Sometime I get the feeling, this character is greatly misunderstood, and most probably hated for his 180 degree spin of personality at the end of his first fight with Naruto.
So I hope you don’t mind if I make an analysis of his personality. He’s quite a heavy character.
We all know the kid Nagato was gentle and caring, so much that he buried his parents as a small child (probably no more than 8-10) took a dog by his side, despite he didn’t have what to feed him with, didn’t have the power to steal bread for his own hungry stomach. From this age he was a very just and quite independent individual: he only did what was right (what at that age he was taught was right) and never asked for more help than he needed.
Then he accepted and cherished the other two orphans’ company. Take in account that when he joined he was taught to steal to survive, despite earlier not doing so. And this is a mentality that stuck to him: life is a fight for survival and in order to survive you need to take from others, but not more than needed.
Growing up with this mentality, with Yahiko’s dream of becoming god of Amegakure to stop the war and Jirayia’s ‘parenting’ the original Akatsuki was formed:
All three orphans had a huge spirit of justice rooted inside of them, and Jirayia’s presence gave them the ability to put that justice in place.
At the same time Jirayia helped Nagato define his purpose: protect your friends
follow your dream, no matter where that might lead us.
And he did. He held true to that his whole life.
And it led him to become this man.
This is where the true rant begins, because we all knew the kid Nagato. The adult still is greatly misunderstood. But to get to the adult we needed the child first.
Nagato became god. But not for himself. Yes, he wanted to achieve peace, justice and see the world grow. But it was never his purpose to become god: that was Yahiko’s dream. And Yahiko’s death shattered him in many ways: his best friend was gone, the pillar of his faith and the brother he grew up with (not to mention Nagato might of had a slight man crush on him.) Yahiko needed to become god, but this task was left to him now. So he created Pein. And you need to understand Pein is not him, Nagato. Pein is Yahiko, Pein is a man brought to the ultimate being through him; Pein is absolute. And what Nagato tries to be, not what he thinks he is (although controlling him he is Pein so he is absolute himself) With time Pein became a part of him so that they act similar and yet different.
Canonly Nagato thinks of himself as
trash. So to erase his sins, his nothingness, his filth he channeled all that
he deemed worthy in Pein, leaving Nagato (in his opinion) something
blank, that didn’t need to exist, but still did, because through it lived Pein.
Please also take in account the fact that Nagato was disabled and malnourished,
and these disabilities made him think even lesser of himself, because he just
lost his independency, now depending on others to take care of him (particularly
Konan who he has a very strange relationship with, to be detailed in another
Nagato, to achieve his dream, did
became a ruthless person, but that because he cared for those close to him, he
acknowledged the fact that the world can’t know peace until people would understand
each other completely, and it was pain that connected people. He agreed to
shoulder all the world hate on him, by trying to bring pain to others. He
deeply understood what war and pain meant and his plan could have worked, and
his plan was completely independent from Madara’s. By gaining monopoly over war
he would have enslaved the nations, unifying them through pain against him,
just the way the fourth Shinobi war did. He was ready to shoulder all of the
world’s hate upon himself, until they’ll come before him and understand what he
did, because pain connected them now. And even then peace could not be
achieved, but for a short period at least people would understand his reasons,
And I deem completely admirable that he
didn’t give up, despite of his dual, quite unstable personality, of his disability,
of having little support in this and knowing
he was a criminal. But sacrifices needed to be made in order to survive and
to achieve something.
He created the new Akatsuki, only
consisted of S-rank criminals. Why? Because only someone of his caliber could
understand him and his motives and would join him in his cause. He only chose
unique, said to be monstrous, skilled and homeless shinobies around him, not
only giving them a purpose, but also a place where they could connect: giving
the monster a human side. He could of chosen the new Akatsuki from Ame, he didn’t.
Because it was pain that they needed to share.
And now to get to the most disturbng
thin in his personality: his ending, his talk to Naruto. It was all for plot
sake and to give Naruto the great preacher award again. Nagato isn’t a weak individual;
he went through far too much to give up to the words of a boy who was the
student of his mentor. A mentor he ended killing to achieve his dream. He would
have stopped there if if he was weak hearted. He didn’t. he lost a Path that
day, but proceeded to achieve his goal. It hurts me to talk about this moment
of his existence, especially because half of his speech showed no sign of
wanting to change in front of Naruto. It was definitely bad writing, but I’d
still like to give a fan theory about why he could have changed then. No, this
won’t give him an excuse for what he did.
Nagato was gentle, but not naive, and
he didn’t give up easily. He was gentle when he wished to, to people he cared
for. (Konan there is a special case, he wanted to keep her safe thinking she
was still the girl who got captured and because of that Yahiko died; it’s a
thing that’s constantly on his mind)
An example of Nagato in a good mood:
relaxed, smiling, and talking freely.
In that last scene Nagato was far from
that; he was tense and angered, oh and tired. Tired because of lack of chakra
and because the world around him started falling around him again: Akatsuki numbered
only a few members now. And I think the fight with the Nine Tails for Nagato
was the all of nothing type of fight: if he won his plan was complete and
deserved to be continued; if he lost he needed to die. Why? Because one of the
members he cared most for and could of related most to died, around the time he
killed Jirayia too, his beloved mentor. So yes, it was a double blow for him,
and it was a pain he could no longer stand: the feeling of an empty world.
Also, after Itachi’s death he most probably met Sasuke to welcome him in
Akatsuki, along with team Taka, so he personally met with Naruto’s McGuffin and
the brother Itachi gave his life up for, also seeding in this boy his ideals
(which were left clear in the later chapters of the manga). So he had a
successor, a potent successor. But Sasuke was naive, unlike him. Naruto somehow
strengthened his faith that there might be no need for him, because there were
others with his ideals to continue his journey, when he couldn’t go forth
anymore. Nagato was broken beyond anything that day, and he just needed a reason
to let go of everything, also leaving with a high note this earth.