The Naruto franchise is a massive success akin to other anime legends like One Piece and Dragon Ball before it. For over a decade the series has entertained anime enthusiasts and casual viewers alike. The series has spawned two different continuations that have proven that its success can't be stopped. What truly makes the franchise a force to be reckoned with are its fantastic and unique cast of characters. Like most successful anime each fan favorite Naruto character features a distinct style, personality, and fighting style.
One of the most interesting concepts in the Naruto universe is the villainous Akatsuki and their secret machinations to capture all of the tailed beasts. The organization is like a ninja Legion of Doom with several distinct villains teamed together for a common end. The Akatsuki represent all that is great about Naruto and all of its faults. At its best, it features some of the most interesting and complex characters in the series. At worst, it is the fulcrum for the convoluted storylines the series is often criticized for.
The organization features many of the series most famous characters. Characters like Itachi and Madara are often thought of as among the most complex villains in the series. Conversely, the organization's many twists involving its leadership are often cited among the franchise's weakest and most overwritten moments. The team's mixed bag of legendary and problematic characters had a tug of war over the quality of the franchise in the later days of Naruto Shippuden, but its finer moments make cement it as a legendary team in the pantheon of anime villains.
Here are 20 Akatsuki That Hurt The Show (And 10 That Saved It).
20 saved - Itachi
Ask pretty much any Naruto fan who their favorite Akatsuki member is and the most likely answer you’ll get is Itachi Uchiha. Sasuke’s brother is not only the most complex of the organization but he is also widely regarded as one of the best characters of the series. In fact, he was the character that introduced the organization in the first place. That Mangeyko Sharingan made quite the first impression.
Motivated to preserve his little brother’s life, Itachi went on an extensive undercover campaign inside Akatsuki. His true motivations were only revealed when he tragically passed away fighting the brother he’d secretly loved the entire time. Like Harry Potter’s Professor Snape, fans will always debate whether or not the character is truly good, truly evil, or more likely something in between. He may have had good intentions in the end but that doesn’t mean Kakashi was any less psychically crucified.
19 hurt - Nagato
When Pein first made his appearance as the mysterious leader of Akatsuki, fans were sure they’d just seen the ultimate villain of the series. He made even more of an impression when he went on to eliminate Jiraiya in his first full out battle. As things went on, it really looked like Pein was going to be the villain MVP of the series. Except he wasn’t. Not even close.
Pein, or Nagato as we would learn later, was actually the first of many red herring villains in the convoluted Akatsuki super villain hierarchy. While some of the fight scenes and backstory of the character are interesting still, it’s hard to look back on Shippuden as a whole and wonder if the entire Akatsuki arc wouldn’t have been better had he just been left out entirely. Either that or just not have had him pose as the first of many faux masterminds who look like Hot Topic regulars.
18 saved - Deidara
The Akatsuki made quite an impression on the original Naruto. Itachi’s brief but brutal showdown with Kakashi was a wonderful set up for what was to come. When Shippuden began, one of the biggest challenges was capitalizing on that set up from so many years earlier. Luckily, they picked Deidara for that job.
Deidara made his explosive entrance when he took on and defeated fan favorite character Gaara. His signature explosives, mouth hands, and grinning sadism proved to be extremely memorable. He went on to have several more impressive fight scenes before finally being eliminated by Sasuke. Still, he will always be remembered for winning his first fight by nearly annihilating an entire village. That's quite the explosive entrance.
17 hurt - Kakuzu
Naruto is known for having a wide range of great and memorable characters. Between its villains, main cast, and supporting players, there are dozens of magnificent characters with a unique power set and a signature style. Unfortunately, that can be a hard standard to live up to. It's in this way that the character Kakuzu falls short. He has a fairly generic personality. His backstory isn't particularly memorable. The style he's drawn in looks like he's just an extra in one of the massive ninja war battle sequences. His signature jutsu is also one of the most forgettable of the team.
The best thing about the character is his animosity towards his partner Hidan. Their back and forth is one of the more entertaining interactions of the team members. It's just too bad he wasn't as interesting as his partner.
16 saved - Sasori
Deidara may have made the first big impression in Shippuden but Sasori ended up being the star of the arc. Initially, Sasori seemed like a really odd character who mostly just used his metal tail for attacking. His fight scene with Kankuro wasn't nearly as memorable as Deidara's with Gaara. All that changed when he squared off against Sakura and Chiyo.
What seemed at first like the less interesting fight than the one raging between Kakashi, Naruto, and Deidara quickly proved itself to be one of the best parts of the early days of the Naruto spinoff. As each layer of Sasori's fascinating puppet jutsu was revealed, the battle and Sasori himself became more and more memorable. He came to a tragic end and joined the likes of characters like Haku and Kimimaro in the Naruto pantheon of characters you love, despite the fact that you should hate them.
