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Culture in Animal Crossing

| by Guest Writer William Allison

For most of us, we have been staying inside. Some are learning new skills; others have taken up some old hobbies. Myself, I have been playing some games. One game that rarely leaves my Nintendo Switch is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It is honestly a really calming game with cute animal characters. Two characters that you meet in the game are Tom Nook and Jolly Redd. Both of these characters have showed up in past Animal Crossing games. In fact, they have showed up in every single mainstream Animal Crossing. What is interesting is these two are more than what they appear, and they are in fact, connected.

Tom Nook is a character that you either love or hate, least that how it seems. In 2003, there was an award for best villains for Nintendo Power, and one nominee was Tom Nook. His role in every single game is giving you a home for free, or at least at first it seems like that. You do get your house, but you have to repay a loan. At the beginning you have a whole zero bells, bells being this games currency. Now already that sounds harsh, but one thing that is there is no interest on your house, and you can repay it as fast, or as slow as you want. Some say he is a loan shark; others say he is just in the real estate business. However, he has a past. Tom Nook grew up in a small town with some other villagers. He was, according to Sable of the Able Sisters (in Animal Crossing: Wild World), a very kind person who dreamed of having more financially and becoming a great businessman. Eventually, he left his small town and moved to the big city. There is no certainty of what happened there. All we know is he lost all his money due to being deceived by someone and came back to his small town. Again, according to Sable, he became a colder person and distanced himself from his friends. After all, the big city seemed to have chewed him up, and spat him out.

Now that is merely his role and lore in the game. Tom Nook may look like a raccoon, and the game address him as so, to be specific he is a tanuki. A tanuki is also called the raccoon dog, they are basically interchangeable. Tanuki may sound familiar (besides the name Tom Nook. Tanuki) due to the tanuki suit in the Mario franchise. What is interesting is the tanuki has a place in Japanese folklore. The tanuki is a trickster of sorts, nothing malicious, but annoying sorts of tricks. Like what you would expect on April Fool’s Day, nothing that would cause little physical pain if any. 

Redd is, in every single mainstream Animal Crossing game, is a con artist and is known as Crazy Redd, but in New Horizons he is called Jolly Redd. His role is a seller of art, including forgeries. He says all the art is genuine, but he lies. The only way to see the real deal from the forgeries is looking at the differences in them. Redd is also a smooth talker, calling the player cousin, saying how they are practically family. In New Horizons if the player leaves his shop without buying anything, there is an undertone of anger coming from Redd. As if he is upset that he could not pull the wool over the player’s eyes. In New Horizons, Redd sells art and some furniture on a boat that visits the player’s island. You can go to Redd’s boat before you meet him for the first time. If you do this, your character will say it is shady and you should not go in there without permission. Despite all of this, in the same Nintendo Power magazine issue with Tom Nook, it listed Redd as one of the most misunderstood characters 

Redd is fox, a clear reference to the red fox. In Japan however, much like Tom Nook and tanuki, Redd is called kitsune, which is literally fox in Japanese. A kitsune is very intelligent, wise, and has supernatural abilities. One of these supernatural abilities being shape-shifting. I bring this up because, though it may be a stretch, a forgery of a person. Much like tanuki, kitsune are also tricksters. In Japanese folklore, tanuki and kitsune are bitter rivals. Tanuki are tricksters, but they are not evil, unlike kitsune which are represented as pure evil. This is why I bring this up. Tom Nook lost all his money in city because he was deceived…by Redd. It is because Redd that Tom became bitter at the world. 

Luckily, the story does not end there. Tom Nook now has Nook Inc. He crawled up from nothing, all the way to having his own corporation, while Redd still gets by with one shop selling counterfeits, how fitting that the jolly raccoon beats the clever fox again. Instead of magical prowess, it was with economics. Honest business versus a scam.

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