Ad Girl by Giovanna Castro

The transformation is truly startling: we see the rough character, Kyoko, become a cunning businesswoman. The change in Kyoko’s self coincides with the change within World Caramels itself. In World’s effort to take their caramels to new heights, they ultimately lose sense of the spirit of the company—as well as the spirit of the very girl that they hired to promote their caramels. Through this change, Masamura Yasuzou showcases just how drastically the simple purpose of food—to be eaten, to be enjoyed—can be lost through the extreme commercialization: much how Kyoko herself loses the sense of who she is as a result of World’s own type of commercialization.

The film begins within World Caramels. Profits are down, and they need a jazzy new ad campaign to get them up again. Nishi and his boss, Mr. Goda, decided to go out for some food…and stumble upon something quite interesting.

In this first image, we are witness to the first sighting of Kyoko. Kyoko, at first impression, is one of the realest girls we have seen so far in the movie. The way with which she relishes the sweets in front of her speak to a child-like innocence. Her bangs are carelessly pushed back, and her black hair, which is tied up ridiculously high, streams wildly all over the place. Her teeth are rotted, her face almost grimy, yet she is still lovely. Her body seems to vibrate with unrestrained energy, and her excitement over such a simple, timeless thing like candy is refreshingly honest. This spirit is not lost on Mr. Goda, who immediately wants to recruit her to be their ad girl.

Through careful persuasion, World manages to get Kyoko to sign a contract for them. Her pictures are put up in magazines, and issues are so popular that newsstands run out. Throughout this, however, Kyoko retains her naiveté. She is silly, impulsive, and perhaps a bit richer—but she is essentially the same girl. During this time, World strives to make the publicity campaign work. At their core is still their hard fast belief in caramel—after all, people will “always eat caramels”. Yet sales still haven’t gone up, and the company is frustrated.

The something interesting happens. One of the rival companies, Apollo, happens to begin to fail. Within the boardroom, the controversial decision to try to beat the other rival, Giant, is made. One of the members speaks out, and tries to defend an ethical decision to leave Apollo alone—but the fierce opposition that this standpoint meets is almost frightening. At this point in the story, the main purpose of World is no longer to manufacture good caramel and try to get sales up—its purpose now is to demolish the caramel market, to bring down Giant on its way to the top. In order to accomplish this, the ad campaign is brought back, and Mr. Goda and Nishi go back to Kyoko for one last time.

And the difference is startling. No longer is Kyoko naïve and brash, but cold and calculating. She walks in with fixed white teeth, artfully arranged curls, and a made up face. She holds her head high literally, and asks to be bought for an indecent sum. She realizes her worth, and will not settle for less. This Kyoko is different—a world away from the homespun girl of the past. She has been so commercialized that her whole self has changed. She is not the Kyoko that Mr. Goda and Nishi first discovered.

However, World is different as well. Mr. Goda wants badly to be promoted—so much so that he goes somewhat insane. The point of the campaign—to entice people to buy sweet caramel—no longer matters. All that he cares about is his promotion. It stresses him to the point that he begins to spew blood: a byproduct of his breathless race to the top. In zooming out further, we see that World Caramel Company is no longer about caramels anymore. Masamura heightens this sense with cuts to the factory, where caramels are being carelessly tossed around. Production is messy, and workers get so overworked that one even faints. Within board meetings, all that is discussed is profits and the rival Giant.

It all began with simple caramel. Caramel candy and a girl. But through purposeful commercialization, the appeal of caramel, as well as the girl, was lost. Masamura spins a dark story about the dangers of such a tactic, and its consequences.

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