15 hurt - Orochimaru
Orochimaru made quite the stir in Naruto. His anime Voldemort antics were some of the best parts about the first series. His attack on the Hidden Leaf village during the Chunin Exams and the hunt to reclaim Sasuke from him are widely considered to be the best arcs of the original Naruto series.
Not everything about Orochimaru was great though. Initially, the revelation that Orochimaru was part of the Akatsuki seemed as though it was going to make an interesting plot point. In the end, however, it amounted to very little. Orochimaru's brief membership in Akatsuki proved to be just more of the convoluted plot points that plagued Shippuden. In Shippuden, all roads lead back to the Akatsuki whether they really should or not.
14 saved - Obito
There are many twists that fell flat in the series. Like many long-running anime, the series became bloated with too many intermingling plot points at an excess amount of characters. Despite this, the show frequently showed that it could still defy expectations and deliver the goods. The Obito twist was definitely one of those times.
Kakashi was one of the biggest fan favorite characters but he was also one of the most mysterious. His origin (and actual face for that matter) remained a secret for many years. One of the first big mysteries the show set up was how Kakashi got his Sharingan. Boy, did that wait pay off. The episodes that show Obito and Kakashi's story and the painful reunion were some of the most brutally emotional of the entire franchise. Of all the many many many Akatsuki secret string puller reveals, Obito's was by far the best.
13 hurt - Konan
There are a lot of tragic characters in the Naruto franchise. A ton of tragic characters. In fact, almost every single character is a tragic character. While most of the tragic origin stories were really gut-wrenching, at a certain point there starts to be diminishing returns on the bloody ninja tragedies.
Unfortunately, Konan is one of the characters that fall into this latter character. There's nothing wrong with her arc per se, but when taken into context with the larger story, it just a drop in the shinobi tragedy bucket. Ultimately, Konan and Nagato's origins (and by proxy the origins of the entire organization) was just more par for the course for a series that had gone to great lengths already to show the horrors of the Naruto universe.
12 saved - Madara
At a certain point, the series' Russian nesting doll of secret evil masterminds got to be taxing. While Madara at first seemed to just take away from Obito as a villain, he more than proved himself to be one of the most memorable villains of the series.
Between him taking on an entire Shinobi army or his legendary battle with Might Guy, Madara was the second wind Shippuden so desperately needed that far into the lengthy Shinobi war arc. While his mastermind who masterminded a mastermind to mastermind another mastermind while secretly being masterminded by a mastermind goddess was needlessly and painfully convoluted, sometimes with anime the fight scenes can really make up for a lot. Also, he was responsible for the initial Nine-Tails conflict that began the entire series. That's some impressive villainy.
11 hurt - Kaguya
Kaguya's reveal at the end of Naruto was met with some extremely mixed reactions. The Akatsuki organization was already in pain from hardcore "too many chefs in the kitchen" syndrome before she got there. The entire thing being the secret machinations of what was basically the Shinobi god was a pretty hard right turn just as fans got used to the idea of Madara as the series antagonist.
It's basically like if The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ended with Aragorn, Gandalf, and Frodo finding out that Sauron wasn't the main bad guy the entire time. Then the final act of the series would take a hard right to refocus the fight on the Fellowship battling out with Morgoth despite Sauron being the character that was so wonderfully set up as the main antagonist. The Kaguya story is not bad if it is separated from the larger narrative. Her creation, in fact, has led to quite a lot of great things in Boruto. It just would've been better had she been given her own separate arc instead of piggybacking on the back of an arc several other villains had piggybacked on already.
10 saved - Sasuke
Sasuke went on quite a dark road after Naruto on his path to eventual redemption. One of the major turning points for the character was when he had his long awaited final battle with his older brother. The true tragedy of the battle was that Sasuke finally learned the truth about who his brother really was only to lose him immediately there after.
This led him further into the darkness and briefly into an alliance with the Akatsuki. While the alliance was short lived, it was definitely an intense moment when he put on that trademark cloak for the first time. It seemed for a while there that Sasuke was well passed redemption. His brief tenure in Akatsuki is a major point in his long character arc. It was one of the darkest moments for the character and was a perfect showcase for how the organization recruits the disenfranchised and lost.
9 hurt - Jugo
Naruto was well known for introducing a plethora of amazing supporting players. Characters like Rock Lee, Neji, Shikamaru, and others like them quickly became fan favorites for their interesting personalities, diverse styles, and well thought out abilities.
In Shippuden, however, the series continued to introduce new characters instead of featuring the fan favorites from the original series in major roles. Jugo was one of those new characters that just didn't take off quite like some of the ones that proceeded him. As part of Sasuke's team, Taka, and briefly Akatsuki by an alliance, Jugo's hot temper and relatively simplistic fighting style didn't prove to be memorable in any serious way. Focus on characters like him merely detracted from the time that could've been spent on the already established supporting cast.
