Naruto: Why Yahiko is mistaken as Pain instead of Nagato, explained

Yahiko as seen in the anime Naruto (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Yahiko as seen in the anime Naruto (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Naruto characters Nagato and Yahiko were both Akatsuki members, but it's not always immediately evident who became the infamous Pain. This confusion is most likely due to the series' epic dimensions in terms of both the richness of the world and the complexity of the characters. It is easy to forget or become disoriented. It could also be because of the way the story is told.

Continue reading to find out who Pain is and why there was a mix-up in the first place.

This article contains spoilers from the Naruto series.

The formation of an organization called Akatsuki and Yahiko's death

Nagato as seen in the anime Naruto (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Nagato as seen in the anime Naruto (Image via Studio Pierrot)

In a sense, both Yahiko and Nagato are Pain, but to understand how this came to be, a little recap is necessary.

Nagato, Yahiko, and Konan, all orphaned during the Second Shinobi War, shared a vision of a peaceful world. The three young shinobis formed the Akatsuki organization with that common goal in mind. Their mission was well received, and they attracted a large audience.

When the village leader of Amegakure, Hanzo, ambushed them out of fear of the Akatsuki's power and influence, Yahiko ended up dead and Nagato was gravely wounded.

How Nagato became Pain

Nagato as Pain (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Nagato as Pain (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Yahiko's death was a significant event in Naruto because it impacted Nagato's views on peace. Nagato lost faith in people's willingness to embrace peace and unity. Instead, he started to believe that only through the harrowing experience of war could humans understand each other and truly desire peace. So, he picked the name Pain to represent himself as the embodiment of the suffering to come.

Thus, following Yahiko's death, Nagato and Konan began leading the Akatsuki with a completely new set of plans.

Why Yahiko is mistaken as Pain

Yahiko as Deva Path (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Yahiko as Deva Path (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Nagato's leg was badly damaged during the fight with Hanzo, and he also got tied to the Gedo Statue, which he had invoked. Thus, he was rendered completely immobile.

Nagato's lack of mobility came into conflict with his urge to avenge Yahiko's death and lead the Akatsuki to war. So, he used his Rinnegan to perform the Six Paths of Pain technique. By sharing his chakra, he was able to control six different bodies.

Nagato used Yahiko's body, which became his public persona, for the Deva Path, and the corpses of the other shinobi for the other five.

Thus, Akatsuki, whose origins were in the desire to establish peace, evolved into an evil organization attempting to bring discord while also acting as a professional mercenary group.

The majority of the Akatsuki's evil actions seem as if they are being conducted by Yahiko, when it is Nagato who is pulling the strings. So, for example, Yahiko and the five other Paths take over Amegakure and kill Hanzo and his supporters. But Amegakure being isolated helped conceal the fact that Nagato had conquered the place.

Later, the six Paths kill Jiraiya when he tries to figure out who the actual Pain is. Jiraiya dies before he can reveal to anyone what he learned. As a result, during all of these events, it is not revealed that Nagato is Pain.

The fact that Nagato is Pain was revealed late in Naruto is also a reason why even readers tend to think of Yahiko as the true Pain.

Naruto has so many characters with amazing backstories, and the plot is so rich that it is easy to lose track of the characters. Hopefully, this article has clarified who the real Pain is. Simply put, Nagato is Pain, but he took control of Yahiko's body and forced him to masquerade as Pain on his behalf.