We all make sacrifices when pursuing our dreams, and for Tom Nook of Animal Crossing fame, that likely meant putting on pants. One of the faces of the franchise, Nook is the typically the no-nonsense proprietor of Nook's Cranny and Nook Inc. While Nook is called a raccoon in the American version of Animal Crossing games, he's actually a tanuki, a mammal native to Japan that's more closely related to foxes than raccoons. Many of Japan's folklore traditions about tanuki are reflected in Tom Nook's mannerisms and abilities, from the way he can shapeshift objects into leaves to him wearing an apron in earlier Animal Crossing games seemingly in order to hide what we imagine are his massive scrotum and testicles. However, Nook's attire has changed over the years as his business pursuits have grown, which is why Nook exchanged his trademark apron for a pair of pants in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
To truly appreciate Nook's sacrifice in the more recent games, we have to look back to how tanuki are traditionally depicted in Japanese artwork. The real-world tanuki has disproportionately sized testicles, and these became associated to be a sign of financial luck, likely because the Japanese phrase for "small bag of gold" sounds very similar to the Japanese word for testicles. Many statues and artwork of tanuki in Japan show the tanuki with a massive scrotum that either hangs between his legs or are thrown over its shoulder like a traveler's pack.
Clearly, the proprietor of a chain of retail stores that also offers no-interest loans is a financially savvy mammal, but there was possibly a concern that audiences wouldn't understand the reference. Since the Animal Crossing franchise is largely a children's franchise, the developers clearly felt that Tom Nook couldn't go walking through town with his balls hanging out, so they instead gave him an apron in early games as a compromise. Non-Japanese audiences could go on living their lives in blissful ignorance, while Japanese fans (and astute appreciators of Japanese culture) could appreciate the fact that Nook wasn't wearing pants because the poor tanuki would be insanely uncomfortable. Sure, Nook occasionally wore pants when he was walking about around the town, but his default attire was definitely airy and spacious for his groin area. Animal Crossing: City Folk's game guide even references Nook's large testicles by mentioning Nook's "pockets of gold" and then asking readers if they know what it meant by that phrase.
This all changed in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, when Nook exchanged his apron for a sweater vest when he opened his Nook's Home business. While he had no problem letting his bits air out behind an apron, it seems that the real estate world demanded a bit more professional attire. So, Nook put on pants to run his home renovation business, although he eventually hired on other staff presumably so that he could hide in his office in more comfortable attire. This trend continues in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, where Nook can be seen wearing khaki shorts. Although the shorts look a little less tight than his pants in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, we should at least acknowledge that he's spending his every waking moment in discomfort.
Although Nook has sacrificed his own comfort for the demands of the business worlds, his nephews Timmy and Tommy continue to carry on his traditions. While initially pantsless, the pair of Nooklings quickly don aprons of their own in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, likely indicating that they have hit puberty and have had to deal with their rapidly changing bodies through the use of spacious and comfortable garb.
Do you appreciate Tom Nook a little more now that you know his hidden pain? Let us know in the comment sections or find me on Twitter at @CHofferCBus to chat all things Animal Crossing: New Horizons!
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.