8 saved - Hidan
Few of the members of the Akatsuki struck at the heart of fans like Hidan did. The passing of Asuma was one of the first of many brutal endings that would rock Shippuden. Though the biggest surprise was that it wasn't all of those cigarettes that did him in. Hidan represents all that is memorable about the Akatsuki. His unique religious beliefs, powerful jutsu, and immortality made him stand out among the horde of evil ninja around him. Hidan's skeletal makeup also gave him a style that was far better than his partner's.
The best part about Hidan may actually be his final fate. His final battle with Shikamaru ends with him being eternally buried in painful agony. In fact, he's likely to out live every other character in complete misery until the end of time. If that isn't memorable, what is?
7 hurt - Yahiko
As the story around Akatsuki unfolded, it seemed as though the final revelations about the organization centered around Yahiko and his failed group of revolutionaries. Looking at the end results of the story, Yahiko and the original Akatsuki just don't seem quite as important. The ninja world is filled with a great deal of tragedy, not all of it can prove memorable.
In the end, Yahiko's origin story just seems like fat on the Akatsuki bird that could've been cut. The organization would've been fine as it stood, it didn't need a lengthy origin detailing its noble beginnings. Separated from the larger narrative, the story definitely has its merits. When it's thrown in with all of the plots and counter plots, goddesses and nigh immortal Shinobi, it just gets lost in the mix.
6 saved - Kisame
For many fans, the first villain of the series Zabuza was the first real fan favorite. He was the one who truly showed everyone what a ninja battle could be. That's why the void of his passing seems to ripple through the rest of the series. One of the main ways he lives on is in his old compatriot Kisame.
Like Zabuza before him, Kisame wields a Bleach style giant sword. He also uses incredible water style jutsus that lead to several impressive battles. His fight with Might Guy was one of the first times anyone got to see the legendary fighter let loose. Their final battle remains one of the best in the series as both experienced fighters gave their all. While he's hardly the greatest member of the Akatsuki, he more than holds his own.
5 hurt - Karin
Of all of the members of Sasuke's brief Akatsuki team, Karin was perhaps the least interesting. She was obviously meant to represent Sakura and Sasuke's begrudging connection with her. In the end, she didn't prove enough to differentiate herself from Sakura.
The biggest con to her character comes when Sasuke callously stabs her through the chest in his battle with Danzo. This was perhaps Sasuke's darkest moment in the series and is a hard one to forget when looking at the redeemed Sasuke. Ultimately, like Sakura, too much of her character and agency is tied to her romantic obsession with the abusive Sasuke. Female Shinobi just throw themselves at Sasuke no matter how he treats them. He's the Edward Cullen of the ninja world, apparently.
4 saved - Kabuto
Kabuto is one of the most complex villains of the series. Of all the duplicitous awful Shinobi in the series, Kabuto may be the most deceitful of them all. From his first appearance in the Chunin Exams, Kabuto proved that one can never truly know where his allegiances lie.
That's why it wasn't much of a surprise when Kabuto allied himself with what remained of Akatsuki during the Fourth Shinobi War. His resurrection jutsu not only brought back the passed members of the organization, but also many other powerful ninja. It was one of the most significant contributions to the cause any of the various Shinobi associated with Akatsuki ever attempted.
3 hurt - Zetsu
Zetsu was one of the most mysterious members of the organization. Along with Tobi, he was often in the background being secretive. Unlike Tobi though, the revelations about his character were not worth the long set up. In the end, both black and white Zetsu never really developed enough to put them on par with the other members of the team.
While he was an integral servant to the long plot line involving Kaguya, he proved to be little more than a cog in the background. So many of the other characters had strong personalities and motivations of their own, Zetsu gets lost in the mix.
2 saved - Suigetsu
Team Taka wasn't the most interesting of the various ninja teams that were assembled throughout the franchise. Most of the team lacked the originality and background to truly prove themselves memorable when compared to the wide pantheon of well developed Shinobi.
Suigetsu fortunately stands apart. His quest to unite all of the swords of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist gave him agency outside of Sasuke's goals and the group dynamic. He had much more charisma than his counterparts and had several memorable battles. He even earned the respect of Kisame when they did battle.
1 hurt - Juzo
Of all the Akatsuki members, Juzo is by far the most forgettable. As one of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist, he had quite the competition. Zabuza and Kisame both made impressive impressions in very little time. Juzo, by comparison, seems like a Zabuza rip off with a very similar look.
Juzo dies before most of the action. He and Itachi went on several missions together but very little of it was ever shown. It's hard to imagine they were as memorable a pair as Itachi and Kisame. That's a hard evil bromance to top.
Which Akatsuki members from Naruto are your favorites? Which do you hate? Let us know in the comments!