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Analysis of Pain: Is he a villain?

07/10/2012

One of the interesting aspects that I like about anime and manga is character development.  It not only makes the character more interesting, but it gives them more depth and lets feel like you have a better understanding of that person. That makes the impact of their decisions and actions that much more powerful since you now know them on a more personal level. One of my favorite characters in Naruto is Pain.  He was one of the strongest fighters that Naruto had ever fought and challenged him not only physically, but morally and personally as well. But as I read and watched the development of Pain, I started to wonder, is Pain really a villain?

When I first discovered the character of Pain, he was the leader of the Akatsuki that is collecting the bijuu (tailed-beasts) and inherently hunting Naruto.  This was the main villain that has been plaguing Naruto from the shadows since after the Chunnin Exam when Itachi and Kisame decide to make an appearance in Konoha.  After all, Pain is the man who killed Jiraiya in that grueling battle.  Pain is then able to infiltrate Konoha and not only single-handedly (or six-handedly) defeat the strongest of Konoha’s shinobi, but he destroys the village.  So he’s definitely a bad-ass villain right? That’s what I thought until Kishimoto developed his character and you’re able to see Pain’s motivations and reasoning for his actions.  I believe that Pain is in fact not a villain and here’s why:

Reason #1: both Naruto and Pain seek to create peace and bring about justice in the shinobi world. It is just that the two characters go about it in very different ways.  In this essence, it is a matter of perspective. You might think what the “villain” Pain did to Naruto and Konoha are characteristics of an evil person, but is it so different to what Naruto and Konoha would do to their enemies? Is justice decided by the winners? It’s as Pain said when talking to Naruto: “The justice I [Pain] delivered against Konoha…is no different than what you are trying to do to me” (Ch.443). If Naruto was able to defeat Pain and destroy the Akatsuki, that would be justice right? For all of their “evil” actions? Pain/Akatsuki did kill Jiraiya, countless Konoha shinobi, and Konoha village itself.  But what if the story was from the perspective of Pain and he was the main hero of the series and the same actions were taken. Would Pain’s actions be considered heroic and justice served to Konoha for what they did to his village in the past? Would Naruto be considered the villain now because he defeated the main character and his team? For me, it is just a sense of where your perspective lies.

Pain above Konoha before…

Reason #2: Pain’s ultimate “diabolical” plan of taking all 9 bijuu has an honorable use.  While the plan does involve taking the bijuu away from it’s Jinchuuriki, it does result in the death of the Jinchuuriki.  That’s where I think many viewers will see this as an “evil” plan.  This plan that kills the Jinchuuriki in order to obtain the bijuu.  The reason why I believe it has a logical use because Pain would use the “bijuu weapon” to cause pain to people. So how is this logical? People who experience pain and suffering typically do not want to experience it again. As Pain declares “I am going to show this world true pain…stop all wars with the terror that pain will inspire” (Ch.436). Think about it. When you hurt yourself, say by touching fire, you experience pain and remember what it feels like. The next time you see fire, you are not going to touch it because you know that it will hurt and do not want to experience it again. The pain has become a deterrent for you not taking that action. The same holds true for Pain’s plan. Have people experience such extreme pain from war that they will not want to do it again.  If he could single-handedly destroy a village, what would this bijuu weapon be able to do? In his own way, this is causing peace by stopping war.

Naruto captured by Pain

Bijuu Weapon

Reason #3: Taking a look at Pain’s (real name is Nagato) past, you’ll see how the Akatsuki organization developed and it’s original philosophy. Nagato and his two close friends, Yahiko and Konan, created the Akatsuki in order to create a peace that was minimally based on military strength (Ch.446). The group was then tricked by the leader of their village (Hanzo) and Konoha’s ROOT division of ANBU, which resulted in the death of Nagato’s close friend (and leader of Akatsuki) Yahiko. After this betrayal and countless deaths, the peace that resulted was one through the death and sacrifice of Pain’s village. This type of experience guided Nagato’s perspective and reason in getting justice against those aggressors.

Nagato and the Rinnegan

Through this development of the character of Pain, the question to “Is he a villain?” becomes much more complex now that you know more about him. It is no longer cut and dry bad guy versus good guy.  This has a couple real life applications in itself.  First, don’t take things based on surface value. Just because you read something somewhere, or heard something from someone, don’t always believe it. Take it with “a grain of salt”.  Do your research and homework and make your own conclusions based on the information you find. Secondly, take what happened between Naruto and Pain as an example of what is happening in your life and the world. If you are doing something, don’t assume you are the “good guy” right away. Take in the other side’s perceptions of your actions, policies, etc. (if anyone is against you) and try to see where they are coming from. Try to look at yourself from the outside. This type of reflection will bring a higher understanding of yourself and the situation.

FYI: Okay, while I was conducting my research, there are some interesting similarities between Naruto and Pain. First, they both want to create peace and bring justice to the shinobi world. How will that be done? That’s where the two differ. Second, they are both orphans. Third, both Naruto and Pain just want to protect those they care about.  This is something you see Naruto constantly doing.  Fourth, both are students of Jiraiya and are children of prophecy.  The Toad Sage foresaw that Jiraiya would have a disciple and guide the revolutionary that would either bring peace to the shinobi world or destroy it.  Unbeknownst, both Pain and Naruto were leaders of a shinobi reformation (Ch.449). So Pain was right when he said that both he and Naruto are the same.

What do you think? Was I able to persuade you that Pain is not really a villain? Oh and I really liked when you read in the manga or watch the anime, anytime Pain talks about pain, he could either be talking about actual pain or be talking in the third person 🙂

References used from Naruto volumes 47-48 (Chapters 433-453)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 10/13/2012 1:15 am

    This was a pleasure to read! I am glad to finally see that someone else truthfully appreciates the depth and moral ramifications of the Naruto anime. Pain is indeed one of the most sophisticated characters within the entire show.

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