Anbu (暗部, literally: Dark Side) is a crossword composed of the Japanese words “Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai” (暗殺戦術特殊部隊, literally meaning: Special Tactics and Assassination Squad) referring to a special unit created to serve as a personal guard for the Kage (Village leader). The word Anbu is used to refer to both the unit and its members.
There is apparently no rank in this unit where the hierarchical progression seems to be based on merit and experience. Those in command of a squad are given the title of “squad leaders” (分隊長, Buntaichô), a position held in high regard.
Because of the great secrecy involved in the career of a member of the Anbu, a recruit’s personality is crucial to his or her eligibility for the unit. For this reason, even exceptionally talented ninja cannot join the squad if their personality does not meet the standards required for the exercise. From an early age, sometimes even before entering the Academy, some children with remarkable skills are predisposed to join the Anbu. It is for this reason that scouting is usually done early on in the curriculum of aspiring ninjas.
During recruitment, potential members are selected by their village chief for their individual abilities and specialties. Criteria such as age, life history, gender or ninja rank are not taken into account in this selection. However, in Konoha, a tradition is respected and sets an age limit for this recruitment which is thirteen years old; there is however an exception in the case of Itachi Uchiwa who integrated the ranks of the Anbu at the age of eleven.
Once a member of the brigade, recruits undergo training that includes the study of the human body, assassination techniques and psychology. Also, they have to hide their identity, which leads them to wear masks and use code names.
Being recruited from the elite of the ninja, the Anbu rarely appear except on important missions involving the security or the survival of their village. They are mainly in charge of the most dangerous missions such as assassinations, escorting important personalities, political espionage, infiltration into enemy territory or the suppression of unrest in foreign countries.
These missions, carried out with the aim of protecting their village from any threat, require special skills and a high level of training in various disciplines. Also, due to the often confidential nature of their missions and the unique abilities they possess, Anbu are sometimes required to commit suicide and literally destroy their bodies so that they cannot be captured or the secrets of their techniques cannot fall into the hands of enemy nations.
Sometimes, due to certain group missions and human interactions, the personalities of the members can evolve over time and deviate from the standards of the Anbu, as was the case with Kakashi Hatake who changed the mentality of his subordinates; making them more empathetic towards their enemies and critical of the stakes of their missions.
The main goal of the Anbu is to serve as personal guard of the village leader and to protect the village from exceptional threats, conduct high-risk missions in enemy countries and deal with extremely strong ninja.
ANBU members are under the direct control of their Kage and are also responsible for carrying out assassinations and missions requiring specially trained ninja. Some ANBU also serve as interrogators who probe the minds of enemy ninja to gain information useful to the village.
If an ANBU dies during a mission, they must destroy their body to avoid their secrets to fall under ennemies hands.
In Konoha Village, the two forces maintaining order are the Anbu and the Konoha Police Department, which sometimes blurs the line between the Police and the Special Squad. Depending on how confidential an investigation is, the case can be taken out of the hands of the police and handed over to the Anbu, which is often a source of conflict between the two authorities.
Since Anbu members are essential to the smooth running of the village, they cannot be arrested without a warrant. Konoha used to have a special branch of the Anbu: the Root, which acted as a secret police force maintaining law and order in the shadows. Their headquarters was located deep within the village and its members were trained to rid themselves of all emotion in order to blindly follow the orders of their superior, Danzo Shimura, even if this commitment meant negative repercussions for the village.
Also, members of the Root wore a seal on their tongues, preventing them from divulging any information related to their affiliation with this special unit as well as the actions of their superior.
After the Fourth Great Shinobi War, the Big Five Ninja Countries decided to unite to maintain a lasting peace. This undertaking was widely criticized by Kido Tsumiki, who claimed that the lack of global conflicts would lead to a decrease in Anbu activity, resulting in a lack of finances making their exercise useless. To counter this, Kido orchestrated the occurrence of minor incidents in the security of the village to ensure a minimum output for the brigade.
In the Hidden Mist village, there is a special branch of the Anbu called the “hunter nin”, the Deserter Hunters, whose main activity is to hunt down and eliminate nukenin who have deserted their village. Bringing back their heads as proof of the success of their mission, they dispose of the rest of the body so that the enemy nations do not learn their secrets. Although Anbu generally operate as a team, some may be handpicked by their Kage to serve directly under him.
Anbu members appearance
The customary outfit for Anbu members consists of black clothes covered with a light flack jacket protecting the torso and back, gloves with metal guards, sandals with reinforced soles, a katana (or tanto) worn on the back and a mask used to conceal identity.
Depending on the village, the shape and aesthetics of the masks may change:
Konohagakure Anbu uniform requires wearing a porcelain mask with an animal image, with most members opting for rather menacing creatures.
Kirigakure Anbu members wear masks have horizontal slits for eyes and the village symbol is engraved on the forehead. Various patterns can also be added to the basic aesthetic.
Sunagakure Anbu members usually wear turban-like pieces of cloth to cover the lower half of their faces, leaving only their eyes visible.
- A group of Anbu from the Woodlands, known as the Prajñâ Group, also wear porcelain masks modelled to look like oni.
- In the anime, the Hoshi Anbu wear masks similar to those used by Konoha.
Finally, some Anbu wear black capes over their standard uniforms and squad leaders sometimes stand out with white coloured capes.
In addition, it is customary, especially in Konoha, for Anbu members to wear a spiral tattoo on their biceps (left for men, right for women).
Notorious Anbu members
- Zabuza Momochi (former ANBU of Kiri)
- Kakashi Hatake (former captain of the Konoha ANBU)
- Ibiki Morino (leader of the Konoha ANBU torture and interrogation team)
- Otomatsu, code name Radio (former Konoha ANBU team leader)
- Yugao Uzuki (Konoha ANBU)
- Itachi Uchiha (former captain of the Konoha ANBU)
- Raiga Kurosuki (former Kiri ANBU)
- Danzo (head of the Foundation)
- Sai (Foundation member)
- Code name Tenzo Yamato (Konoha ANBU)
- Koga (Konoha ANBU)
- Hyō (Foundation member)
- Towa (Naruto: Clash of the Ninja Revolution 2)
- Komachi (Naruto: Clash of the Ninja Revolution 2)
- Kagura (Naruto: Clash of the Ninja Revolution 2)
- Kage (Konoha ANBU)
- Tora (Konoha ANBU)
- Ushi (Konoha ANBU)