Akatsuki (暁; Literally meaning "Dawn" or "Daybreak") is a criminal organisation of S-Class missing-nin and is the most wanted group in all of the shinobi world. Their main goal is to collect all of the tailed beasts for their plan of world domination. As such, Akatsuki, despite initially having a minor role during Part I, has become the primary antagonist in Part II.
Akatsuki at any given time is composed of no more than ten primary members, all of whom were S-Class criminals of their own respective villages, with the exception of Nagato and Konan. Members always work in teams of two with the exception of Zetsu, who functions as the organisation's spy, and make use of their unique skills to the team's advantage. Team members must function very well or at least to accomplish their task even though they have a mutual problems with each other. The organisation is rarely fully assembled, as seen in the end of Part I, when one member said it was the first time in seven years when they were all together.
Akatsuki is widespread, spanning several countries with agents in various places. When one team finds a tailed beast and has to begin the job of sealing the beast, they have hidden hideouts with many traps ready, to do the three-day long jutsu.
Akatsuki was originally founded by Yahiko during the Third Shinobi World War and consisted of Amegakure ninja that wished to create peace for their home country, which acted as a battleground for three of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. Yahiko insisted that his and the rest of Akatsuki's actions were meant only to aid Nagato in bringing world peace, though Konan claimed that it was Yahiko's charisma that held the group together and spurred them on. Madara Uchiha alleges that it was his encouragement which lead to Yahiko forming the organisation, and thus credits himself as the group's creator.
In its early days, Akatsuki gained fame and recognition in Amegakure, drawing the attention of Hanzō, a world-renowned ninja and leader of the country. Hanzō, believing that the group was becoming a threat to his rule, approached the organisation and falsely claimed that he wanted to use them as the axis to negotiate peace between Konohagakure, Iwagakure, and Sunagakure. However, Hanzō betrayed Akatsuki and, working together with Danzō Shimura of Konohagakure's ANBU, kidnapped Konan and orchestrated Yahiko's death. After synchronizing with the Demonic Statue of the Outer Path and attempted to exact revenge on Yahiko's killers, Nagato inherited leadership of the organisation and prompted a civil war, eventually killing Hanzō and gaining victory and control of Amegakure.
Following the Third Shinobi World War, Akatsuki became a mercenary group for hire and Nagato presumably began taking direction from Madara, who acted as the organisation's collaborator and benefactor. In times of peace most of the ninja villages, rather than increasing their own armaments, employed Akatsuki to fight in wars, spy on enemies, or carry out assassinations. The Fourth Raikage claims that only Kumogakure has never used Akatsuki's services, and during this time it became widely believed that Akatsuki was founded and based in Kirigakure, perhaps due to Madara's influence over the Fourth Mizukage. Eventually, Akatsuki would begin capturing the tailed beasts, in the process antagonizing many of its former clients.
Events relating to Akatsuki before the start of Part II have only been given in pieces. Sasori and Orochimaru were partners for a time and were apparently very effective. Kakuzu had a number of partners that he killed in fits of rage. For this reason he was partnered with Hidan shortly before the start of Part II, Hidan's immortality meaning there would not need to be constant replacements. Itachi Uchiha apparently joined before carrying out the Uchiha clan massacre for which he defected from Konohagakure, though his membership seems to have come with the stipulation that Akatsuki could make no direct movements against Konoha. When Itachi joined, Orochimaru attempted to steal his body in order to gain the Sharingan. This failed and he was forced to defect. Deidara was recruited to replace Orochimaru as Sasori's partner, but because Orochimaru took his Akatsuki ring with him he could not also replace Orochimaru's position. Akatsuki also captured two tailed beasts before Part II, which in the anime are indicated to have been the Five-Tails and the Seven-Tails.
Akatsuki becomes much more active in Part II. At its start they assault Sunagakure to capture the One-Tail, but Sasori is killed. Madara, disguised as "Tobi", replaces him. Next are the Two-Tails and Three-Tails, though Hidan and Kakuzu are lost during an unrelated scuffle with Konoha ninja. After obtaining the Four-Tails, Deidara dies during his fight with Sasuke Uchiha, who soon afterwards causes Itachi's death too. Madara soon afterwards convinces Sasuke to work with Akatsuki. Although Akatsuki lost five members at this point, Madara claims it was worth it in order to gain Sasuke's loyalty. Despite this, their diminished numbers force Akatsuki to become more drastic in their efforts.
In the anime, Nagato goes to capture the Six-Tails (the beast having been caught at some earlier point in the manga). He and Konan are then sent to Konoha to capture the Nine-Tails. Konoha is destroyed, but they fail in their assignment; Nagato dying and Konan leaving the organisation. At the same time, Sasuke and his team are tasked with capturing the Eight-Tails, but they too fail to complete the assignment. Akatsuki's actions finally provoke a response from the ninja villages, who hold a Kage Summit to discuss what should be done. Madara, wishing to accelerate his plans, infiltrates the meeting and declares war against the great nations, promising to use the seven tailed beasts Akatsuki has already captured as weapons. The villages and their associated countries form a Shinobi Alliance to combat Akatsuki, beginning the Fourth Shinobi World War.
