts extracted, and the Infinite Tsukuyomi is ended by the combined efforts of Naruto and Sasuke.
Despite the defeat of Akatsuki during the Fourth Shinobi World War and the death and destruction they caused, Akatsuki’s methods of peace remain attractive to certain individuals. Some, such as the Ryūha Armament Alliance and Gengo, carry on Akatsuki’s goals in spirit.
About fifteen years after the end of the war, a former test subject of Orochimaru’s, Shin, develops a fascination with Itachi and adopts the Uchiha name while plotting to avenge Itachi by killing Sasuke.
In addition, Shin goes so far as to adopt Akatsuki’s name, believing its former goal of endless warfare is the perfect evolutionary tool, weeding out the weak and promoting strength for all of humanity.
He composes Akatsuki with numerous clones of himself and seeks to start moving forward with Akatsuki’s revival. Shin’s plans start facing complications as soon as the Seventh Hokage becomes aware of him following an encounter between Sasuke and a clone.
Shin uses drastic measures to counter Naruto and Sasuke, such as sending his clones to unsuccessfully kidnap Sasuke’s daughter, Sarada Uchiha and forcefully take his wife, Sakura. Shin is soon afterwards betrayed and killed by his clones, who accordingly surrender and are dropped off at the Konoha Orphanage, ending his new Akatsuki before it ever truly begins.
Under Nagato, Akatsuki members are organised into teams of two, usually paired based on perceived similarities (such as Itachi or Kisame) or advantageous combinations (such as Hidan and Kakuzu).
Although some pairs get along better than others, few seem to actually like each other; Sha no Sho notes that members always have separate rooms when staying at hotels. Hostilities tend to exist even between members who aren’t partners, though they so rarely meet that this is rarely an actual problem. Teams travel the world pursuing Akatsuki’s goals, only convening when summoned by Nagato, typically to seal a tailed beast.
Nagato & Konan
Target(s): Six-Tails (Pain, Sealed, anime only), Nine-Tails (Pain, Failed)
As childhood friends and fellow members of the original Akatsuki, Nagato and Konan are the only members who consistently get along. Because Nagato is Akatsuki’s leader, Konan tends to defer to him, doing as he instructs even when she personally disagrees.
In Nagato’s rule of Amegakure, Konan acts as the “angel” to his “god”, communicating his will to Ame’s villagers. Nagato’s true identity is concealed from the rest of the organisation, and instead, the Deva Path is used as his representative.
Black Zetsu & White Zetsu
Black Zetsu and White Zetsu are allies of Tobi who helped him approach Nagato and officially joined Akatsuki seemingly long before Tobi. Although they exist as two separate identities, most of the time they are merged together and act as the singular Akatsuki member, Zetsu.
The two sometimes argue, but it never interferes with their duties: spying, evidence disposal, and resource acquisition. Zetsu is often the only member of Akatsuki other than their partners that members meet in person. Zetsu typically helps transport a jinchūriki to one of Akatsuki’s hideouts for extracting the Tailed Beast.
Orochimaru & Sasori
Orochimaru and Sasori were one of the earlier Akatsuki teams to be formed. Little is known of their deeds, but they apparently were quite effective together. They also got along well enough that Orochimaru knew how Sasori’s actual “body” looked beneath his typical Hiruko carapace, although their relationship eventually deteriorated to the point of both of them wanting to change partners. Sasori held a grudge against Orochimaru after he defected from Akatsuki and took a personal interest in his activities afterwards.
Jūzō & Itachi
Jūzō and Itachi worked very well with each other, being involved in at least three missions together, which involved assassination and sabotage. The two partners had an unique system of formations in order to better synchronise with each other.
Formation A was used when both shinobi attacked individually using whichever ability they preferred, Formation B had Itachi open up with an attack involving genjutsu or shurikenjutsu while Jūzō killed the incapacitated shinobi with his sword, Formation C was a personal request by Jūzō to be killed by Itachi if he would be captured by Kirigakure and Formation D was to be proposed by Itachi but he refused to do so.
Eventually, Jūzō was killed by the Fourth Mizukage during an assassination attempt of the two Akatsuki members against a Land of Water citizen and, after severely injuring Yagura, Itachi put the remains of Kubikiribōchō into his partner’s hands, showing respect to his fallen comrade.
Itachi & Kisame
Target(s): Nine-Tails (Itachi, Failed), Four-Tails (Kisame, Sealed), Eight Tails (Kisame, Failed)
Kisame thought their partnership was appropriate as both were notorious for killing their fellow countrymen. Despite conflicting personalities, Itachi and Kisame get along well: Kisame has a greater predisposition towards violence, but always follows Itachi’s instructions, even when it denies him an opportunity to kill someone. Kisame is sad after Itachi dies, and Itachi, once reincarnated, displays some regret on learning of Kisame’s own death.
Sasori & Deidara
Target(s): One-Tail (Deidara, Sealed)
Deidara is forcibly recruited (with help from Itachi) to replace Orochimaru as Sasori’s partner. Each view themselves as an artist, though has little respect for the other’s preferred art form: Sasori believes art is eternal, as in a puppet, while Deidara believes art is fleeting, as in an explosion. Deidara pays some deference to Sasori since he’s more experienced, but is very disappointed by Sasori’s death.
Kakuzu & Hidan
Target(s): Seven-Tails (Kakuzu, Sealed, anime only), Two-Tails (Hidan, Sealed)
After Kakuzu killed all of his previous partners in fits of rage, he was paired with Hidan, an immortal he couldn’t kill. Whereas other teams at least have moments of cooperation, Hidan and Kakuzu actively hate each other: Hidan believes Kakuzu’s obsession with money is sacrilegious and Kakuzu desperately wants to kill Hidan because his habits constantly waste Kakuzu’s time.
Despite this, the two are arguably the most effective of Akatsuki’s teams, variously called the “Immortal Combo” (不死コンビ, Fushi Konbi) and the “Zombie Combo” (ゾンビコンビ, Zonbi Konbi).
If Hidan is dismembered, Kakuzu can sew him back together. Kakuzu, meanwhile, can launch indiscriminate attacks without needing to worry about Hidan being killed in the crossfire. Shikamaru Nara believes they are unstoppable so long as they are together.
Deidara & Tobi
Target(s): Three-Tails (Tobi, Sealed)
When Tobi replaces Sasori in Akatsuki he also becomes Deidara’s new partner. Per the persona he assumes, Tobi regularly annoys Deidara, either through open disrespect or out of apparent ignorance. Deidara attempts to kill Tobi several times out of irritation, but never manages to succeed, or at least follow through.
Deidara, unaware of Tobi’s true identity, takes him on as a sort of disciple, instructing him on the ways of the world and how to succeed in Akatsuki. Deidara even displays a certain fondness for Tobi at the end of his life, instructing him to get to a safe distance from his C4 and then apologising for what he assumes will be Tobi’s death prior to using C0.