Madara stares down at a battlefield in "Naruto Shipudden"

Villainous, Charismatic, and Effortlessly Stylish: ‘Naruto’s Akatsuki Members, Ranked

A series is only as good as its villains. And of all of the Big Three anime, Naruto may have the best villains. Of all the villains of Naruto, the Akatsuki are hands down the creme de la ninja creme.

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Villainous, charismatic, and effortlessly stylish, at least one of the red and black-cloaked Akatsuki have appeared in cosplay form at every single anime convention since their introduction. They were simply made to be icons. After all, they even paint their nails. Including their toenails. What other anime villain puts in that much effort?

Now listen, this will not be a ranking of the strength of the Akatsuki—I already did that. This is a ranking of which of these characters are the dopest, and which of them are the literal worst. Meaning who do I want to cheer for when I see them on screen, and who do I want to strangle *cough* Kabuto *cough* *wheeze*. But seriously f*ck Kabuto.

The Worst: Kabuto

Kabuto smirking in "Naruto Shippuden"

Surprise, surprise! It’s Kabuto! The man that I LOVE to hate. Why is Kabuto the worst? Because first off: he’s gross. He teams up with the vile Orochimaru (we’ll get to him!) but unlike Orochimaru, who actually fights face-to-face with foes, Kabuto prefers to wage war from the shadows like the nasty little snake he is. Unlike some of the other Akatsuki, who are motivated by a “the end justifies the means” pursuit of world peace, Kabuto wants nothing but power. He is not loyal to any person or ideal. He will use and destroy anyone just so he can keep doing his creepy little experiments. I hate him. He needs to die.


Zetsu dividng in "Naruto Shippuden"

While White and Black Zetsu didn’t have much to do throughout the first half of Shippuden besides spying, the pair come into their nasty own once the Fourth Great Shinobi War begins. White Zetsu creates an army of gross zombie clones of himself which are an absolute nuisance on the battlefield. The guy is just a professional annoyance. Meanwhile, Black Zetsu works behind the scenes for (spoiler) the series’ final antagonist, in a shocking twist that kind of… comes out of nowhere?

I don’t want to spoil too much, but I found that Black Zetsu’s twist was a little bit shoehorned in, ranking him lower down than other characters on this list. They’re both also just gross.


Orochimaru sticking his tongue out in "Naruto Shippuden"

Ew ew ew ew ew ew! Literally every time this dude is onscreen he is either vomiting things out of his mouth, shedding his skin, or just being a general slippynastygross bastard. Orochimaru—like Kabuto—is motivated by nothing but the pursuit of his own creepy human experimentation goals. Unlike Kabuto, at LEAST we get to see why. Deeply disturbed by the death of his parents at a young age, baby Orochimaru sets out on a quest to discover all the jutsu of the world in order to escape death. It’s an understandable pursuit … if he hadn’t killed scores of people for it.


Kakuzu lookin menacing in "Naruto Shippuden"

Kakuzu loves one thing in this world: money. He doesn’t care about anything else. He has no use for broke ass people. Fair. Kakuzu don’t want no scrubs, that’s understandable. But sometimes your friends go broke too, and ya gotta be there for them! Kakuzu doesn’t care about that though, he only values people for what they can give to him financially. It’s pretty reprehensible. Almost as reprehensible as his penchant for ripping out the still-beating hearts of fallen shinobi and putting them inside his own body. That’s just … the worst.


Deidra smirks shirtless in "Naruto Shippuden"

UGH. Deidara is a self-proclaimed artist—and the worst kind. He thinks he wrote the book on art, and that any other art but his isn’t any good. But you know what Deidara? YOUR ART ISN’T ANY GOOD. All you do is make exploding animals out of C4. And they aren’t even particularly well made! They look like children’s drawings! Sai and Sasori are WAY better artists, and yet you can’t even acknowledge any art unless it literally explodes. Deidara can’t take criticism and doesn’t care about how his art affects others. Unless, of course, it disintegrates them, but that’s what he wants.


Hidan rushes his enemies with a scythe in "Naruto Shippuden"

Hidan is perhaps the most screwed up of all of the Akatsuki – but he only ranks high because he kind of serves. Aside from serving looks with his full body paint, he also serves a dark god that demands constant blood sacrifice. Gross. In return, he’s rendered totally immortal. Someone tell Orochimaru, this guy’s got it figured out.

Despite his frankly awesome character design, he does particularly heinous things. The worst of all? He killed Asuma, leader of Team 10. Thankfully team 10’s tactician Shikamaru gets what is arguably the best revenge in the series against this dimestore grim reaper.

