• The Akatsuki started as orphans seeking peace, but tragedy and disillusionment turned them into villains.
  • Nagato, as Pain, transformed the Akatsuki into a powerful paramilitary organization seeking control through fear.
  • Nagato's redemption shows that even the most disillusioned can change their path and strive for peace.

The Akatsuki first came to be known as formidable villains throughout the Naruto story. Comprised of infamous rogue ninjas ranked as S-class criminals, they terrorized many lands with heinous acts during the series. Figures like Itachi Uchiha, Kisame Hoshigaki, and Pain became some of the most feared antagonists our heroes ever faced. With such dangerous members, the Akatsuki organization seemed like a clear threat.

However, their origins were not always as villains. The group was founded by three orphans named Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato, who lived in a land constantly ravaged by war. Seeking to help civilians caught in the conflicts, these friends banded together with hopes of bringing an end to all the fighting through peaceful means. Calling themselves the Akatsuki, their goal was one of helping others and achieving true peace across the Shinobi world. Tragedy would soon strike and unravel their noble aims, setting the stage for the mysterious villains they would become known as.

The Founding Ideals: Achieving Peace in a War-Torn World


The story of the Akatsuki truly begins in Amegakure, which had been constantly caught in the crossfire of the Third Shinobi World War. Three orphaned children with no family—Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato—struggled to survive the bloodshed tearing their homeland apart. Witnessing the horrors of war firsthand, the three friends vowed to end the conflict and establish peace. Inspired by Jiraiya's message of hope, the orphans formed a small rebel group called Akatsuki, seeking to protect civilians through non-violent negotiation and aid.

However, the warlord Hanzō saw the growing Akatsuki as a threat. In a devastating ambush, Hanzō killed Yahiko while Konan and Nagato watched helplessly. Yahiko's death triggered Nagato's Rinnegan awakening, and, grief-stricken, Nagato came to erroneously believe that only overwhelming force could ensure peace. He transformed Akatsuki's purpose from peacekeepers to an organization that would impose order through fear, straying from their original pacifist goals. While Nagato's intentions remained to establish peace, his means drifted into villainy, setting Akatsuki irrevocably down a tragic path that would see them viewed as criminals rather than the heroes they sought to be.

The Rise of Pain and the New Akatsuki


Abandoning his birth name, Nagato renamed himself Pain and rebuilt the Akatsuki from the ground up. No longer content with negotiating, the new Akatsuki actively sought out the most dangerous missing-nin as allies who could wield immense power. Among their earliest recruits were the infamous S-rank criminals Itachi Uchiha, Kisame Hoshigaki, Sasori, Orochimaru, and Kakuzu. With these formidable Shinobi at his command, Pain transformed the humble rebel group into a feared paramilitary organization capable of tipping the scales in any war.

Operating from the shadows of Amegakure, Pain renamed the village the "Village Hidden in the Rain" and took control as its totalitarian ruler through his Six Paths of Pain. With this political stronghold, Pain could freely mobilize Akatsuki's forces across nations to accomplish his goals of capturing all nine-tailed beasts, which he believed would allow him to force submission and maintain an artificial peace through the threat of violence, despite this distorting Yahiko's original vision of true peace. Pain's leadership elevated the Akatsuki to international infamy and cemented their new identity as mysterious villains.

Obito's Manipulation and Madara's Shadow


While the Akatsuki were led by the powerful figure known as Pain, who sought to capture the Tailed Beasts, he was unknowingly being used as a puppet. The true leader pulling the strings was Obito Uchiha, who had taken on the identity of Madara Uchiha. Using his spy, Zetsu, Obito manipulated Pain's ambitions to coincide with his own sinister plans. Obito aimed to capture all nine Tailed Beasts to revive the Ten-Tails and place humanity under an infinite genjutsu for what he saw as eternal peace.

The Akatsuki had long drifted from its original peaceful goals, formed by Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato. What began as a group seeking to end the constant warfare had descended into a threat controlled by hidden forces. Through tragedy and manipulation, the Akatsuki was transformed into a tool to advance the villanous agenda of Obito and Madara rather than its founders' dreams of protection and peace. It is a tragic tale of how noble intentions can be twisted until the original purpose is lost in the darkness.

A Glimmer of Hope: Nagato's Redemption and Legacy


Despite being used, Pain's belief in his friend's ideals was rediscovered when he faced off against Naruto. After years of cruel acts committed in Yahiko's name, Pain finally came to understand the error of his tactics when Naruto refused to abandon hope, friendship, and forgiveness, just as Jiraiya had taught. In his final moments, Pain used the powers of the Rinnegan to revive those he had killed in Konoha, atoning for his sins. The friendship between student and master was rekindled, and Nagato died believing Yahiko's dream could still be achieved—not through fear and threat of force but by understanding between all people.

Though it was too late to save himself or the Akatsuki, Nagato's redemption showed that even the most disillusioned can change their path when faith in humanity's bonds is restored. His legacy lives on through Naruto, who carries on striving for Nagato, Yahiko, and Jiraiya's original vision of uniting the nations through compassion instead of conflict. In the end, Nagato proved the founders' ideals could never truly die and could only be rekindled by new generations working to overcome hatred with friendship. This is the true message left behind by the tragic Akatsuki and all they stood for before darkness consumed their hopes.

From Villainy to Vindication: Akatsuki's Legacy Renewed


In the climactic Fourth Shinobi World War, the secrets of the Akatsuki were finally revealed. Obito and Madara had long manipulated the organization for their own ends, but members like Konan were freed from their strings. Konan gave her life to opposing Obito's Infinite Tsukuyomi plan, finally acting on her own. Even infamous members like Sasori and Deidara found redemption in death, expressing pride in their art instead of regrets. Itachi's double agent role protecting Konoha was made clear, cementing his heroic intentions behind years of necessary evils.

Naruto defeated Obito and used the power of the Tailed Beasts and every Shinobi to defeat the Infinite Tsukuyomi once and for all. With the villains' plans stopped and the manipulation of Madara and Zetsu ended, the legacy of Akatsuki's founding heroes, Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato, was allowed to shine through once more. Though the road was dark, their original message of peace had survived through Naruto to achieve the dream they always had for the new era. In the end, the heroism of Akatsuki's origins triumphed over the tragedy that had perverted their goals.

The tragedy of Akatsuki is a cautionary tale of good intentions corrupted by outside forces and the harsh realities of conflict. Yet it is also a story with threads of hope—of how even the darkest of villains can still be redeemed and how light can grow from tragedy if carried forward into a new dawn. Such is the bittersweet legacy of these Shinobi, who started as peacemakers but, through no fault of their own, fell so far from grace before finding light again in the youth they influenced. Their haunting path shows how easily any of us can become heroes or villains depending on the directions life may take us.

Naruto is available to stream on Crunchyroll.