Yasuzo Masumura‘s film Giants and Toys satirizes a 1950s Japanese environment in which the need to create profits from commodities becomes a priority over maintaining sanity and humanity. The film suggests that these commodities (represented by caramel candies) and the businesses’ desires to create profits from them cause the producers and consumers of these goods to become out of touch with their humanity in some way. While the actual storyline of the film reveals this effect of a commodified environment, specific sequences and stylistic techniques in the film help to reinforce this theme.
In one of the opening scenes between two businessmen, one man acknowledges that the “masses” below them “look like caramels”. Also, later in the film, an anonymous Japanese businesswoman is referred to as “not a woman,” but rather, a “machine”. These statements take on stronger meanings when we relate them to the montage of the caramel factory. This montage sequence, which occurs near the beginning of the film, depicts the caramels traveling along the factory’s machinery. These caramels are each sliced, wrapped, and packaged into identical boxes, and the movements and sounds of the machinery prove to be extremely repetitive and mechanical, as the factory of course intends to produce identical packages of the candies. So, in comparing the business executives to this “machine” and the masses to the “caramels”, we are reminded that these companies basically wish to manipulate and unify mass opinion, as the factory machine similarly manipulates the candies into identical packages.
The comparison of the machinery to the business executives is also relatable to Mr. Goda’s lack of empathy. Obviously, a machine has no capacity for feeling. And this factory machine in particular goes through specific motions in order to create a product—the packaged caramel boxes. Similarly, Mr. Goda seems only to care about creating sales. After the Apollo factory burns down and an older executive at World Caramel suggests that they (the workers at World Caramel) should be “gentlemen” and not completely take advantage of Apollo’s weakness, Mr. Goda later claims that they should “forget compassion, fear, shyness, compromise and remorse” because “sales are everything”. Obviously, Goda comes to lacks basic human empathy and, like a machine, has only one goal: to produce (in his case, profits).
As mentioned earlier, in comparing the “masses” to the caramels, we can identify these “masses” as being manipulated by the companies. Specifically, the businessmen and marketing executives in the film intend to manipulate the masses into desiring the same commodity—which, in sense, could render the people of the “masses” the same. We can view this sameness in one of the opening shots when the “masses” are pictured walking on the streets wearing almost identical suits and ties. In a way, the repetition and synchronization of their walking reflects the movement of the caramels through the factory. This image suggests that these people have lost a sense of control and so, “like puppies”, they simply go along with the crowd.
Thus, these specific shots and sequences—particularly that of the caramel factory—help to reinforce the idea of dehumanization in the film. Through the actual plot and through these symbolic and stylistic elements, Masumura cleverly depicts a commodified world in which machine-like business executives control the easily led “puppies” of the masses.