Tom Nook gets a bad rap when it comes to Animal Crossing fans’ opinions of him. There may be something to be said about the capitalistic island state that he manages, but when Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, the game’s creator, Nintendo, insisted that he was a good guy. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Vol. 1: Deserted Island Diary tells us that, though he might not necessarily be a good guy, his experience with some islanders justifies some of his managerial decisions.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Vol. 1: Deserted Island Diary

Originally published July 28, 2020 as あつまれ どうぶつの森 ~無人島Diary~ 1
English publication date: September 14, 2021

Sidequest was provided with a copy of this manga in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This 128-page manga introduces us to four jet-setting friends who thought they were on their way to a luxurious island vacation, only to discover that it’s actually a deserted island that will require their efforts to make it hospitable. Coroyuki is the main character, and he loves to eat. His favorite island pastime mainly involves fishing, when he’s not eating. Benben never stops learning and is often seen with a dictionary in hand, though that isn’t necessarily a sign of intelligence. Himepoyo is “the princess of the gang” and is never far from bags of bells. Finally, there’s Guchan, who is almost always in some state of rest. He not only speaks with snot bubbles, but can also use them as effective tools.

Animal Crossing characters having fun on the beach, crafting things and cutting logs by their tentNone of this impresses Tom as he welcomes them to the island and tries to get them organized into creating the island of their dreams. But he presses on, trying his best to support their island adventure and provide instructions and materials to meet their needs. His frustrations only deepen as the four end up basically wreaking havoc across the land, running off after listening to only half of the necessary information, or creating ridiculous items that are simply not conducive to practical island living.

Several fan-favorite animal NPCs show up to support the new visitors. They have apparently already been living on this deserted island and are able to show them the ropes. However, these NPCs likewise cause frustration for Tom because they have their own unusual approaches to island life.

The book is broken up into several short stories that take you through the progression of shaping the island to meet its villagers’ needs, from building a house to discovering and helping the island’s other visitors to gathering exhibits for the museum. Players will recognize all of these steps, but when we do them in-game, they are much more refined. Here, the gang is full of amusing hijinks and their own ideas about what is what, such as Raymond letting his narcissism get away from him as he furnishes the museum with displays that remind us of why everybody loves Raymond. Except for Blathers. Much like Tom, the museum curator learns lessons about control and management after dealing with these obnoxious people and animals.

And obnoxious they are, but in a cute way. Reactions and sometimes snarky commentary are common in the game, but here, the artwork and writing combine to crank all of that up to 10. If you think Dom loves to yell in-game, wait till he has a whole story dedicated to him helping his new friends build a house.

The short stories are followed by a guide that introduces some of the basic game mechanics, combining screenshots with a related comic strip and imagery in neatly designed info pages. Common NPCs as well as some of the more popular animal villagers are spotlighted on similarly designed pages that highlight their unique personalities in hilarious vignettes.

For a veteran player, there’s nothing new to learn from the book in terms of gameplay, but that doesn’t take away from its value as a collector’s piece. And maybe, after reading about all the things Tom has to go through with such fickle and sometimes quite foolish islanders, maybe you’ll find yourself sympathizing with him a little bit.

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