Kisame Hoshigaki

Kisame peers over his collar in "Naruto Shippuden"

Kisame Hoshigaki is a cold-blooded killer with a surprising amount of depth. Still waters run deep. While we spend most of the series thinking he is nothing but a chakra-sucking shark man, his backstory episode reveals that he was just another victim of the terror of the Fourth Mizukage. He was an assassin whose job it was to kill comrades before they could reveal sensitive information to the enemy. His constant killing of comrades led him to become disturbed and he joined the Akatsuki to eliminate the need for lies and deceit in the shinobi world and find inner peace. In the end, he proved himself to be loyal to his comrades after all, allowing himself to be eaten by his own sharks rather than give up the Akatsuki. What a baller way to go.


Sasori frowning in "Naruto Shippuden"

Like Kisame, Sasori appears to be cold and unfeeling at first. Raised as a puppet master in the Sand Village, Sasori lost his parents at a young age. In order to feel close to them, he turned their bodies into puppets and kept them at his side. It’s sweet and totally creepy. Disillusioned with the world, he joined the Akatsuki in the pursuit of art—to make the ultimate puppet that would stand the test of time. While he doesn’t have any noble aspirations for world peace, he does wish to pass on a legacy of beautiful art to future generations. It would be way more noble if he didn’t kill so many people to do it .. but what can you do?

Madara Uchiha

Madara stares down at a battlefield in "Naruto Shipudden"

Of all the ninja in the series striving to bring about world peace, Madara Uchiha’s idea of a non-violent world is the most deluded. He wants to bring the world under a genjutsu, the Infinite Tsukuyomi, to hypnotize everyone into getting along. While it seems somewhat noble, it’s easy to see that Madara’s lofty goals are simply a facade, and that all he wants is power and world domination. He ranks high on this list because it’s just so satisfying to watch him do it. Remember when he took on thousands of ninja in the Fourth Great Ninja War with nothing but his bare hands and then dropped a meteor on them when he got bored? I do. It was iconic.

Tobi (Obito Uchiha)

Obito Uchiha wielding the rinnegan and sharingan in "Naruto Shippuden"

Oh, Tobi. Tobi you poor, sweet fool. Tobi was a comrade of Kakashi Hitake as a child but was seemingly killed on the battlefield after being horrifically crushed under a rock. But did he let that get him down? No. As his “final” act he gave Kakashi his Sharingan eye to replace the one his comrade lost, then told his friends to flee. He later fell under the influence of Madara and was used by the elder Uchiha as a vessel of sorts. His return to the series leads to one of the biggest tearjerker fights in Naruto: his battle with his old friend Kakashi.


Yahiko frowns in the rain in "Naruto Shippuden"

Yahoo was the original leader of the Akatsuki, and founded the organization with the best of intentions. His native village, the Village Hidden in The Rain, was trapped on the border between some of the larger nations. As a result, his lands were often destroyed in the wars between larger nations. He himself was orphaned in the Third Great Shinobi War. After growing strong under Jiraya, he founded the Akatsuki as a paramilitary organization that would defend the Hidden Rain against larger invaders. He was eventually assassinated by leaders from the Hidden Mist and Leaf, but died protecting his comrades Nagato and Conan, who carried out his legacy.


Konan appears out of paper folds in "Naruto Shippuden"

The Angel herself, Konan is arguably the most powerful kunoichi in the entire series (not counting the space alien ninja princess Kaguya). Unlike most of the Akatsuki, who are motivated by personal ambitions, Konan serves at the right hand of the Akatsuki’s leader Pain out of loyalty alone. She and Pain, along with Yahiko, first founded the Akatsuki to protect their homeland. Konan shares her comrades’ ideals for world peace and will protect them with all she’s got … i.e. 500 million paper bombs.


Nagato with iron rods impaled in his back in "Naruto Shippuden"

Pain. I love you, Pain. You’re so tragic. Born with the awesome Six Paths Power of the Rinnegan, all you ever wanted was to create a world where your friends could be safe. Sure you waged a bloody terrorist attack against the Hidden Leaf village to do it, but after what the Leaf did to Yahiko, they had it coming. Also, your voice actor is one of the best in the series. Who didn’t get chills when Pain said “Almighty Push/Shinra Tensei” before exploding the Leaf Village?

The Best: Itachi Uchiha

Itachi Uchiha in the anime series 'Naruto Shippuden.' He is bleeding from a closed eye.

Itachi Uchiha is the GOAT. The man is a true shinobi, working from the shadows, shunning glory, all to protect those he loves. In order to save his little brother Sasuke, he assassinated his entire clan—including his own parents due to the coup d’etat that they were planning to launch against the Leaf. Then he tricked his own brother into hating him to make Sasuke strong enough to survive. Then he joined the Akatsuki to act as a mole for the Hidden Leaf and to protect Naruto and Sasuke. Then he died granting Sasuku new powers. Then he thought so far ahead that he managed to free himself from Kabul’s reanimation jutsu with a crow he stored in Naruto’s body. Then played a key part in defeating the remaining Akatsuki. LIKE. WHAT!? The man is Naruto‘s most beloved character for a damn good reason.

(featured image: Pierrot)

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.