Why Naruto’s Six Paths of Pain Is One of Anime’s Most Tragic Techniques

Naruto: Shippuden had no shortage of tragedy, but no move is more emotionally devastating than Nagato’s Six Paths of Pain.

The Naruto universe is known for its powerful jutsu driven by pain, but none are more tragic than the Six Paths of Pain itself. As a god-like ability that makes him nearly invincible, the Akatsuki’s Nagato uses this Rinnegan technique to manipulate the dead as an extension of his own body. Here’s the origin and use of Nagato’s Six Paths of Pain and what makes it one of the most devastating abilities in all of anime.

The Tragic Origin Of The Six Paths Of Pain

When Nagato was a baby, Madara Uchiha transplanted his Rinnegan into him so he could later return and reclaim this powerful set of eyes. After a pair of Konoha shinobi break into his house and kill his parents, the young Nagato retaliates by killing them with his Rinnegan, though he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. Now a war orphan wandering in the Amegakure and struggling to survive, he meets Konan and Yahiko, another pair of war orphans. The trio comes together with the common goal to bring about peace before they’re taken in by Master Jiraiya, who trains them in the art of ninjutsu so they can defend themselves during the violent and turbulent time of the Second Great Ninja War.

After they grow into strong and independent fighters, Jiraiya leaves and the trio forms the Akatsuki, making it their mission to end all war and promote peace. With his inspirational and charismatic personality, Yahiko is appointed the Akatsuki’s leader. However, they’re soon tricked by Obito Uchiha and Hanzō, who believed the Akatsuki threatened his rule over Amegakure. When Hanzō nearly kills Konan, Yahiko sacrifices himself to save her and entrusts the Akatsuki’s mission to Nagato. But, given his friend’s tragic death and Obito’s manipulative words, Nagato starts to believe that peace can only be achieved after everyone knows true pain. Nagato later adopts his Pain persona and masters the Six Paths of Pain through his Rinnegan.

The Use Of The Six Paths Of Pain

Nagato mastered the Six Paths of Pain after he was immobilized during a battle with Hanzō. With this jutsu, he can control up to six corpses as an extension of himself by implanting black receivers into them. As Nagato channels his own chakra into these bodies through the receivers, each vessel gains control of a different Rinnegan ability or path, like the Deva Path and Animal Path. He’s also able to see everything each body sees, connecting them all through the all-seeing eyes of the Rinnegan.

While the Six Paths of Pain gives Nagato god-like power that makes him nearly invincible, its morbid methods are painful and traumatizing for its wielder. The first corpse Nagato selects to control is none other than his best friend, Yahiko. Nagato uses the jutsu to immortalize Yahiko and keep him close as his favorite member of the Six Paths. Given Nagato’s ability to speak through his controlled vessels, he often uses Yahiko’s body as the face and image of his Pain identity. The Six Paths of Pain’s manipulation of the dead, and Nagato’s use of his deceased best friend as part of that, are what make the jutsu one of anime’s most heartwrenching — and gruesome.

How The Six Paths Of Pain Compares To Other Painful Anime Powers

While the Six Paths of Pain is a dark ability, it’s not the only pain-oriented jutsu in Naruto. The show’s titular character both willingly and unwillingly unleashes the Nine-Tails’ powerful chakra and violent whenever he’s backed into a corner, as he was when facing Orochimaru. Meanwhile, the Uchiha’s Sharingan is only awakened when the wielder experiences intense pain or sadness. Jūgo also struggles with intense power driven by rage and pain, making him incredibly dangerous without Sasuke using his Sharingan to hold him back.

While Naruto certainly has a lot, immense power derived from pain is a surprisingly common trope in anime. A Saiyan only becomes a Super Saiyan after accumulating enough S-Cells from experiencing intense sadness or pain in Dragon Ball Z. Given the negative emotional reaction required to access this form, Goku only becomes Super Saiyan after witnessing the death of his best friend. Similarly, Fairy Tail‘s Natsu Dragneel can only use his strongest Dragon Slayer magic when he’s hurt or desperate. In The Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas channels his incredible demonic energy in a similar way whenever his loved ones are in danger.

While anime fans are no stranger to powerful abilities derived from pain and tragedy, none are more devastating than that of Pain himself. Given the Rinnegan’s origin and perpetuation of pain and suffering among its wielders throughout the generations, its ability to manipulate the dead is anime’s most morbid power of all.