Is Nook a mob boss, or just misunderstood?

19:00, 09 May 2020

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is huge. If you’re not playing it, it’s almost guaranteed someone you know is. In a world where most people are confined to their houses, the idyllic island lifestyle is a godsend. That is, until, they find out the true nature of the Raccoon Overlord himself; Tom Nook.

Tom Nook Familyjpg
Tom Nook – entrepreneur, real estate mogul, billionaire, ruthless dictator, the devil incarnate.

Any new Animal Crossing game begins with your character jetting off to live on a deserted island. Sounds fun, right? Surely there’ll be no manual labour or immense financial cost to yourself… right?

Wrong. The second your cute little nubbin feet hit the ground of your new island home, Tom Nook sets about giving you, and only you, every single job going. You are the dogsbody (no offence to any dog villagers) and you must build this island from quite literally the ground up.

Tom Nook, however, sits back with his underlings Timmy and Tommy (I won’t entertain the idea that they aren’t his long-suffering illegitimate sons) and reaps the benefits of your hard work, never giving you the credit you deserve, and even suggesting your lazy Deer villager may have taken some of the slack (I see you, Deirdre). Every time a new building must be placed, or a bridge must be built, it falls to my sweet little character and their toy-sized tools to bear the brunt. This sounds like slavery with extra steps.

With every venture Nook sets out to complete, you’re in the firing range. It is your job to do everything on this damn island. Walking into Residential Services is a nightmare, Tom expects you to perform free labour, with no materials, backup or infrastructure. Only, it isn’t even free, you’re paying (at great expense, may I add) for the opportunity.

I didn't see Dom lift a finger, but sure, give him credit.

Tom Nook is the scum landlord you dealt with in college, never agreeing that it’s his fault your bathroom has black mould, or the fire alarms don’t work, and you are liable to fix it yourself.

The makers of the game are very self-aware that you, the player, will be making ALL of the decisions (and doing ALL of the work…) as they sometimes let you choose sassy voice lines when you’re asked to perform tasks, or at opening ceremonies, of say, for example, the three houses you built from scratch and also furnished.

My character being given a rare chance to speak out against the tyranny.

ACNH is a cult akin to a more a capitalist Jonestown, where Tom Nook even dresses suspiciously like Jim Jones. I’m scared to drink his Pear Juice for fear it turns out to be Flavour Aid.

The Dodos are in the know about Tom Nook's real plans.

How do Timmy & Tommy fit in with this evil corporation?

Timmy & Tommy, the cute miniature raccoon workers, are not Nook’s sons and are (apparently) in fact his employees. Whether this is true or not, they sure do bear a striking resemblance to their boss…

The rumour that Timmy & Tommy are indeed Tom Nook’s sons has run rampant over the internet, and apparently, these rumours have some credence.

The Animal Crossing e-reader cards from the first title imply that they are related, either sons or nephews, but in later games, villagers praise Nook for adopting the Nooklings as orphans and raising them. Maybe we’ll never know just how the three raccoons are connected, but one thing is for sure, Tom Nook works those babies to the bone, forcing them to work 14-hour shifts. Is this child abuse? Should we be reporting this to the NSPCRC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Raccoon Children)? 

Is Tom Nook Evil?

Is this hell? Is it purgatory? Perhaps in a previous life, my character was a good-for-nothing layabout and is now being punished in the afterlife for their sins, in the way of manual labour for eternity.

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Let me say again, for the record: I do everything here, Tom.

It’s not just me who has their doubts about Tom Nook, several YouTubers, including Jacksepticeye, were also put off by Nook’s attitude immediately.

Jack’s first foray into ACNH was a rocky one, even naming his island ‘Hel’ (Hell was not allowed under the terms of Nintendo’s censorship rules).

Jack (real name; Sean) constantly refers to Tom Nook as Satan, and even gives him an evil devilish voice (with the help of a modulator). Jack reiterates the point that this deserted island getaway may have been marketed dubiously.

“They came to me and they were like “here is your deserted island retreat, this is your vacation, go and have fun”… then as soon as I came here they put me to work. This is a prison! He’s Satan and the warden all in one!”

Jack’s characterisation of Tom Nook is one we probably all roleplay – a loan shark with satanic tendencies.

TheJWittz gives us some more insight into Tom Nook’s shady past, in his video “The TRUTH about Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook” asking us if we REALLY know him. TheJWittz digs deep into Nook’s history and discovers some dark secrets throughout the Animal Crossing series. At the 2002 Nintendo Power Awards, Nook was nominated as the “Best New Villain”. He also cites his greasy salesman vibe, and how, in the first Gamecube iteration, barks insults at the player such as “you don’t need your mother to change you, do you?”

This bad reputation Tom Nook has, has been cultivated and transformed over the AC series, from his first gangster-esque statements of “I’ll send for the racoon goons”, being watered down into what we know him as today; a more carefully put together mob boss, who’s orders are phrased in such a way that we, the player, can’t help but snap into action, not from fear, but more from respect.

Tom Nook is based on the Japanese racoon dog, or ‘tanuki’, known in folklore to be a trickster. Surely a trickster animal would delight into conning you out of your bells, hmm?

TheJWittz tracks down some juicy lore on Tom Nook, from the Nintendo DS title Animal Crossing Wild World, thanks to ‘episodes’. Episodes were a story-based interaction, and a chance for the player to find out more about certain characters. It appears the fact that Tom Nook’s naivety was forever tarnished by the cruelty of moving to a big city, betrayed, forced to work under harsh conditions, and that, my friend, is canon. So perhaps Tom Nook’s attitude can be forgiven somewhat, given his difficult past experiences.

Is Tom Nook Simply Misunderstood?

Animal Crossing developers have taken notice of the unease some players feel towards Nook’s unsavoury capitalist nature and have spoken out in defence of their boy, and his necessary money-loving attitude.

Producer Hisashi Nohami and Director Aya Kyoguku defended Nook, telling both The Verge and The Washington Post that;

“I think he’s a really, really good guy. You do owe him money, but it’s not like he comes over and then asks you to pay him back. And he doesn’t add interest in any of the loans that you may have. I think he really does stick around and wait for you and then lets you take the lead for paying him back.”

- Nogami to The Washington Post

Nogami went on to tell The Verge “we think Tom Nook is a very caring, really great guy”, with Kyoguku adding “even if we borrow money from him and it takes time to pay him back, he never gets angry, he never gets mad. So if we could all try to be a little more responsible and pay him back, it might make him a little happier.”

So, What Is the Final Word On Tom Nook’s Immorality?

I may have been too quick to judge Tom Nook at the start. Sure, he’s a money-hungry capitalist pig, but was it his experiences that made him this way? And for that, should we be more forgiving when he tells us the terrifyingly vast loan amounts, and never really gets upset when we don’t pay it back fast enough? Sure, he’s bossy, and will never claim paternity, but does that make any worse than the average entrepreneur? I’ll leave it up to you to decide if Tom Nook is really evil, or if he’s a just a Raccoon doing what a Raccoon needs to do to keep his empire afloat.


[This was satire]

Images via Nintendo

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