In preparation for the war, Kisame Hoshigaki infiltrates Kumogakure to gather intel on the Shinobi Alliance, as well as to learn the location of the two remaining tailed beasts. He dies in the process, but not before sending what he has learned to Madara. Madara, meanwhile, goes to Amegakure to retrieve Nagato's body and the Rinnegan, as well as kill Konan. Kabuto Yakushi, a new ally of the organisation, then captures Yamato, allowing him to strengthen an army of 100,000 white Zetsus. After Kabuto uses Summoning: Impure World Resurrection to supplement Akatsuki's numbers with ninja famous during their lives, Akatsuki marches off for war.
Although some members joined Akatsuki to further their own goals, all are united in Akatsuki's ultimate goal of gaining world domination. Nagato has mentioned a three-step process to work their way towards this goal. First, they plan to obtain a large amount of money to support their organisation. Second, they plan to set up a mercenary group loyal only to Akatsuki. To build their reputation, they plan to accept any mission below the usual cost and operate off of the excess funds earned in the first part of their plan.Because there haven't been any wars in some time, the established shinobi villages couldn't afford to charge such low prices, leading the smaller countries to hire Akatsuki over the more expensive shinobi villages.By using the tailed beasts, Akatsuki would start wars and then immediately quell them, solidifying their reputation and convincing every country to depend on them, thus cornering the market in shinobi labour. Without any business, the other shinobi villages would collapse due to the lack of funds. Finally, after Akatsuki is the only major force of shinobi in existence, they can easily conquer the other countries. Members do not automatically learn of the plan upon joining; Hidan didn't find out about it until he had been a member for quite some time.
The tailed beasts, nine gigantic demons of immense power, are the main focus of much of Akatsuki's efforts and screen time within the series. Each member is assigned to capture one of the nine beasts alive or, in most cases, the person that beast has been sealed into. Akatsuki has sealed seven of the nine beasts before the start of the Fourth Shinobi World War.
Since the early years of Konoha, Madara has shown great interest in destroying it for the betrayal of his own Uchiha clan and the defeat by Hashirama Senju. He has also stated that he wants people to acknowledge the Uchiha clan and plans to use Sasuke to do so. Another one of Madara's goals is to become "complete" by collecting the tailed beasts. All of this seem to be part of his "Eye of the Moon Plan" (月の眼計画, Tsuki no Me Keikaku). His plan is to gather all of the tailed beasts so he can fuse them and bring forth the Ten-Tailed Beast and become its jinchūriki, then cast an Infinite Tsukuyomi on the moon to control the world. Currently the body of the Ten-Tails is sealed in the moon due to Sage of the Six Paths using Chibaku Tensei. To this end, Madara declared a world war to succeed in his goal.
Pain later goes into further detail on the tailed beasts' role in his plans. The beasts would be used to create a deadly Kinjutsu technique that could wipe out one of the five great nations in an instant, so if countries go to war and do not have ninja villages to fight for them, they would turn to Akatsuki and their "weapon". Whichever side has Pain use the technique first would wipe out the opposing country. After witnessing the mass destruction caused by the weapon, the other remaining countries would become too afraid to start wars for fear of being wiped out as well. Thus, through this mutual fear, war would cease to exist and the world would know peace, until the people forget that fear and use the weapon again. Thus the cycle would repeat, creating small periods of peace in an endless chain of hatred.
Apparently, Pain and Konan were the only Akatsuki members aware of this part of the plan. After Pain's death and Konan's defection, this goal has been ceased.
After the Uchiha clan massacre and leaving Konoha, Itachi, instead of using the tailed beasts for his own self-interest, continued to protect the village by joining Akatsuki and keeping an eye on the villagers, especially Sasuke, from the outside. During his time in the group, Itachi would delay his own attempts to capture the Nine-Tails, indirectly leaked information about the organisation to Konoha, and attempted to kill Madara through Sasuke. Before his death, Itachi gave Naruto some of his "power", telling him to continue protecting Konoha and Sasuke, should the event occur that Sasuke would plan for their village's destruction. The "power" that Itachi gave to Naruto remains unknown.
Akatsuki members have a similar way of dress, which could give them away if a village is alerted of their presence. Members wear long, dark cloaks with red clouds, a red interior, and a chin-high collar. Madara and the members of Taka wear a similarly marked hooded mantle. The red clouds represent the rain of blood that fell in Amegakure during its wars, and were seen as a symbol of justice by its original members. All members wear black nail polish on their fingers and toenails, although the colours vary in the anime, and may wear a conical straw hat with small ornamental torques and tassles hanging down over their faces. The hats may be used to move around in the general population unnoticed, or for when the weather requires one. Some members cross out the symbol on their forehead protectors to symbolize the broken ties with their former villages, a practice originating with Nagato and his rival faction in Amegakure's civil war. Others members simply cease wearing them altogether, for several reasons. Everyone also wears a ring with a kanji on different fingers depending on who the member is.
Now that the original members of Akatsuki (Konan and Nagato) are dead, Madara seems to have changed the garb after revealing his new mask and outfit-which were robes completely bereft of the red clouds.
Akatsuki Rings and Ring PositionsEdit
What seems to be most important, however, are their rings. In total, there are ten rings given to each of the ten main members of Akatsuki. The rings apparently signify one's membership and ring position, since when Orochimaru defected, he took his ring with him and as such wasn't replaced. The rings' exact purpose have not been revealed.